Look at the roots — if you can
|This beauty is an Olympiad rose. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)|
Bare-root season is when rose lovers go shopping. Now appearing in local nurseries (or coming soon) are bare-root rose bushes, ready for planting.
“Bare-root” means just what it says; the roots are bare and free from soil. Since roots will determine the strength of future growth, it’s an opportunity to check them out – as well as the above-ground portions of the plant.
These mature rose bushes, at least 2 years old and often older, were “harvested” in October or early November. That’s when they were dug out of fields, often here in California’s Central Valley. (Arizona and Texas also are major rose bush producers.) After harvest, the bushes were placed in cold (not freezing) storage with their roots loosely packed in sawdust or straw. That helps the roots retain their moisture.
Displayed in nurseries, the bare-root bushes often are still standing in sawdust. When browsing, choose a bush with at least three strong canes. Then, pull it out of the sawdust and look at the roots. Ideally, there should be at least three strong roots to match the canes above ground.
What if you can’t see the roots? That’s the case with plastic-wrapped bare-root roses, sold at nurseries as well as home improvement centers and supermarkets. That’s when you have to rely on grades.
Field-grown grafted rose bushes are graded on a scale established by the American Association of Nurseryman. “Grade 1” roses are considered the best.
Under these rules, the Grade 1 standard for hybrid teas includes at least three strong canes (with two at least 18 inches long), well spaced around the graft – where the rootstock connects to the budwood. Grade 1-1/2 roses have two strong canes. Grade 2 roses are overall smaller in size with at least two canes, 12 inches long.
Wrapped or unwrapped, what you do with that rose when you first get it home is the same: Re-hydrate it. That bush is thirsty.
Before planting your new rose bush, soak the roots in a bucket of water overnight. If weather conditions or your garden soil are too wet to plant, the bare-root bush can stay in water for several days.
For more on roses including new varieties, check out the American Rose Society website at https://www.rose.org/ .
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Dig In: Garden Checklist
For week of June 4:
Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.
* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.
* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.
* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.
* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.
* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.
* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.
* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.
* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.
* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.
* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.
* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.
* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.
* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.
* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.
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