For gardening: Seasonal rose care

A recent column featured the Rosa genus, one of the most popular garden plants. This week we’re looking at some of the roses that bloom in my garden and some seasonal rose care.

The accompanying photos have been chosen to suggest the wide variety of colors and shapes of garden roses. The classic beauty of the rose flowers, as well as the variety of plants available in garden centers and by mail order (especially during the bare-root season), ensure the enduring popularity of the genus.

I encountered three problems when sharing photos of the roses in my garden.

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

Then, although the roses had recently died, many of the blooms were already past their peak and needed another ‘refresh’ pruning (indicating flowering stimulation). Below are recommendations for this seasonal task.

Finally, a favorite actress, Rosa mulligani, is not yet in bloom. This giant rambler rose produces countless single white flowers in summer. She is now full of buds and just starting to flower, but the stunning full presentation is not quite ready yet. We could squeeze it into a future column.

Promotion of new rose flowers

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

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

Plant new rose bushes

A friend wants to plant Rosa ‘Polka’ in her garden but has not been able to find a source for this plant. The alternative: propagate a softwood cutting of this rose that is already growing in my garden. Right now – late spring to early summer – is the ideal time to make a cutting. Here is the basic method.

Choose a flexible new, pencil-sized stalk with a wilted bloom. Trim the stem to at least 8 inches in length with four or more leaf nodes. Remove the flower and the tip of the stem. Keep the top sheet and discard all other sheets. Prepare the planting area, either a spot in the garden or a container of planting mix that is at least 6 inches deep. In any case, provide bright indirect light.

Plant the cutting in the soil so that at least the two bottom nodes are covered and fasten the soil around the cutting. Option: Dip the underside of the cutting in rooting hormone.

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

Expand your knowledge

In addition to the wealth of gardening ideas and advice on the internet, we occasionally have access to unusual events. Here’s a special event that will appeal to gardeners interested in American history.

The Mount Vernon Ladies Association is hosting an online symposium June 3-5 entitled Gardens and Landscapes in the Age of George Washington and Today. This paid event includes ten online presentations that can be viewed during or after the symposium. In one lecture, for example, the oldest landscape gardens in America will be discussed. For a list of lectures and registration information, go to

Enrich your garden days

Rabbits enjoy another friend’s plants. It is most likely the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus), North America’s most common rabbit species. They look for food at dusk and at night and do not stray far from their nests.

There are several ways to keep cottontails from eating your plants: growing plants they don’t like, spreading scents they don’t like, and removing vegetation they might be hiding under.

The best defense is a 4 foot high, 6 inch deep chain link fence, which probably isn’t high on your aesthetic priorities. If you could direct their access to your yard, you could 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

Rabbits aren’t the only garden collectors. Some insects, several mammals, and even a few birds will feed on your plants. Gophers are the current visitors to my garden.

We share our plants with other gardeners and we might share some with wildlife as well.

Enjoy your garden!

Tom Karwin is past President of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and 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 in the Pacific Horticultural Society.

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