Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time to Start Thinking About Roses!

Hard to believe that it’s already time to start thinking about your roses. January is the perfect time for pruning back your roses to ensure a nice bloom come spring time.

There is so much information on the internet about what to do, how to prune them, how to care for them, etc that I’m not even going to go there. What I am going to do is tell you what I do and I get some gorgeous roses with not much care every year.

There is one exception however; I have a couple of rose bushes that are in the shade most of the fall and winter due to the direction of the sun. I have found that over time, that definitely makes a difference in the amount of blooms I get in spring and summer and the overall health of the plant. Aphids and a variety of leaf-eating bugs seem to absolutely LOVE the roses that are in the shade as they get munched on the worst. So if you’re planning on putting new rose bushes in, look out for the shade because roses love the sun!

When I get ready to prune my roses, I use a pair of leather gloves so the thorn sticks into my hands are minimal. I definitely have fewer scratches on me when I’m done when I use leather vs. cloth gloves! I use a good pruner, one that is nice and sharp, and of course a trash bag or compost bin.

When I prune, I REALLY prune! I cut the stems way back, usually to about 6 inches above the bottom of the plant, or the top of the woody bump on the bottom of the plant (if there is one). A lot of folks would gasp at the horror of that much pruning, but hey, it works for me! I throw the stems away and any other material I usually put in the composter (old buds, etc). The stems don’t break down very well in the composter, so they go in the “green” garbage for recycle day.

There are many different ways to prune your roses and many different beliefs on the best way to do it (which way to cut the branch, at what point in the stem do you cut, etc). When I prune, I always try to cut the stem just above where there is a 5 leaf stem growing out of the branch. I’ve always read that is the “proper” place to trim and it seems to work to help ensure more blooms. The direction of the cut depends on how I want the bush to look. If I want it kind of leggy and woody, with the blooms growing out away from the plant, I will cut at a slant facing away from the plant. If I want the plant to appear fuller and less leggy, I cut in the opposite direction, facing into the plant.

Why would I want it to grow leggy and woody you ask? I have one particular rose bush that gets so many blooms on one branch, that I want them to spread out as far as possible to fill the space with flowers. I have a yellow rose bush that I cut inward; different kind of rose so it requires a different way to grow and these yellow roses look best when they are more compact.

It’s also important when you prune that you clear away any old leaves, etc that could be surrounding the base of your plant. I know, some of you probably like to leave the old leaves there thinking its good mulch. Unfortunately it’s also a great area to start growing some powdery mildew on your roses or a little rust or hide pests that love your roses as much as you do! You don’t want any of that around your roses! So keep the ground around the base of the bush clear.

Once your rose starts to sprout new leaves around March or April, it’s time to start feeding it. You don’t HAVE to feed your roses, but they will not be as beautiful as they could be and may not even be very pretty! Feeding your roses helps keep them strong to fight disease and pests. So feed and water well when the time comes! This season I will be using Happy Gardener products exclusively on my roses. I love the fact that the products are certified organic, so no harsh chemicals or poisons will be in my garden this year. If you’d like information about The Happy Gardener organic products for your garden, drop me an email and I’ll be happy to answer all of your questions!

Now…head out to the nursery, pick your rose bushes and get ready to plant, prune and grow!

Happy Gardening!

Independent Garden Consultant
The Happy Gardener

Friday, December 5, 2008

Caring For Your Poinsettia

Caring for your poinsettia during the holiday season is as important as caring for your Christmas tree. No, your poinsettia won’t dry up and explode on you, but it will dry up, lose it’s leaves and die if not properly cared for. Here are some helpful tips to keep your poinsettia plant healthy and beautiful through the holiday season.

· Place your plant in indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours a day. Don’t let it get direct sunlight as this will dry out the leaves and they will drop from your plant.

· Poinsettias thrive in temperatures between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

· Water your plant when the soil feels dry to the touch. When watering, remove it from the decorative plastic or foil wrap that it’s in to allow for drainage. Poinsettias don’t like being in standing water.

· Do NOT fertilize your plant during the blooming season (which is now). Fertilize after the season, once the flowers have fallen off and none grow back.

· Keep your plant away from cold drafts and high heat. Don’t place near fireplaces or heating vents.

· If outside, keep in mind they don’t like temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They are sensitive to cold, so consider bringing them indoors at night if the temperatures are going to be too low.

If you are going to keep your plant year ‘round, the best poinsettias to buy are those that are not crunched up in plastic wrapping. Poinsettias like to spread out and being crowded in that plastic wrap can affect their future growth. When planting in the ground, make sure it’s in a roomy spot. Poinsettias can get rather large (I once planted one that grew to about 10’ high and was quite bushy).

Most of you are probably under the impression poinsettias are toxic. They really aren’t, but as with any plant it’s best not to let your pet, or your children, ingest them.
Most importantly, enjoy your poinsettia and it’s beautiful red flowers!

Happy Gardening!
Independent Garden Consultant
The Happy Gardener