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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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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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