The Rose: Its General Care And Culture
The owner of every garden tries to grow roses in it, but where one
succeeds, ten fail. Perhaps I would be safe in saying that ninety-nine
out of every hundred fail, for a few inferior blossoms from a plant,
each season, do not
constitute success, but that is what the majority of
amateur Rose-growers have to be satisfied with, the country over, and so
great is their admiration for this most beautiful of all flowers that
these few blossoms encourage them to keep on, season after season,
hoping for better things, and consoling themselves with the thought
that, though results fall short of expectation, they are doing about as
well as their neighbors in this particular phase of gardening.
One does not have to seek far for the causes of failure. The Rose, while
it is common everywhere, and has been in cultivation for centuries, is
not understood by the rank and file of those who attempt to grow it,
therefore it is not given the treatment it deserves, _and which it must
have,_ in order to achieve success in its culture. When we come to know
its requirements, and give it proper care, we can grow fine Roses, but
not till then. Those who form an opinion of the possibilities of the
plant from the specimens which they see growing in the average garden
have yet to find out what a really fine Rose is.
The Rose is the flower of romance and sentiment throughout the lands in
which it grows, but, for all that, it is not a sentimental flower in
many respects. It is a vegetable epicure. It likes rich food, and great
quantities of it. Unless it can be gratified in this respect it will
refuse to give you the large, fine flowers which every Rose-grower,
professional or amateur, is constantly striving after. But feed it
according to its liking and it will give you perfect flowers in great
quantities, season after season, and _then_ you will understand what
this plant can do when given an opportunity to do itself justice.
The Rose will live on indefinitely in almost any soil, and under almost
any conditions. I have frequently found it growing in old, deserted
gardens, almost choked out of existence by weeds and other aggressive
plants, but still holding to life with a persistency that seemed
wonderful in a plant of its kind. I have removed some of these plants to
my own garden, and given them good care, and time after time I have been
as surprised as delighted at the result. The poor little bushes, that
had held so tenaciously to life against great odds, seemed to have
stored up more vitality in their starved roots than any others in the
garden were possessors of, and as soon as they were given good soil and
proper care they sent up strong, rank shoots, and thanked me for my
kindness to them in wonderful crops of flowers, and really put the old
residents of the place to shame. All through the years of neglect they
had no doubt been yearning to bud and bloom, but were unable to do so
because of unfavorable conditions, but when the opportunity to assert
themselves came they made haste to take advantage of it in a way that
proves how responsive flowers are to the right kind of treatment.
The Rose will only do its best in a soil that is rather heavy with clay,
or a tenacious loam. It likes to feel the earth firm about its roots. In
light, loose soils it never does well, though it frequently makes a
vigorous growth of branches in them, but it is from a more compact soil
that we get the most and finest flowers.
Some varieties do well in a soil of clay containing considerable gravel.
Such a soil provides for the roots the firmness of which I have spoken,
while the gravel insures perfect drainage,--a matter of great importance
in Rose-culture. Success cannot be expected in a soil unduly retentive
of moisture. Very heavy soils can be lightened by the addition of
coarse, sharp sand, old mortar, and cinders. If the location chosen does
not furnish perfect drainage, naturally, artificial drainage must be
resorted to. Make an excavation at least a foot and a half in depth, and
fill in, at the bottom, with bits of broken brick, crockery, coarse
gravel, fine stone--anything that will not readily decay--and thus
secure a stratum of porous material through which the superfluous
moisture in the soil will readily drain away. This is an item in
Rose-culture that one cannot afford to ignore, if he desires fine Roses.
A rich soil must be provided for the plants in order to secure good
results. This, also, is a matter of the greatest importance. The ideal
fertilizer is old, well-rotted cow-manure--so old that it is black, and
so rotten that it will crumble at the touch of the hoe. On no account
should fresh manure be used. If old manure cannot be obtained,
substitute finely-ground bonemeal, in the proportion of a pound to as
much soil as you think would fill a bushel-basket, on a rough estimate.
But by all means use the cow-manure if it can possibly be procured, as
nothing else suits the Rose so well. It will be safe to use it in the
proportion of a third to the bulk of earth in which you plant your
Roses. Whatever fertilizer is used should be thoroughly worked into the
soil before the plants are set out. See that all lumps are pulverized.
If this is not done, there is danger of looseness about some of the
roots at planting-time, and this is a thing to guard against, especially
with young plants.
Location should be taken into consideration, always. Choose, if
possible, one that has an exposure to the sunshine of the morning and
the middle of the day. A western exposure is a great deal better than
none, but the heat of it is generally so intense that few Roses can long
retain their freshness in it. Something can be done, however, to temper
the extreme heat of it by planting shrubs where they will shade the
plants from noon till three o'clock.
Care must be taken, in the choice of a location, to guard against
drafts. If Roses are planted where a cold wind from the east or north
can blow over the bed, look out for trouble. Plan for a screen of
evergreens, if the bed is to be a permanent one. If temporary only, set
up some boards to protect the plants from getting chilled until
quick-growing annuals can be made to take their place. I have found that
mildew on Rose-bushes is traceable, nine times out of ten, to exposure
to cold drafts, and that few varieties are strong enough to withstand
the effects of repeated attacks of it. The harm done by it can be
mitigated, to some extent, by applications of flowers of sulphur, dusted
over the entire plant while moist with dew, but it will not do to depend
on this remedy. Remove the cause of trouble and there will be no need of
Because the Rose is so beautiful, when in full bloom, quite naturally we
like to plant it where its beauty can be seen to the best advantage. But
I would not advise giving it a place on the lawn, or in the front yard.
When plants are in bloom, people will look only at their flowers, and
whatever drawbacks there are about the bush will not be noticed. But
after the flowering period is over, the bushes will come in for
inspection, and then it will be discovered that a Rose-bush without
blossoms is not half as attractive as most other shrubs are. We prune it
back sharply in our efforts to get the finest possible flowers from it,
thus making it impossible to have luxuriance of branch or foliage. We
thin it until there is not enough left of it to give it the dignity of a
shrub. In short, as ornamental shrubs, Roses are failures with the
exception of a few varieties, and these are not kinds in general
cultivation. This being the case, it is advisable to locate the Rose-bed
where it will not be greatly in evidence after the flowering season is
ended. But try to have it where its glories can be enjoyed by the
occupants of the home. Not under, or close to, the living-room windows,
for that space should be reserved for summer flowers, but where it will
be in full view, if possible, from the kitchen as well as the parlor.
The flowering period of the Rose is so short that we must contrive to
get the greatest possible amount of pleasure out of it, and in order to
do that we want it where we can see it at all times.
Very few of our best Roses are really hardy, though most of the
florists' catalogues speak of them as being so. Many kinds lose the
greater share of their branches during the winter, unless given good
protection. Their roots, however, are seldom injured so severely that
they will not send up a stout growth of new branches during the season,
but this is not what we want. We want _Roses_,--lots of them,--and in
order to have them we must contrive, in some way, to save as many of
the last year's branches as possible. Fortunately, this can be done
without a great deal of trouble.
Here is my method of winter protection: Late in fall--generally about
the first of November, or whenever there are indications that winter is
about to close in upon us--I bend the bushes to the ground, and cover
them with dry earth, leaves, litter from the barn, or evergreen
branches. In doing this I am not aiming to keep the frost away from the
plants, as might be supposed, but rather to prevent the sun from getting
at the soil and thawing the frost that has taken possession of it.
Scientific investigation has proven that a plant, though comparatively
tender, is not seriously injured by freezing, if it can be _kept frozen_
until the frost is extracted from it _naturally_,--that is, gradually
and according to natural processes. It is the frequent alternation of
freezing and thawing that does the harm. Therefore, if you have a tender
Rose that you want to carry over winter in the open ground, give it
ample protection as soon as the frost has got at it--before it has a
chance to thaw out--and you can be reasonably sure of its coming through
in spring in good condition. What I mean by the term "ample protection"
is--a covering of one kind or another that will _shade_ the plant and
counteract the influence of the sun upon the frozen soil--not, as most
amateurs seem to think, for the purpose of keeping the soil warm. I have
already made mention of this scientific fact, and may do it again
because it is a matter little understood, but is one of the greatest
importance, hence my frequent reference to it.
If earth is used as a covering, it should be dry, and after it is put
on, boards, or something that will turn rain and water should be put
over it. Old oil-cloth is excellent for this purpose. Canvas that has
been given a coating of paint is good. Tarred sheathing-paper answers
the purpose very well. Almost anything will do that prevents the earth
from getting saturated with water, which, if allowed to stand among the
branches, will prove quite as harmful as exposure to the fluctuations of
winter weather. If leaves are used,--and these make an ideal covering if
you can get enough of them,--they can be kept in place by laying coarse
wire netting over them. Or evergreen branches can be used to keep the
wind from blowing them away. These branches alone will be sufficient
protection for the hardier kinds, such as Harrison's Yellow, Provence,
Cabbage, and the Mosses, anywhere south of New York. North of that
latitude I would not advise depending on so slight a protection.
Earth-covering is preferable for the northern section of the United
It is no easy matter to get sturdy Rose-bushes ready for winter. Their
canes are stiff and brittle. Their thorns are formidable. One person,
working alone, cannot do the entire work to advantage. It needs one to
bend the bushes down and hold them in that position while the other
applies the covering. In bending the bush, great care must be taken to
prevent its being broken, or cracked, close to the ground. Provide
yourself with gloves of substantial leather or thick canvas before you
tackle them. Then take hold of the cane close to the ground, with the
left hand, holding it firmly, grasp the upper part of it with the right
hand, and proceed gently and cautiously with the work until you have it
flat on the ground. If your left-hand grasp is a firm one, you can feel
the bush yielding by degrees, and this is what you should be governed
by. On no account work so rapidly that you do not feel the resistance of
the branch giving way in a manner that assures you that it is adjusting
itself safely to the force that is being applied to it. When you have
it on the ground, you will have to hold it there until it is covered
with earth, unless you prefer to weight it down with something heavy
enough to keep it in place while you cover it. Omit the weights, or
relax your grip upon it, and the elastic branches will immediately
spring back to their normal position. Sometimes, when a bush is
stubbornly stiff, and refuses to yield without danger of injury, it is
well to heap a pailful or two of earth against it, on the side toward
which it is to be bent, thus enabling you to _curve_ it over the
heaped-up soil in such a manner as to avoid a sharp bend. Never hurry
with this work. Take your time for it, and do it thoroughly, and
thoroughness means carefulness, always. As a general thing, six or eight
inches of dry soil will be sufficient covering for Roses at the north.
If litter is used, the covering can be eight or ten inches deep.
Do not apply any covering early in the season, as so many do for the
sake of "getting the work out of the way." Wait until you are reasonably
sure that cold weather is setting in.
Teas, and the Bourbon and Bengal sections of the so-called
ever-bloomers, are most satisfactorily wintered in the open ground by
making a pen of boards about them, at least ten inches deep, and
filling it with leaves, packing them firmly over the laid-down plants.
Then cover with something to shed rain. These very tender sorts cannot
always be depended on to come through the winter safely at the north,
even when given the best of protection, but where one has a bed of them
that has afforded pleasure throughout the entire summer, quite naturally
he dislikes to lose them if there is a possibility of saving them, and
he will be willing to make an effort to carry them through the winter.
If only part of them are saved, he will feel amply repaid for all his
trouble. Generally all the old top will have to be cut away, but that
does not matter with Roses of this class, as vigorous shoots will be
sent up, early in the season, if the roots are alive, therefore little
or no harm is done by the entire removal of the old growth.
The best Roses to plant are those grown by reliable dealers who
understand how to grow vigorous stock, and who are too honest to give a
plant a wrong name. Some unscrupulous dealers, whose supply of plants is
limited to a few of the kinds easiest to grow, will fill any order you
send them, and your plants will come to you labelled to correspond with
your order. But when they come into bloom, you may find that you have
got kinds that you did not order, and did not care for. The honest
dealer never plays this trick on his customers. If he hasn't the kinds
you order, he will tell you so. Therefore, before ordering, try to find
out who the honest dealers are, and give no order to any firm not well
recommended by persons in whose opinion you have entire confidence.
There are scores of such firms, but they do not advertise as extensively
as the newer ones, because they have many old customers who do their
advertising for them by "speaking good words" in their favor to friends
who need anything in their line.
I would advise purchasing two-year-old plants, always. They have much
stronger roots than those of the one-year-old class, and will give a
fairly good crop of flowers the first season, as a general thing. And
when one sets out a new Rose, he is always in a hurry to see "what it
Be sure to buy plants on their own roots. It is claimed by many growers
that many varieties of the Rose do better when grafted on vigorous stock
than they do on their own roots, and this is doubtless true. But it is
also true that the stock of these kinds can be increased more rapidly by
grafting than from cuttings, and, because of this, many dealers resort
to this method of securing a supply of salable plants. It is money in
their pockets to do so. But it is an objectionable plan, because the
scion of a choice variety grafted to a root of an inferior kind is quite
likely to die off, and when this happens you have a worthless plant.
Strong and vigorous branches may be sent up from the root, but from them
you will get no flowers, because the root from which they spring is that
of a non-flowering sort. Many persons cannot understand why it is that
plants so luxuriant in growth fail to bloom, but when they discover that
this growth comes from the root _below where the graft was inserted_,
the mystery is explained to them. When grafted plants are used, care
must be taken to remove every shoot that appears about the plant _unless
it is sent out above the graft_. If the shoots that are sent up from
_below_ the graft are allowed to remain, the grafted portion will soon
die off, because these shoots from the root of the variety upon which it
was "worked" will speedily rob it of vitality and render it worthless.
All this risk is avoided by planting only kinds which are grown upon
their own roots.
In planting Roses, make the hole in which they are to be set large
enough to admit of spreading out their roots evenly and naturally. Let
it be deep enough to bring the roots about the same distance below the
surface as the plant shows them to have been before it was taken from
the nursery row. When the roots are properly straightened out, fill in
about them with fine soil, and firm it down well, and then add two or
three inches more of soil, after which at least a pailful of water
should be applied to each plant, to thoroughly settle the soil between
and about the roots. Avoid loose planting if you want your plants to get
a good start, and do well. When all the soil has been returned to the
hole, add a mulch of coarse manure to prevent too rapid evaporation of
moisture while the plants are putting forth new feeding roots.
If large-rooted plants are procured from the nursery, quite likely some
of the larger roots will be injured by the spade in lifting them from
the row. Look over these roots carefully, and cut off the ends of all
that have been bruised, before planting. A smooth cut will heal readily,
but a ragged one will not.
We have several classes or divisions of Roses adapted to culture at the
north. The June Roses are those which give a bountiful crop of flowers
at the beginning of summer, but none thereafter. This class includes
the Provence, the Mosses, the Scotch and Austrian kinds, Harrison's
Yellow, Madame Plantier, and the climbers.
The Hybrid Perpetuals bloom profusely in early summer, and sparingly
thereafter, at intervals, until the coming of cold weather. These are,
in many respects, the most beautiful of all Roses.
The ever-bloomers are made up of Bengal, Bourbon, Tea and Noisette
varieties. These are small in habit of growth, but exquisitely beautiful
in form and color, and most kinds are so delightfully fragrant, and
flower so freely from June to the coming of cold weather, that no garden
should be without a bed of them.
The Rugosa Roses are more valuable as shrubs than as flowering plants,
though their large, bright, single flowers are extremely attractive.
Their chief attraction is their beautifully crinkled foliage, of a rich
green, and their bright crimson fruit which is retained throughout the
season. This class gives flowers, at intervals, from June to October.
Hybrid Perpetuals must be given special treatment in order to secure
flowers from them throughout the season. Their blossoms are always
produced on new growth, therefore, if you would keep them producing
flowers, you must keep them growing. This is done by feeding the plant
liberally, and cutting back the branches upon which flowers have been
produced to a strong bud from which a new branch can be developed. In
this way we keep the plant constantly renewing itself, and in the
process of renewal we are likely to get a good many flowers where we
would get few, or none, if we were to let the plant take care of itself.
The term "perpetual" is, however, a misleading one, as it suggests a
constant production of flowers. Most varieties of this class, as has
been said, will bloom occasionally, after the first generous crop of the
season, but never very freely, and often not at all unless the treatment
outlined above is carefully followed. But so beautiful are the Roses of
this class that one fine flower is worth a score of ordinary blossoms,
and the lover of the Rose will willingly devote a good deal of time and
labor to the production of it.
The Ramblers, now so popular, constitute a class by themselves, in many
respects. They are of wonderfully vigorous habit, have a score or more
of flowers where others have but one bloom early in the season, and give
a wonderful show of color. The individual blossoms are too small to
please the critical Rose-grower, but there are so many in each cluster,
and these clusters are so numerous, that the general effect is most
charming. Crimson Rambler is too well known to need description. The
variety that deserves a place at the very head of the list, allowing me
to be judge, is Dorothy Perkins. This variety is of slenderer growth
than Crimson Rambler, therefore of more vine-like habit, and, on this
account, better adapted to use about porches and verandas, where it can
be trained along the cornice in a graceful fashion that the
stiff-branched Crimson Rambler will not admit of. Its foliage is not so
large as that of the other variety named, but it is much more
attractive, being finely cut, and having a glossy surface that adds much
to the beauty of the plant. But the chief charm of the plant is its soft
pink flowers, dainty and delicate in the extreme. These are produced in
long, loose sprays instead of crowded clusters, thus making the effect
of a plant in full bloom vastly more graceful than that of any of the
others of the class.
Roses have their enemies, and it would seem as if there must be some
sort of understanding among them as to the date of attack, because
nearly all of them put in an appearance at about the same time. The
aphis I find no difficulty in keeping down by the use of Nicoticide--a
very strongly concentrated extract of the nicotine principle of tobacco.
This should be diluted with water, as directed on the cans or bottles in
which it is put up, and applied to all parts of the bush with a sprayer.
Do not wait for the aphis to appear before beginning warfare against
him. You can count on his coming, therefore it is well to act on the
offensive, instead of the defensive, for it is an easier matter to keep
him away altogether than it is to get rid of him after he has taken
possession of your bushes. If he finds the tang of Nicoticide clinging
to the foliage on his arrival, he will speedily conclude that it will be
made extremely uncomfortable for him, if he decides to locate, and he
will look for more congenial quarters elsewhere.
For the worm that does so much injury to our plants at the time when
they are just getting ready to bloom, I use an emulsion made by adding
two quarts kerosene to one part of laundry soap. The soap should be
reduced to a liquid, and allowed to become very hot, before the oil is
added. Then agitate the two rapidly and forcibly until they unite in a
jelly-like substance. The easiest and quickest way to secure an
emulsion is by using a brass syringe such as florists sprinkle their
plants with. Insert it in the vessel containing the oil and soap, and
draw into it as much of the liquids as it will contain, and then expel
them with as much force as possible, and continue to do this until the
desired union has taken place. Use one part of the emulsion to eight or
ten parts water, and make sure it reaches every portion of the bush.
In Rose-culture, as in every branch of floriculture, the price of
success is constant vigilance. If you do not get the start of insect
enemies, and keep them under control, they will almost invariably ruin
your crop of flowers, and often the bushes themselves. Therefore be
thorough and persistent in the warfare waged against the common enemy,
and do not relax your efforts until he is routed.
In making a selection of Hybrid Perpetuals for home planting, the
amateur finds it difficult to choose from the long lists sent out by
many dealers. He wants the best and most representative of the class,
but he doesn't know which these are. If I were asked to select a dozen
kinds, my choice would be the following:
Alfred Colomb. Bright crimson. Fragrant.
Anna de Diesbach. Carmine. Fragrant.
Baroness Rothschild. Soft pink.
Captain Hayward. Deep rose. Perfect in form.
Frau Carl Druschki. Pure white.
General Jacqueminot. Brilliant crimson. Very sweet.
Jules Margottin. Rosy crimson.
Mabel Morrison. White, delicately shaded with blush.
Magna Charta. Glowing carmine. A lovely flower.
Madame Gabriel de Luizet. Delicate pink. Exquisite.
Mrs. John Laing. Soft pink. Very fragrant.
Ulrich Brunner. Bright cherry red.
To increase the above list would be to duplicate colors, for nearly all
the other kinds included in the dealers' lists are variations of the
distinctive qualities of the above. The twelve named will give you more
pleasure than a larger number of less distinctive kinds would, for in
each merit stands out pre-eminent, and all the best qualities of the
best Roses are represented in the list.
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