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January-March in a Connecticut Rose Garden

by Steve & Carol Ann Rogers


Winter is time of year for many rosarians to relax and reflect upon last year’s results, and to plan for the next growing season. Add a couple of good rose books, and the ARS Annual to the mix, and rosarians can enjoy their rose hobby all winter long. Additionally, there are several activities the rose hobbyist can choose to do during this time.

One can create or update records, plan a garden layout, and identify changes that may be required for the upcoming growing season. It is a very good time to think about the new varieties that you may wish to include in the garden, and to order the plants from the many catalogues that are available. And, as an ultimate challenge for the rose enthusiast, amateur hybridizers are kept very busy during the winter doing the many steps required to nurture their seed crops into seedlings, which may produce a new introduction in years to come.

There is time to find all of our tools that may have been left “out of place” as we busily ended the growing season and closed our gardens. Make sure the sprayer is cleaned, and the pruners are sharpened and lubricated. Personal protective equipment should be examined to ensure that it is in excellent condition, and be sure to get a tetanus booster shot. One is needed every 10 years.

Check the winter protection periodically to determine that it is not adversely disturbed by winter storms and winds. In late winter, when the daytime temperature reaches 50 degrees remove covers during the day from Kones and “condos” to prevent radiant heat buildup that may damage the plants. Periodically inspect potted plants for moisture content, if you have stored them in a garage or shed. We have found that if they are frozen they seem to do fine, and do not need water until they thaw. Otherwise, we may apply water during the winter as needed.

If the weather allows we can continue to keep our gardens clean to minimize the conditions for disease spores and insects like spider mites to “winter over”. Additionally, application of a dormant oil spray according to the directions on the label can be used to eliminate these pests. Also, we may be able to finish pruning unwieldy shrubs and OGRs into the shape we want for next season’s blooms.

Finally, as the winter wanes in mid/late March local nurseries will be getting their shipments of boxed roses. This is an excellent time to pick some up if you chose to do so while they are still dormant. The selection is best, and they can be stored in the garage with the potted roses until they can be planted.

Accomplishing these tasks during the winter will set us up for a smooth opening of our gardens in April. Happy gardening! 


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