Vermont Garden Journal: Protect Your Roses!

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I’m Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. Fall is a time for wrapping up the garden, both figuratively and literally. It’s time to pull out frost-killed annual flowers, cut back perennial flowers, compost leaves, and protect tender shrubs. One of the most precious flowers to protect are your roses.

Because there are so many different types of roses, it’s often confusing which ones to protect and how. Overwintering roses, though, is straight forward. For species roses, such as Rosa Rugosa, and heirlooms, such as Rosa Gallica, you don’t have to do anything to protect them from winter.

These tough roses often make it through unscathed, and if there is some dieback, they will quickly out grow it in spring. Modern landscape roses such as the Knockout series are also tough and hardy in our area.

But the hybrid tea and floribunda roses are a different story. These grafted roses are tender and need some help surviving the cold. There are a few ways to do this, but the simplest solution is to cover them with bark mulch. Wait until you’ve had a few hard freezes in November then pile a 1 foot deep mound of mulch over each rose bush. By then mice and voles will have found other winter quarters. It’s okay if a few canes are sticking out the top. You’ll prune off any winter damaged wood in spring once the roses start growing again.

For climbing roses select winter hardy varieties, such as William Baffin, or protect hybrid climbing roses such as New Dawn will burlap. Climbing roses produce the most flowers from the side shoots that emerge off the main canes. If the main canes dieback, you’ll get fewer flowers. Cut the roses back to a manageable size and cut the side shoots back to 1 to 2 feet long. Then wrap burlap around the whole plant to protect it.

This will be the last Vermont Garden Journal for the season. As always it’s been a pleasure to share gardening advice with you and I look forward to starting up again early next year with new ideas and solutions. Until then, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.

Winter Protection of Roses

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