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Tell your roses to take a break

Let rose hips form to cue your bush to take a nap. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)
What to do when your roses won't stop blooming and it's time to prune

It’s time to tell your roses: Knock it off!

November’s mostly dry and relatively warm weather coaxed bushes to just keep flowering.

Some roses just won't quit, such as this Diana, Princess of Wales hybrid tea,
still blooming in mid December.
Although I appreciate the bonus December blooms, that makes it hard to winter prune.

Roses need pruning to revitalize the bush and reset their biological clock. Otherwise, canes sprout atop canes, creating tangled messes 10 feet tall (or more) with blooms way out of reach.

You can’t smell the roses if they’re way over your head.

How do you get a rose bush to slow down and take a winter break? Allow rose hips – the rose fruit – to ripen. Instead of clipping off spent blooms, let the hips that swell at the base of each flower turn deep red-orange. That cues the plant that its work is done for this year.

After the hips mature, the bush will drop its leaves and stop pushing out fresh growth. That makes winter pruning much easier; stripping the bush of all foliage is part of the process.

When is the best time to prune?

“I usually recommend it’s a great time to prune in the Sacramento region from approximately Dec. 15 to Jan. 31 or, if really necessary, up to the first week in February,” said T.J. David, founder and curator of the World Peace Rose Garden at the state Capitol.

Several local pruning clinics and events are planned for early January, including the McKinley Park prune-athon on Jan. 4. (More on those events later.)

My annual goal is to get my roses pruned by Super Bowl Sunday; that will be Feb. 2.

Meanwhile, I’ll pick a few last bouquets – and think about making rose hip jelly.


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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