Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2003
Regional Report

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Blushing Knock Out is my kind of rose! It is exuberant, vivacious, and pest free.

Propagating Tips from Vintage Gardens

I had an interesting visit to Vintage Gardens in Sebastopol a few weeks ago. The Henry's Garden team -- Henry, Art, my wonderful camera man, and I -- were headed up to Sebastopol to shoot some segments at California Carnivores Nursery. The fact that Vintage Gardens Rose Nursery is right next door tickled my tendrils. Any time I can get more than one segment while we are on location is pure gravy. It takes time to set up all the lights, put microphones on the guests, develop and block out the segments, and find suitable background where the light won't change during the taping.

The fact that owner Gregg Lowery is one of the most respected rosarians in the nursery industry was a definite plus. One of the segments Gregg did for us was on propagating roses. He says that roses are easy to propagate from cuttings.

The first step is to prepare the potting medium. Gregg suggests using new potting soil whenever you propagate. Fill a 1-gallon nursery can about one-quarter full of soil. Add a few handfuls of perlite, an exploded volcanic material that helps the soil drain and improves the texture. Mix the perlite and the soil together right in the can. Water the soil mix well.

The next step is to take the cuttings. Gregg says to take several cuttings to ensure at least one viable one. You can plant them all in the same pot. And here's something I didn't know: Be sure to select a stem that is blooming or has a flower bud on it. With sharp, clean shears, cut about an 8-inch piece of stem that has at least three leaves attached.

Remove the blossom just above the top leaf, and remove the bottom leaf. Cut off the bottom of the stem 1/16 of an inch below the bottom leaf joint (where the bottom leaf was attached to the stem). This cut is crucial to successful propagation.

Dip the bottom cut end into a commercial rooting hormone. You also can use willow bark tea as a rooting hormone. Make several holes in the potting mix using a pencil or a chopstick. It's important to create the holes first so you don't injure the cuttings as you slide them into the soil. Guide the cuttings into the prepared holes, and gently firm the soil around them, eliminating any air pockets. Water again to settle the soil around the cuttings.

The last step is to create a miniature greenhouse by placing a few bamboo stakes in the pot and covering the entire pot with a plastic bag. Those big turkey roasting bags work very well as temporary greenhouses.

Keep the soil moist, checking every day if necessary. Gregg says it will take 6 to 8 weeks for your roses to take root, but eventually you will end up with a new rose plant!

Gregg also had some interesting things to say about rose maintenance. He invited us to his home where he has over 3,500 varieties of roses growing in the ground. The garden is laid out on a slope in an old apple orchard. The roses are growing in rectangular beds with lawn paths separating them. All of his 2-1/2-acre home garden is set up with an overhead irrigation system. When I asked if he had problems with fungus disease, he said no. He also told me that he only waters his roses at home once a month. So much for roses being hard to grow.

Yes, the garden was choked with weeds, and yes, it was a bit of a tangle. But it had a spectacular view of the Sonoma Valley, much to Art's glee, and when Gregg put together a bouquet for Henry's wife, it was an incredible assortment of roses.

Vintage Gardens is located at 2833 Old Gravenstein Hwy. South, Sebastopol, CA 95472; (707) 829-2035.

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