A recent column featured the genus Rosa, one of the most popular garden plants. This week, we’ll look at a few of the roses in bloom in my garden, and touch upon seasonal rose care.

The accompanying photos have been selected to suggest the wide variety of colors and forms of garden roses. The classic beauty of rose blossoms, plus the diversity of the plants available from garden centers and mail-order sources (especially during the bare-root season) warrants the enduring popularity of the genus.

In the process of sharing photos of the roses in my garden, I encountered three issues.

First, there are more roses than I could include in the limited space of this column. A wide view of the rose bed would show more plants, but only at a frustrating distance.

Then, although the roses had been deadheaded recently, many of the blossoms were already past their peak and in need of follow-up “renewal pruning” (which suggests the stimulation of blooms). See below for recommendations for this seasonal task.

Finally, a favorite performer, Rosa mulligani, is not yet in bloom. This rose, an enormous rambler, displays countless single white blossoms in the summer. It is now loaded with buds and barely beginning to bloom, but the stunning full display is not quite ready. We might squeeze it into a future column.

Encouraging new rose blooms

When a bloom fades, cut the cane about a one-quarter-inch inch above the first five-leaf junction with the cane. If the stem seems weak or not well-placed, make your cut above the next five-leaf junction. New blooms will appear in a few weeks, depending on local conditions.

Another approach, a favorite of some gardeners, is to snap off the old spent bloom with your fingers.

Creating new rose bushes

A friend would like to add Rosa ‘Polka’ to her garden but hasn’t found a source to buy this plant. The alternative: propagate a softwood cutting of this rose, which is already growing in my garden. Right now – late spring to early summer – is the ideal time to make a cutting. Here’s the basic method.

Select a flexible new, pencil-size stem with a withered bloom. Cut the stem to at least 8 inches long, with four or more leaf nodes. Remove the bloom and the stem tip. Retain the top leaf and remove all the other leaves. Prepare the planting area, either a spot in the garden or a container with planting mix at least six inches deep. In either case, provide bright indirect light.

Insert the cutting into the soil with at least the bottom two nodes covered, and firm the soil around the cutting. Option: dip the bottom of the cutting into rooting hormone.

Keep the soil moist, but not soggy for up to two weeks while the cutting develops roots. Option: provide a light dose of rose fertilizer. Once the plant has established roots and shown new growth, transplant it to its new garden home.

Advance your knowledge

In addition to the internet’s continuing cornucopia of garden ideas and advice, we have occasional access to unusual events. Here’s a special event that appeals to gardeners interested in American history.

The Mount Vernon Ladies Association is holding an online symposium, “Gardens and Landscapes in the Age of George Washington and Now,” on June 3–5. This fee-based event includes ten online lectures that can be viewed during or after the symposium. For example, one talk will discuss America’s oldest landscaped gardens. For a list of the talks and registration information, visit tinyurl.com/2p9es7uc.

Enrich your gardening days

Rabbits are enjoying another friend’s plants. They are most likely Eastern Cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus), North America’s most common rabbit species. They forage during twilight and nighttime hours and do not range far from their nests.

There are several ways to discourage Cottontails from eating your plants: growing plants they dislike, spreading fragrances they dislike, and removing vegetation they might hide under.

The best defense is a 4-foot-high, 6-inches-deep, chicken-wire fence, which is probably not high on your aesthetic priorities. If you could determine their access to your garden, you might block that access with a small, well-placed fence.

Trapping and poisoning are inhumane — and generally illegal — choices.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac provides an exceptionally good online resource, including deterrents. Visit www.almanac.com/pest/rabbits.

Rabbits are not the only garden foragers. Some insects, several mammals, and even a few birds will feed on your plants. Gophers are my garden’s current visitors.

We share our plants with other gardeners, and we could share a few with the wildlife as well.

Enjoy your garden!

Tom Karwin is past president of Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and the Monterey Bay Iris Society, a Lifetime Member of the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener. He is now a board member of the Santa Cruz Hostel Society, and active with the Pacific Horticultural Society.


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