A Tree Rose in Your Garden
Grow Your Own
In my part of the world the usual grafted tree roses available in the
garden centres can easily be considered as annuals. They are created by grafting a Hybrid Tea Rose on top of a long stem of something sturdier. They are expensive annuals. Overwintering them is technically possible but in my busy gardening schedule, not worth the effort.
This mature beauty, var. “New Zealand” in the picture is in the benign climate of the Portland Rose Garden a delightful place that breeds intense Rose envy in northern gardeners.
Can I Make My Own? I decided to create my own hardy tree rose. It takes a year or three but is an interesting bit of gardening to try. The first step is to go to the nursery and purchase one of the very hardy roses that are now available. The explorer series should work quite well and that is what I my first tree was. There are some others available. You are looking for the plant that nobody else wants. Everybody wants a bushy plant with three or four strong canes. We want a plant with one very strong cane, hopefully centrally located. We don’t care about the other weaker canes.
How To Choose? I really wanted a yellow flowering Rose on this trip to the garden centre, as I already have a red one. Morden Sunrise was the only hardy yellow available and it was already noticeably infected with ‘black spot.’ The lovely red Winnipeg Parks, was described as somewhat disease resistant and it showed almost no ‘black spot.’ The intelligent gardener would choose Winnipeg Parks, but apparently the emotional gardener went shopping that day as I now have a rich yellow Morden Sunrise that I am busy removing the infected leaves from.
How Do I Start? Choose a spot in your garden where you want a very interesting focal point and plant the Rose in the normal manner. These Roses should be growing on their own roots so there will not be a graft union to bury. If there is a graft union then make sure that your planting hole is deep enough that it can be 4 -5 cm below ground. Position the plant in the hole so that the strongest cane is as vertical as possible. Water and fertilize as you normally would with a Rose and wait for it to indicate its happiness with the new home by starting to grow.
Patience Required! How you proceed from here depends upon your patience. You can let the new Rose simply grow and establish itself for the rest of the year or if you are certain of your planting skills you can start to transform it this year. We will prune off, as close to the ground / main stem, as possible, all of the canes except the strong one that we have planted vertically. It should then grow straight up. It will continually try to branch out at the top and we have to fight back.
Continue to remove any and all side branches always leaving the central leader pointing straight up. This can be a bit tricky at times as it tries to head off into three directions at once. This is also a good time to drive a sturdy semi-permanent stake in the ground as close to the chosen cane as possible. I have used a piece of iron rebar. When you first put it into the ground drive it in so that the top of it is at the height where you are hoping to develop the head of the tree rose. That will probably have it standing in its ugliness, noticeably above the top of the cane at this point. Have faith.
Sucess? Your chosen central leader will eventually produce a flower bud and we have to let it be a rose for a while. That may be all we can do the first year. When fledgling tree rose starts vegetative growth again, this fall or next spring, continue your relentless pruning to force the single strong cane to go as straight up as possible. Sometime in the second or third year it will reach the desired height and then you can let a few side branches develop at the top to create the flowering head. In subsequent years you will have to prune the branches creating your flowering head. If they are pruned back to 8 -10 cm stubs then they will bush out and produce the dense head of flowers that we were looking for when we started this project.
A tree rose can be a very interesting and rewarding project but it is not for the impatient gardener.
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