The Butchart Chronicles : September 15, 2017

How to Prepare a Rose Garden for Winter

How to Prepare a Rose Garden for Winter

By John Hill, Rose Garden Supervisor

As the summer season winds down in the Rose Garden, the level of work required to maintain the roses also slows down. Let the six Butchart Rose Garden tasks serve as tips for your own roses.

1. Deadheading 101

Instead of deadheading (removing spent flowers) twice a week, we will continue to lightly deadhead them as needed, which typically will be once a week in mid-September until they no longer require any deadheading at all by mid-October. Reducing deadhead frequency gives the rose canes a chance to start to harden off for the winter.   

2. Fertilizing Patterns

All fertilizing of the roses stopped by the end of July in order to stop promoting new growth. As the days and nights begin to cool in September, the need to irrigate will be reduced from four days to two days each week. When we begin to receive sufficient rainfall, irrigation is eventually stopped altogether.

3. Potassium Sulfate Best Practices

Starting in late September we spray the roses with potassium sulfate on a weekly basis for three weeks in a row. This helps to accelerate the hardening off process of the roses for the winter. Since we started doing this a few years ago, I have found that we hardly have any black canes in the spring due to frost damage. We continue to monitor the roses for insect and disease throughout this season as well.

4. Cutting Back

At the end of October, or early November, we will cut down the roses in the foregrounds to about two feet tall and the roses in the backgrounds will be cut down to approximately four and a half feet. This will leave the plants at a uniform height for the winter and helps to prevent long canes from whipping around in the wind or breaking off from excessive snow loads.

5. Cleanup Secrets

At this time, we also remove all of the remaining leaves on the plants and clean up any debris or weeds from the garden one last time. Removing the leaves helps to remove any disease spores and cleans the garden up so we don’t have leaves blowing around in the winter. We do not compost these leaves; we either burn or bury them in our fill pile.     

6. Mulching for Protection

Once these tasks are completed, we mulch our Hybrid tea roses with a 50/50 mix of screened leaf mulch and screened woods chip mulch which we produce on site. The mulch is placed around the base of each rose to about ten inches high to help protect the crowns of the plants from frost damage. In early spring, about 75% of the mulch is removed with the remainder left behind to amend the soil.

With all of these tasks completed, the Rose garden can take a well-deserved rest for the winter.