I have to move a very special rose this spring.
We brought the cuttings up from my husband’s family farm in the Willamette Valley more than 30 years ago. It was one of my mother-in-law’s favorite plants, and she kept it going in spite of deer and drought. It has grown into a beautiful, pink showstopper.
However, it is time to move it from its crowded space sandwiched between a raised bed and my deer fence. The deer have kept the fence side of the plant nicely pruned. The other side, however, is taking over the raised bed. It’s hard to manage vegetables when you are attacked by thorns.
To start the process, I pulled back the foot of shredded pine needles we mulched it with last fall to see what was going on with the root crown. The stems looked a nice green color. February was cold enough to have done some damage to roses that weren’t protected.
I then pruned the 3-foot-tall canes to a more manageable 12 inches and thinned it to five strong canes. This was also a chance to clean up dead cane stubs left from some past sloppy pruning jobs.
My plan is to move it to the protected, sunny south wall of our shop where we can appreciate the roses as we walk by.
To prepare the new space, I will clear out some tall New York asters that have also outgrown their space and probably give most of them away to friends who are building pollinator gardens. The bees love them in the early fall when everything else has finished blooming. The soil in that spot is a nice sandy loam with good drainage that will only need a little compost added to improve water-holding capacity. The irrigation heads in this bed are small, 12-inch-tall microsprayers that don’t get water on the leaves and thereby encourage powdery mildew later in the summer.
Now is the best time to move an established rose while it is still dormant. The goal during the move is to preserve as many of the roots as you can. Because the rose is crowded against a raised bed, I will have to dig out the corner of the box to expose the roots there before gently digging out the rest of the rootball. It is then a simple matter to replant the rose in its new home so that the crown of the plant is at the same depth it was in its original hole. Water the plant well and hold off the fertilizer until early summer to give it a chance to get established before it sets out a lot of new growth.
Through the summer the plant will need to be checked for water even though it is close to a spray head. A layer of 2 to 3 inches of shredded pine needles will help keep the soil evenly moist. I will fertilize it when it begins blooming and again in early August.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.