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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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Winterize your roses

I’ve heard gardeners talk about “winterizing” roses. What does that mean? And how do you do that?

Rose

Winterize rose shrubs to prevent damage from cold and wind.

If you live in an area that experiences intense cold or cycles of freezing and thawing, you may have heard about the importance of winterizing your roses. While rose shrubs are generally hardy, some varieties may be vulnerable to extended cold weather and strong winter winds. “Winterizing” helps protect roses from winter damage.

The process begins in late summer. You should discontinue fertilizer applications about mid-August, to slow down new growth. Stop cutting off the dead blooms in early October, which signals the plant to stop producing new growth.

Now comes the important “winterizing” part: Between now (late November) and mid-December, cut the canes back to 2 to 3 feet tall to keep them from blowing around in the winter winds, loosening the soil around the roots. Rose experts at the Nashville Rose Society suggests placing a 12-inch high mound of soil or mulch around each bush. To minimize winter damage at the end of each cane, you can also erect a small cage of chicken wire around each bush and pile about two feet of hay or other loose organic material inside.

Miniature roses and others grown in containers can be moved to an unheated garage or other space where the temperature remains above 20 degrees. Plants should be watered just enough to keep them moist.

For advice on roses in Middle Tennessee (where The Garden Bench calls home), I usually turn to the rosarians at the Nashville Rose Society, who provide excellent information on growing roses at their website. We are in USDA Hardiness Zone 7a, and the schedule reflects normal conditions in our climate. Gardeners in colder areas may adjust accordingly.

Rose enthusiasts can also get information (and see photos of beautiful blooms) from Birmingham, Alabama-based rose expert Chris VanCleave aka “The Redneck Rosarian.” He writes about roses, hosts podcasts, and keeps the conversation going with #RoseChat on Twitter.

Prune roses for better blooms

We have a rose bush that is out of control and really needs pruning. Can it be done now? Or is it better to wait until next spring?

Yellow rose

Rose experts say that roses can be pruned anytime they are actively growing. Start by trimming out the older wood first, along with any dead or dying canes. You may also want to remove canes in the center of the bush to provide better air flow, any canes that cross and rub each other, or any twiggy growth that might be tempting to spider mites.

The Nashville Rose Society provides general pruning guidelines: each pruning cut should be made about ¼-inch above an outward-facing bud eye (where the leaf is attached to the stem). Use sharp bypass pruning shears, which will make a clean cut without crushing the stem.

An added tip: remove the spent blooms of roses regularly to encourage the plant to bloom more.

Serious rose growers may do a more severe type of pruning in the fall to winterize bush roses. Nashville Rose Society also provides general guidelines for this process: Stop fertilizing roses early in August to allow the plant to slow down producing new growth, then in early October, stop cutting off the dead flowers. In late November or early December, cut the canes back to 2 to 3 feet and place a mound of mulch around the bush.

Next spring, once the weather begins to warm up, move the mulch away from the roses and prune to about 12 inches to get new growth.

In Saturday’s Tennessean

land trust signThe Ernest and Berdelle Campbell Land Trust Garden is a quarter-acre oasis in Nashville’s tightly-packed Germantown neighborhood. “This will always be green space,” Berdelle Campbell says. Read about the garden and Berdelle’s agreement with The Land Trust for Tennessee in Saturday’s Tennessean, and find more here about my visit with Berdelle, and more photos from the garden.

Free daylilies!

A Middle Tennessee reader emailed last week to say that she has a back yard full of daylilies that she can no longer take care of, and she is trying to find a home for them. “There is a huge assortment in lots of different colors and types, mostly full size but some miniatures,” she wrote. “My grandmother and mom collected them over the year and I don’t really know any of their names.”

If you are looking for daylilies, are willing to take a chance on sizes and colors, and can dig them up yourself, she is willing to donate. Interested? Email me at gloria@gloriaballard.com and I will put you in touch.

Fortunately, the best time to dig and divide daylilies is coming up. I wrote about how to do that task here.

Liriope needs a trim before spring

We have thick borders of monkey grass alongside our sidewalk, and winter has been hard on it. It turned brown and a lot of it looks dead. Should we cut it down and allow it to come back? Or is it best to dig it up and replace it?

Monkey grassMonkey grass (also called liriope, or lily turf) turns brown around the edges and tips in winter, but you can be sure that it’s a tough plant, and no doubt will soon begin to sprout new growth. The best time to cut the dead foliage is now, before that new growth begins. You can trim it with clippers, but the easiest way is to mow it down. Cutting it now, before it begins growing again, assures that you won’t shear off the tender new tips of leaves.

Late winter is also a good time to divide clumps of monkey grass. Dig it up and pull the roots apart, or take the advice of garden expert Felder Rushing, the author of Tough Plants for Southern Gardens, who suggests cutting straight down into mature clumps and separating individual crowns. Rushing says plants can be divided every two or three years.

Monkey grass is a landscape staple in some areas because it’s tough. It will tolerate less-than-ideal conditions – dense shade, clay soil, drought – and still spread it roots out to grow more clumps of attractive dark green foliage, accented by stalks of tiny flowers in late summer.

 

 

Poinsettia season

I bought a large, beautiful poinsettia for the holiday that I’d like to keep as long as possible. How long will it last? I’d like to keep it growing until spring and plant it outdoors when the weather is warmer.
Poinsettia

To keep a poinsettia looking its best through the holidays, here are the basics: Place it in a spot in the house that gets indirect light in a room that’s not too warm – 68 to 70 degrees is best. Make sure it’s not near heating vents or in a place where there’s a cold draft. Keep the soil moist, but don’t let the pot sit in water. In fact, if there is a foil wrapper around the plastic pot, remove the wrapper when you water to let it drain. When a poinsettia wilts, that may be an indication that it’s staying too wet.
If you take care of it, the poinsettia should last through the holidays and well beyond.

Poinsettia is a tropical plant, native to Mexico, so don’t be in a rush to get it outside. As spring approaches, cut it back to about eight inches tall and fertilize with an all-purpose plant food. After there is no longer any danger of frost, re-pot the poinsettia and set it outdoors, or plant it in the ground where it will grow into a nice, interesting green plant that will last until the first frost.

What we think of as poinsettia flowers are technically bracts, or modified leaves. The yellow flowers are in the center of the bracts. Some gardeners are able to “re-bloom” a poinsettia plant, but it takes patience and impeccable timing to provide the right conditions of light and dark needed to produce the colorful bracts.
Want to know more? The University of Illinois Extension offers a wealth of interesting information about this tradition of the season at its Poinsettia Pages.