Fall roses

If you missed Fall Gardeners Day at Blithewold last weekend then I’m sorry to say you missed Mike Chute’s info packed lecture on roses and, I for one, learned something new.  – But then again I always learn something from anyone with a favorite subject to teach.  With roses in particular I feel like I can never learn enough.

Mike Chute has a rose consultation business called Rose Solutions and is producing several of the cold hardy Brownell roses (developed by the Brownells of Little Compton, RI) which will be available for purchase this coming spring.  He spoke to us on how to encourage roses to peak spectacularly for a second time in the fall.  The fall bloom is so different from the spring peak:  Although the flower size may be smaller, cool nights intensify the colors and the mid-day sun doesn’t blanch them.

9-25-08 and blooming beautifully!

His methods for re-bloom (on remontant a.k.a repeat blooming roses) are pretty intuitive involving a fertilizing regimen (early spring; just after the June peak; mid-summer; and late summer), plenty of water, and vigilant deadheading.  As for deadheading, he told a story about preparing the Roger Williams Park Victorian Rose Garden for a fall rose festival.  He said that the time required for each rose to set buds and re bloom is dependent on a few factors including the number of petals (more petals = more days) and the weather.  He was able to calculate an average re bloom time for that garden – 50 days – based on the varieties they planted and then he counted back from the date of the festival.  It must have been the hardest thing in the world to do, but sometime in July he and the gardeners and volunteers at Roger Williams cut off every single bloom and bud in that garden until there was nothing left but foliage.  It makes me cringe just to think of it!  But evidently their gamble with the weather paid off and they had nothing but blooms galore just in time for their event.

We traditionally stop deadheading the roses in September so that they can set hips.  Mike said that he’s never lost a rose for not allowing hips to form — he doesn’t like the way they look in his garden.  And seeing the buckets of roses he brought from his own garden reminded me that I’d much rather look at bunches of blooms than hips too!  So we have already changed our methods at Blithewold and with any luck the garden will still be blooming as the volunteers start coming in to decorate the house for Christmas.

How long do the roses bloom in your garden?

Incidentally, the yellow rose pictured above is my current all-time fave (besides Rosa rugosa which has the scent that makes me swoon).  One of the Floribundas purchased ‘Morning Has Broken’ for us because the flowers are gorgeous and sweetly scented and the foliage is glossy and perfect – too slippery for black spot to take hold perhaps – all season long.  Mary wasn’t wrong (Thank you, Mary!).  We’ve only had this particular plant for 2 years (we bought others for the Display Garden this year) but it has only gotten more handsome and garnered more and more praise from visitors.  It’s not an easy rose to find to buy but I think it’s well worth pursuit and perserverance!