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Growing and caring for roses can be rewarding

By Staff | May 23, 2018

MUNCY – Earlier this month the Muncy Public Library hosted a program on the history of roses. It was presented by Master Gardener and Pennsdale resident, Louise Fulmer, who discussed their development and cultivation for the right garden. “I find them fascinating,” she shared, “as they are one of the oldest living plants in history.” They have many uses, both culinary and medicinal, and the Bible mentions them according to Fulmer.

“Roses came with the early travelers. They are very symbolic, and a sign of a good thing,” she said referring to war, love, fidelity, and peace. Old roses have been in production here before 1867.

There are lots of different names for roses, and all roses are grown in the Northern Hemisphere. Some bloom earlier in the season, others later. Fulmer explained that the first re-bloomers were hybridized in early France. “Napoleon’s wife was extravagant with the roses. The grounds would be covered with the petals.”

Roses produce a variety of colors. The bourbon rose is a wild rose and multi-floral. The hybrid tea rose is difficult to raise Fulmer explained. “It is not as disease resistant. The ‘Chrysler Imperial’ is my favorite,” she said, “because it is more resistant.” These roses can produce grandeur florals, and some grow up to 4 feet. The polyanthus grow in tiny clusters and are nice for landscaping. “They are very hardy,” Fulmer said. “Floribunda Roses are fairly bushy and some of these tea blooms may have a fragrance.” Miniature roses do well in pots.

David C. Austin was a British rose breeder who commercially introduced a hybrid with the character of the old garden roses. “He raised them to make new colors, but his goal was to keep the fragrance.”

Another interesting fact was the story behind Dr. Walter Van Fleet who became well known for his study of roses and nature itself. He was born in New York in 1857 but lived most of his life in Williamsport and Watsontown. With a background in horticulture he hybridized a climbing rose and introduced 29 cultivars. He died in 1922 in Miami Florida and is buried in Watsontown. “The new ‘Blue Dawn’ is a descendant of his,” Fulmer said.

The yellow/gold flowers are another winner with different types. Often roses are named after famous people like Julia Child (a yellow rose). “There is a rose for everybody, and all are individual looking.”

Space and light play an important factor when growing roses. Most require full sun and some kind of fertilizer. “They are putting out flowers all the time.” Feed the roots to produce more blossoms. Fulmer said one inch of water a week is needed during the first year when planting them.

They also can be planted first in containers but provide plenty of room when placing them in the soil. “Make a mound of soil with the roots pointing down,” she explained. “Surround with peat moss, then water well.” Fulmer said she uses a rose fertilizer about once a month and stops fertilizing a month before frost. “Dead head the flowers, and prune the spent-out blossoms.” Pruning can be done in the spring.

Air circulation is essential to help prevent disease. Aphids are a common pest as well as spider mites and Japanese beetles. Keep tools clean and Neem oil can be used as an insecticide. “Remove and burn the diseased areas as soon as possible.” Black spot can be another obstacle and is a fungus attracted by humidity. “You will notice it when the leaves start to fall off the plant,” she said. Rose rust can be detected by its orange color on the underside of the leaf, and a fungicidal soap will assist with this. Another culprit is powdery mildew which could cause deformed growth. A sulphur spray will help with this problem.

Roses like a lot of the trace minerals like copper and potassium. Having a neutral well PH balanced soil helps keep roses healthy. Much of the soil is clay and treating the soil with recommended nutrients is needed. The Master Gardeners through the Penn State Extension Office on County Farm Road can provide soil testing.

In summary, there are various roses for different tastes and with care and regular maintenance, roses can be grown in zone 5 with ease in any one’s garden.