Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
February, 2006
Regional Report

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The beautiful 'Bronze Star' rose thrives in the low desert.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Newcomers are often surprised to discover that roses thrive here, but, in fact, 40 percent of the rose bushes sold are grown in this region and then shipped around the country for sale!

The campus of Mesa (Arizona) Community College features one of the few All America Rose Selection Demonstration and Test Gardens in the U.S., and the only one in the desert Southwest. It displays over 7000 rose bushes, planted and tended by volunteers from the Mesa-East Valley Rose Society. I enjoy wandering along its paths, perusing the names of roses. A recent addition is the Veterans Garden, dedicated to all five branches of the military. Rose varieties in these beds have patriotic names, including 'America', 'Bronze Star', 'Fourth of July', 'Let Freedom Ring', 'Purple Heart', 'Silver Star', and 'Veteran's Honor'.

Rose variety names lend themselves to some wonderful theme garden opportunities. There are thousands of choices, many of them whimsically named after cartoon characters, celebrities, movies, books and plays, royalty, and holidays. For example, if you have youngsters who like to garden, they might like 'Aladdin', 'Betty Boop', 'Bo-Peep', 'Charlie Brown', 'Cinderella', 'Goldilocks', 'Little Prince', 'National Velvet', 'Red Riding Hood', 'Sleeping Beauty', and 'Tinkerbell'.

Of course, before choosing, make sure the rose is rated to perform in your climate and is the type you want, such as a hybrid tea, climber, or old garden rose. Demonstration gardens come in handy when sorting through the options. If there's no garden in your area, there is likely a garden club or rose society with members who will be delighted to share their experience.

Planting Tips
Bare-root roses can be transplanted now through February in the low desert. Soak the entire bush in a bucket of water overnight before planting. Dig a hole 18 to 30 inches wide and deep. Put a phosphorus fertilizer into the bottom of the hole, then mix half native soil with half forest mulch or compost to use as backfill. Put two or three shovels of soil into the hole, and make a cone shape with it. Spread the roots out over the cone. This helps them grow outwards into surrounding soil, rather than tangle around themselves.

Fill in the hole with backfill, ensuring that the bud union is 2 inches above the soil line. The bud union is a raised bump on the stem where the variety is grafted to the rootstock. Keeping it dry above ground level helps prevent disease. Water in well after planting and keep soil moist for at least two weeks while roots establish.

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