Ready or not, get to work on trimming bushes and coaxing dormancy
These are very late-blooming roses, a bouquet of Marilyn Monroe and Tamara (an Austin rose).
My roses are refusing to go to sleep. It’s been too warm!
It’s a trend we’ve been seeing more and more in California as fall temperatures continue to trend on the warm (and very dry) side. Fortunately, recent chilly nights are finally prompting my bushes to drop their leaves and get some rest.
Even with a few nights close to freezing, most of my roses are still blooming instead of making rose hips, their season-ending fruit. They’re stubbornly holding onto their foliage, which often still looks healthy green.
It’s a lot harder to prune a bush still loaded with leaves and flowers.
The solution? Go ahead and prune anyway. The only way to get roses back on a more normal schedule is to cut them back and force them to take a winter break.
Pruning is crucial for healthy rose bushes. It’s a chance to rid the plant of fungal-bearing foliage and eliminate diseased canes. It improves air flow in and around the bush (another way to cut down on fungal disease) and also keeps bushes from overwhelming their space.
Normal pruning season in Sacramento runs from early to mid-December through early February. By late February, bushes will be pushing out lots of new growth.
What happens if you don’t prune? New growth will sprout out of the top of the old growth. If your bushes are already 5 or 6 feet tall, they’ll be over 8 feet by May. It’s hard to smell your roses if you need a ladder to reach the blooms.
In addition, last season’s foliage (on or off the bush) may harbor fungal spores that will immediately infect healthy new growth. And in an effort to shed damaged foliage, the bush may shed all its leaves next spring – when you want the bush to concentrate on flowers.
So, sharpen your pruners and get to work!
In the meantime, bring in those late blooms and make some holiday bouquets. In particular, those chilly temperatures bring out vivid reds and pinks. (Orange hues look fantastic, too.)
Here are tips from master rosarian Baldo Villegas:
* Check watering system to make sure that all roses get adequate water. Decrease or stop watering once rain starts.
* Let hips form to encourage dormancy. They also provide colorful interest in the late fall garden.
* Remove any diseased blooms or fallen petals and foliage from the ground around the roses. That cuts down on fungal disease.
* Acquire the proper tools for rose pruning and winter chores: One pair of bypass pruning shears, one pair of goatskin gloves, one pair of knee pads, one pair of 24-inch loppers, one folding pruning saw.
* Find spots to plant more roses. It’s the start of bare-root season, too!
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For week of Dec. 3:
Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!
* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.
* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.
* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.
* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.
* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.
* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.
* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.
* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.
* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.
* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.
* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.
* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.
* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.
* Plant garlic and onions.
* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.
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