Partial shade will do less harm to dark-red roses than to roses of other colours. Some protection from high winds is good, but not at the cost of having a close, stuffy location.
The beginner in rose growing will do well to weigh carefully the advantages and disadvantages of available sites. The soil may be poor and unsuitable. We can change that by taking away the present soil and filling in with soil of better quality. Drainage and shelter can be provided, but if an error has been made in the site, all these accessories will avail little.
Low grounds are more subject to late spring frosts than adjacent places only a few feet higher, and late spring frosts are much to be dreaded after the tender shoots of the rose bushes have put forth. While shelter from high winds is very desirable, it must not be secured by trees whose roots can reach the beds. The roots of growing trees may be regarded as spreading from the trunk for at least a distance equal to the height of the tree.
Thus if a tree is sixty feet high the rose bed should be at least that distance away; if nearer, the tree roots will revel in the enriched soil of the bed and appropriate the food needed for the roses. If the bed must be made nearer than this it may be protected from encroachment of the tree root by sinking a four-and-one-half-inch brick wall below the bottom of the bed and building up to near the surface.
But this is troublesome and expensive. A fence of hemlock plank will do well for some years, but the roots will eventually find their way through.
The soil and when to prepare it
The best soil is a deep loam. Well-drained ground is essential and the site should never before have been used for roses, unless fresh earth is substituted for the old.
Roses abhor wet feet, and if the soil is wet it must be thoroughly drained. This can usually be accomplished by digging out the bed to a depth of three feet and filling in one foot with broken stone, bricks, cinders, gravel, or anything that will permit a free passage of water.
If this is not sufficient and the water is not carried away quickly, provision must be made for this by tile draining, but except in very extreme cases the drainage before mentioned will be sufficient.
Some weeks before planting, if possible—to allow for settling—the rose beds should be thoroughly dug to a depth of eighteen inches or more, independent of drainage, there being intimately mixed with the soil well-rotted stable manure up to one third of its bulk.
Making rose beds
The size of the beds may well be governed by considerations of convenience in after years. All the bushes should be readily reached without leaving the walks; the surface of the beds ought to be accessible in every part for frequent cultivation, while the expense and labour of cultivating unnecessary space should be avoided.
With the exception of the climbers and the Rugosas (which ought not to be planted in the beds at all), a space of eighteen inches from plant to plant is sufficient to meet the above requirements. Accordingly, rose gardens are usually laid out in parallelograms of any length, but with their width not more than five feet.
Such a bed may contain three parallel rows, eighteen inches apart, the outer rows twelve inches from the edge. The paths between beds should be not less than four feet in width, and this width could be increased to advantage. The paths look best if in grass, kept free from weeds and closely cut at all times; but well-rolled cinder, gravel, or crushed stone paths are good, and save troublesome weeding and edging, and they are unquestionably best in wet weather.
Beds for Hybrid Perpetuals made with a width of four feet will usually be found most satisfactory, as a double row can be planted at intervals of two and a half feet, which will be sufficient space for the strongest-growing varieties, and the beds can be worked and the blooms gathered without the necessity of trampling the soil.
Space may be economized by setting the plants not directly but diagonally opposite each other. They will then be one foot from the edge and thirty inches apart, and each plant will be fully exposed to the light and air and will not interfere with its neighbours.
For Teas and Hybrid Teas the width of the bed may profitably be reduced to even three feet, permitting double "staggered" rows to be planted, eighteen inches apart and nine inches from either edge.
Making a rose bed on the lawn
The preceding directions for soil preparation, for width of beds, and for planting, apply to beds that it may seem advisable to place in the lawn, with one difference. Where the sod is cut to form a rose bed, that sod itself may well be used to give humus, good texture, and fertility to the roses to be planted.
For this use the sods can be laid aside when digging the bed, having been for that purpose sliced off some three or four inches thick rather than dug into to spade depth. When the soil for the bed has been removed to at least two full spade depths, or something more than eighteen inches independent of any greater depth required for drainage as previously noted, the sods, chopped apart to clods of not more than four inches across, can be put in the bottom of the bed, preferably upside down, in a layer of four or five inches depth.
Over this can be applied the manure and soil
as previously prescribed, thoroughly intermixed.
Beds on the lawn, and all other rose beds as well, should when finally settled and planted be below the surrounding surface of lawn or walk, and never above. If about an inch below the average grade, moisture is more easily received and conserved.
Special soils for roses?
Much unnecessary difficulty has been permitted to surround rose growing through recommendations for over-elaborate soil preparation, not only in depth and drainage, but in texture and quality. When one realizes that roses naturally occur from Central America to beyond the Arctic Circle, that they flourish along the Atlantic coast and reach great luxuriance in California, it at once appears that the rose plant is most adaptable.
True, it does seem to delight in a stiff and heavy soil, one with much clay in it, but it also shows great vigour in the sands of Florida.
It is definitely insisted that the average Tea, Hybrid Tea, Hybrid Perpetual, Polyantha, and China varieties do require rich soil, and it ought to be sweet, not sour. Any form of humus—as leaf soil from the woods or the muck pile—will suitably open and make useful the heavy clay soils, and per contra, clay may well be added with rotted manure to soils that are sandy or unusually light.
As previously noted, good drainage is essential, for no rose will flourish in a swamp. Roses like and use much water, but it must be passing through and not standing in the soil.
The Hardy Climbing roses, the Rugosas and their hybrids, the Sweetbriers and the delightful "species" roses, are less particular as to soil preparation than the so-called bush or ever-blooming types.
Good soil is desirable for all of them, but they will grow in places that would be inhospitable to the Hybrid Tea, for example. Rose beds in the lawn require no other edging than the grass, and indeed the more thoughtful gardeners deplore the placing among or around roses of any other plants. The queen of flowers reigns best alone!
When to plant
In the major part of the United States roses can advantageously be planted in the fall, if the plants can be had and if proper protection over winter is available. Fall-planted roses, protected after the first light freeze, are ready to start growth in earliest spring, when growth is most valuable.
Generally, however, roses are planted in the spring. Early planting is most desirable where outdoor-grown dormant plants are available. These plants should be purchased or ordered in the winter, to be shipped at the earliest date in spring at which they may safely be transported.
Pot-grown plants, shipped in full leaf, can best be planted after all frost danger is over.
Handling newly arrived plants
If the plants arrive in a shrivelled condition soak them thoroughly in water and bury them completely in a trench, again soaking them with water. Uncover them after three days and they will usually be found revived. If the plants arrive in wet weather, or when the ground is frozen, do not open the box, but place it in a barn or other dry place where there is no artificial heat. Cover it with matting or blankets if the weather is cold.
When the weather is dry and the conditions are fit for planting, unpack the roses in a place sheltered from the wind and the sun. From this time on it is absolutely necessary to avoid undue exposure of the roots. In sorting out the varieties while still under cover, use old mats or straw to keep the roots covered.
With the tender varieties, dormant planting out of doors is attended with much risk because of the inability of these plants to endure our rigorous winters before becoming established.
Consequently, they need much more protection than the hardy sorts. Where the thermometer reaches 15° below zero it is better to defer planting until the early spring, provided the plants can be safely housed during the winter. This can be done by digging a pit about fifteen inches in depth in a dry, cold cellar or outhouse and packing the dormant plants in it, covering roots and tops with fine earth.
After one good soaking with water they may be safely left until early spring unless they become very dry, in which case they may be watered again. After the plants become firmly established, which will be in one season, there is much less likelihood of their being injured by the cold.
In localities where late frosts are likely to occur, the newly planted roses may need a little temporary protection with loose litter or hay if they have started to grow. Cool nights without frost are not dangerous save to plants in full leaf brought from a greenhouse temperature. These need protection.
How to plant
It is best to unpack the plants under the cover of some convenient shed, and to take to the beds at one time no more than can be properly protected near by or promptly planted. During this move some people protect the roots by dipping them in mud; others carry the plants about in pails with the roots immersed in water.
All these precautions are taken to avoid the immediate and very harmful drying action of the sun, and especially of the wind, upon the fibrous roots of the plants. Hence the first rule for planting is to wait for dry soil and to select, if possible, a calm, cloudy day.
Too deep and too shallow planting are equally damaging; the first is certain to kill the plant by rotting the stem, and the second encourages the emission of "suckers" or wild growths from the understock on which most roses are budded, besides otherwise putting an unnecessary strain on the roots.
The proper depth for budded outdoor-grown plants is about two inches lower than they stood in the nursery, thus covering the junction or bud, and encouraging the production of supplementary "own roots" above the main root-system of the understock, used for its greater vigour.
Even own-root plants ought to be set down somewhat. Roses love firm and cool soil around their roots, and shallow planting exposes the upper roots to the sun's heat. Planting about two inches lower, very firmly, and keeping the top soil loose and friable, is the best way to assure bloom and health.
Budded vs. own-root roses
Rose plants are now obtainable in America in several classes, broadly divided. Own-root plants come in small size, even from two-inch pots, called "one-year" roses; in larger plants, actually about a year old because they are propagated one summer and carried over in leaf in coldframes or cool greenhouses; and in field-grown two-year plants of much larger size, shipped dormant, without leaves.
There are also larger greenhouse-grown plants, equally tender with the first named, and called "two-year" roses. These smaller own-root plants are readily mailed long distances, if carefully packed, and sometimes give much satisfaction. They are less costly than the larger outdoor-grown budded roses, and can be planted much closer. They can also be had through a longer range of planting time, because they are shipped in full growth.
Their disadvantages lie in their susceptibility to mildew and black-spot, through chilling and exposure, especially if they are shipped from a warm greenhouse in full leaf, and in the fact that some varieties produce fewer blooms in a season on their own roots than when budded on a vigorous understock.
Budded roses are obtainable as "worked" on several understocks. Not much of the Brier stock, so largely grown in England, is used in America, where the Manetti stock is much more favoured. The latter is the standard stock for greenhouse roses, and is reliably hardy outdoors in the Middle States.
Many growers insist on having roses budded on the Japanese Multiflora understock, and there are records to show that in the general latitude of Philadelphia and New York this stock produces strong plants which bloom profusely and remain long in good health.
In California there is much use of what is known as the "Ragged Robin" understock. It is really the old Bourbon variety, Gloire des Rosomanes, one of the parents of the fine old Hybrid Perpetual, General Jacqueminot. In some portions of the East doubt as to the entire hardiness of this stock has been expressed.
Madame Plantier, a fine and hardy old white rose, quite good "on its own," is also used in Florida as an understock. It is hardy and vigorous, but "suckers" considerably.
Rugosa, or Rosa rugosa to be accurate, is the standard stock for tree roses, and is sometimes used for Hybrid Perpetuals and Hybrid Teas. It is hardy.
The lovely Cherokee rose of the far South
(Rosa laevigata) is a good understock for regions that seldom have frost.
The Multiflora stock is suitable for the Teas and Hybrid Teas in the Middle States, and, if the budding is properly done on seedling stocks, not those raised from cuttings, it suckers least of all stocks.
What is a sucker?
Briefly, a sucker is a shoot arising from the understock of a budded rose, and is consequently not of the desired variety, which its persistence will starve and may kill. Suckers usually appear beside, not on, the main stem of the plant, because they come from the root, below the ground, if properly planted, and usually are quite different in colour of leaf and stem, in thorns, and in number of leaflets.
Planting budded roses
Before planting each plant should be examined, all broken roots cut off cleanly with a sharp knife, and all eyes that can be detected on the stock—i.e., the portion below the bud —should be removed. If this is not done, the eyes will push out and suckers will develop from them. One difference in appearance between a sucker and a root is this: the sucker swells the farther it is from the stem and the root tapers the farther it is from the stem.
A hole large enough to accommodate all its roots without crowding should be made for each plant. The collar or point where the bud was inserted and from which the new growth starts should be placed not less than two inches nor more than three inches below the surface of the soil, the roots spread out carefully, nearly horizontally, but inclining downward, care being taken that no two roots cross each other on the same level. If two have grown so that one must lie above the other, the earth must be carefully packed between.
All the roots having been covered with fine soil free from fresh manure, the hole should be almost filled up and the soil firmly packed. This is very important, and the foot of a man of ordinary weight is not too heavy to accomplish the work well. Water the roots freely, and when the water is absorbed fill up to the bed level, and see that the union of the stock is where it belongs, two inches below the surface.
When the roses are all planted, level the surface and make it fine with a rake or other cultivating tool, to provide a "dust mulch" for conserving soil moisture. The manure mulch, once favoured, is now "taboo" because it seems to encourage or harbour the unpleasant germs of "black-spot." It is, of course, presumed that the plants have been carefully and severely cut back before setting, save that in fall planting more wood is left on the plants until spring, when the final pruning is done.
Planting roses from pots
Some rose-growers put budded plants in pots, starting growth to be ready for the sale in the spring, thus obviating with the tender varieties the damage of winter killing.
An objection to this is the crowding of the large roots that cannot be spread out in planting without endangering the life of the plant; but good plants may be obtained in this way, although the bloom is not so fine nor the growth so strong during the first year. In setting out pot-grown plants, either budded or on their own roots, it is important to get them into the beds as soon as all danger of severe frost is over, in order that the plants may be firmly established before the heat of summer.
Roses planted late in the season never do well, as they cannot attain sufficient vigour to withstand the burning heat of our summer sun.
The holes need only be made a little larger than the pot in which the plant is growing. Choose a cloudy day, in the afternoon, and after making the hole, knock the pot off by inverting the plant and striking the edge sharply on a firm substance. The handle of a spade, which has been fixed in the ground in an upright position, will answer the purpose.
Fill the hole with water, press the ball of earth between the hands to loosen the particles, and insert to the required depth, budded plants as previously directed, and own-root plants about half an inch deeper than when in the pot. Fill in with soil and pack the earth around firmly. Pot-grown plants will require staking if the varieties are of upright growth.