Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
June, 2003
Regional Report

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Belinda's Dream is about as close to a perfect rose for the south as you can get. It makes a great landscape shrub for full sun locations.

Dreaming of the Perfect Rose

Roses are the queen of landscape flowers. Nothing entrances gardeners like a rose. Who can resist stopping to gaze at a rose blossom or to lean over for a whiff of the fragrance. When special days arrive, roses lead the way to the bud vase as a favorite cut flower.

These wonderful plants offer so many landscape options. Shrubs, climbers, and miniatures provide a variety of choices. Add to this the many classes of roses and a dizzying multitude of bloom colors, shades, and forms. Then consider the fragrances. Some have a light tea-like aroma. Others remind the senses of baby powder or many other subtle fragrances.

Here in the south, roses are a staple in the landscape. Our summer heat and humidity, however, and the tendency for rainy spells to not know when to "say when" can challenge the new rose grower. Yet by heeding a few simple tips we can have wonderful success with roses.

Start With the Soil
Begin by providing a quality growing bed. Whether your soil is sand, clay, or loam, it will benefit from generous additions of organic matter and by building up a raised planting bed. This insures a great growing environment for roots, good water and nutrient retention, and good drainage. Rose roots can't swim.

Let the Sun Shine In
Light shining on leaves makes carbohydrates that plants need for growth and blooms. If roses don't get at least six hours of sun a day (more is better) the bush will survive but you'll have to get blooms from the local flower shop. Give your roses full sun and they'll give you a dozen bouquets of bloom in return.

Feed Them Regularly
There are as many special rose fertilizer blends as there are companies selling fertilizer, maybe even more. I have found that a plain ol' 3-1-2 ratio turf fertilizer keeps my roses vigorous and blooming well. Many other rose experts have told me the same thing. Most garden soils in our region already have lots of phosphorus, the middle number. But if you want to be sure, have your soil tested first. Apply the fertilizer in small doses every 6 weeks from spring to late summer.

Water Wisely
If you want lots of blooms you'll need to water with a deep soaking every 5 days or so to keep the plants healthy and vigorous. They will survive on much less water once established, but they will not bloom up to their potential. The daily sprinkling only promotes disease problems.

Pest Patrol
Keep an eye out for mites and aphids, two common pests. They can be controlled with a variety of low-toxicity products if they become troublesome. Black spot and powdery mildew love to show up to spoil the show. The best way to deal with them is to select resistant varieties. If you have roses that struggle with one or both of these diseases, your local garden center can suggest some effective low-toxicity options for control.

The Perfect Rose
Well, to be honest there is no perfect plant, but when it comes to roses there are some doggone near perfect ones! My personal favorite, when all factors are considered, is Belinda's Dream. For more info on this superb variety, check out the Favorite Plant section below.

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