Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
July, 2009
Regional Report

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This 'Mikado' rose bush is more than ten years old and is always a dependable bloomer.

The Trials and Tribulations of Growing Roses

Afternoon thunderstorms, torrential downpours, drying winds, hail, and now the onset of diseases can make growing roses a bit of a challenge. This has been an unusual year for my few rose bushes, but despite it all, they are resilient and continuing to produce blooms.

If you have roses in your landscape, or you plan on planting some new ones, don't let this year's odd spring and early summer weather dissuade you. You can even grow some rose bushes, especially the miniature varieties, in containers on a sunny patio or deck. One tip for success is planting in good soil that is well drained. It's also a good idea to check the soil's pH level.

The pH is an indicator of the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. Western and Rocky Mountain soils are usually mildly to highly alkaline and need to be amended with peat moss, compost, and occasionally sulfur or ammonium nitrate to bring the level down to between 6.0 and 6.5 where roses grow best.

You can test the pH with a do-it-yourself kit available at garden retailers or you can have it tested through your state university or a private laboratory. Test before you plant and again in mid-summer after you've been watering or we get all that rain. If the pH has risen (become more alkaline) take steps to lower it by digging in sphagnum peat moss or applying sulfur a bit at a time. Don't overdo; too much acid will give your roses "indigestion."

Miniature roses have become some of my favorites in that they are so easy to grow, even for a beginner, and they hardier and more disease-resistant than hybrid teas. Minis are versatile in the landscape and on patio gardens, balcony gardens, and decks. You can use them anywhere they get sufficient sun to bloom. They look great in planters, half-barrels, around posts and birdhouses, on fences as miniature climbers, and in the front of beds of larger roses in a perennial border. Give them smaller amounts of fertilizer than larger roses, keep them moist at all times, and spray with a soapy water solution to discourage pests like aphids and mites.

The miniature shrub roses grow from 4 or 5 inches tall to about 2 feet tall. The miniature climbing roses will grow about 8 feet tall. The leaves and flowers are truly miniature, but the climbing habit itself takes on the form of larger roses. My preferred and dependable mini-climber is 'Jeanne Lajoie' with attractive pink, semi-fragrant blossoms.

Other small types I've grown include 'Rainbows End', 'Rise and Shine', 'Spice Drop', 'Cinderella', and 'Red Flush'. But there are so many others, find ones that suit your garden style. Ones that grow a bit taller include 'Hot Tamale', 'Pacesetter', 'Minnie Pearl', 'Old Glory', 'High Spirits', 'Party Girl', 'Acey Deaucey', 'Valerie Jeanne', 'Good Morning America', and 'Pierrine'.

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