What a summer this has been. I cannot remember when I have suffered so much from the heat and humidity. It has been oppressive. Think about those many days near or even above 90 degrees. Think of those days with high temperatures and humidity that drove the heat index to 100. Yes, it has been an uncomfortable summer for us. But think of those rose plants that you treasure so much. They don’t have air conditioning. And unless you can get time to water them, they go thirsty and then under the several deluges, they have wet feet for days.
So, stop complaining about your summer. The roses probably had it worse. And yet, week after week they threw beautiful blossoms. Roses next to my house bloomed profusely while 75 feet away, at the end of the drive, they performed miserably. They were paying me back for the times that I did not go the distance with the hose, the times that I should have fertilized but didn’t, the times I let the aphids eat holes in the leaves. Plant’s know. They were paying me back.
But now is the time to act. There are a lot of things to do that will help your roses survive the coming winter, which is not too far away. My first action, after the first frost, will be to rake around the bushes, and actually around various flower beds to remove all twigs, dead leaves, insect eggs and even insects. Then I like to put a couple of inches of straw around the bases of the plants. It will hold the heat down into the soil.
First of all, let us talk about bush roses. Now, cut the canes back to 15 or 18 inches, longer on giant bushes and even a little more on smaller varieties. Now here is something I have not tried yet, but will this winter. Find some sturdy cardboard boxes that will fit over each plant. Set a box over each bush, leaving the flaps extended out. Cover the flaps with stones or soil to hold the boxes in place. Doing so, will hold the boxes in place during those wild winter wind blows. The boxes will insulate the plants
Try to wait until after the last heavy frost; in Auburn that is generally during the first to third weeks in May. Now is the time to do your spring pruning. Bring the canes back to 10 or 12 inches and remove any that look weak. That is time to start regular fertilization. Keep it going all summer and you will certainly be rewarded with more blooms than you had this year.
A quick rose comment. Last year I purchased four “spreading“ rose bushes at the end of the season. I had looked at them earlier but did not want to invest in full price until I saw if they would survive our winters. Three of them not only survived, but they rewarded me with a summer full of gorgeous red flowers that lasted for days on my breakfast table. I am looking for a few more. Hope I can catch a sale.
The main treatment difference with climbing roses is that you cannot cut them back and put a box over them. They sure would not like that. But again, clean around them and mulch with a nice pile of straw. Bring it out about 15 to 20 inches and 6 inches deep. It will settle after the first rain. They old books always insisted on using well-rotted cow manure. When’s the last time you ran across a pile of well-rotted cow manure? After pruning, I like to loosely tie the roses to their fencing or whatever they are holding on to, to prevent the wind from whipping and damaging them. I do like to protect them a little more by piling more straw as high as I can and wrapping them, if you have some, with burlap. Do not, of course, wrap them with plastic sheeting. That could be a quick death to the plant. They need air circulation.
Now, go and take care of your roses.