Tips for novice

rose gardeners

How do they do it? How do China Altman and the Rose Brigade manage to keep roses blooming in the unforgiving New England climate, on the highly trafficked grounds of the Public Garden? Altman shares five fundamentals — stressing that they are far from the whole story behind success:

Water the ground only.

Don’t spray water on rosebushes.

Keep it clean.

The ground under the bushes must be meticulously clean of all rose debris, leaves, twigs, petals.

Give them breathing room.

Air circulation around the bushes and especially between them is essential. Open up the bushes by taking out twigs and canes from the middle when you see dense interior growth. The drier the leaves and canopy, the smaller the possibility of fungi and mildew. (This tip applies primarily to hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras.)


Feed carefully.

Roses like regular snacks, never huge feasts. Use rose food — but one-half to one-third less than the directions say. Distribute food in a shallow trench along the drip line. Feed first after the roses put out new leaves in the spring, then at least once a month. Stop feeding in mid-August.

Heed the heads.

Deadheading is not necessary for most shrub roses; prune off dead or dying parts. For hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras, the general rule is to cut off the spent roses by looking down the stem for a five-leafed, outward-facing twig. Make a diagonal cut about ¼ inch above the five-leafer, slanting away from
the stem. Dead or dying
parts of the bush should be eliminated.