Peggy Jeremiah knows roses. A Master Gardener since 2008, she is comfortable saying that roses are her area of expertise. After all, there are 138 of them growing in her Spokane Valley backyard.
“I just love them,” she said. “They bloom all summer long and aren’t like irises that just bloom in the spring and then they’re gone. You can cut roses for the house and they’re just gorgeous.”
I recently visited Jeremiah’s beautiful garden and was rewarded with a wealth of rose-care tips.
“To grow roses successfully in our area, the biggest thing you can do is order or purchase them from a quality place,” she suggested. “Look for Jackson & Perkins and Weeks Roses, which some of our local nurseries carry, because they’re guaranteed. I’ve found you get what you pay for.”
While she mostly grows hybrid teas, there are also grandifloras, floribundas, David Austins and some miniature roses in her garden. Some are grafted while others are nongrafted, own-root roses.
At planting time, she buries the bud union of her grafted roses 2 inches below the soil surface to protect the graft during the winter. It also frees her from the chore of having to cover them with pine needles in the fall and uncover the plants the following spring.
She finds that roses need a lot of sunshine and water.
“The next most important requirement is cutting them back,” she advised. “The more you cut your roses, the more flowers you’ll get. You have to just be mean and cut those canes in the spring so more will grow in their place.”
Her routine is to cut back the canes by one-half.
“In our winters, roses are going to freeze back, no matter what,” she explained. “So if you leave them tall, they’ll freeze back half that distance. If you cut them back to 6 inches, they’ll freeze back half that distance which means you’ll end up with shorter canes. And always cut real tall canes back to at least 3 to 4 feet in length so they won’t whip around in the winter winds.”
In the spring, she fertilizes all of her roses with a balanced fertilizer (16-16-16). In the past, she used rose fertilizer in the spring and fed them again with a bloom-booster in the summer. The only downside to her new routine is that she has to apply a fungicide because there’s no systemic in the balanced fertilizer.
She also emphasized the importance of removing the spent flowers – also known as deadheading – to keep the blooms coming.
Her biggest challenges are the two rose diseases black spot and mildew. Deer used to be a big problem, but she and her husband put up an 8-foot-tall fence to keep them out.
“Roses do need attention, there’s no two ways about it,” she said. “You need to take a walk around your garden every other day to catch problems before they get bad. So if you see a problem, act on it right away.”
Jeremiah also has a beautiful bed brimming with irises, Oriental poppies, daylilies, black-eyed Susans and other perennials, and she also grows clematis vines up the supports of her upper deck.
But roses remain Jeremiah’s primary focus, and she encourages others to plant and enjoy them.
“Don’t be afraid of them,” she said. “Sure, they’re a bit of work but they respond very well to care. They’re definitely worth it.”
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