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Plantidote of the Day 2011-05-23

twig's picture

white rose

Rosa

Rose

Yes, a rose -- again!! Why not? They're beautiful, and they're in bloom. In one of those odd events involving large numbers of people collectively going into denial, every spring the portion of southwestern desert known as Zone 10 practically turns into a rosarium. Thanks to the miracle of purloined water, residents in dozens of Southern California neighborhoods proudly fill their yards with roses, roses, and more roses, one of the thirstiest plants in existence.

Water is so important to rose growing that it's the first necessity listed in the Sunset Western Garden Book:

Water is needed at all times during growing season for best performance of most popular garden roses. Inadequate water slows or halts growth and bloom. Water deeply so that entire root system is moistened.

Unlike so many plants that require less water once they're established in the garden, older roses actually need more! As a neighbor likes to say, "My day consists of watering the roses and then watering them again."

So with all the plants there are to choose from -- including some spectacular chaparral, succulents and cacti that can thrive here with almost no water -- it seems odd that gardeners in Zone 10 would be so determined to raise something so inappropriate to the region. Are people in other parts of the country obsessed with roses, too? Or are Southern Californians especially delusional?

Full disclosure: I have two rose bushes inherited from the previous owner. Both are growing in pots now, since I've convinced myself that they require less water that way. Which proves that living in denial is not that hard, at least not where roses are concerned ;-)

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Readers, please send twig (twig4now@gmail.com) images and stories for the ongoing Plantidote of the Day series. In exchange, you'll win undying fame in the form of a hat tip! Plants growing in your garden, your house, or neighbor's yard, plants from the forest or farmers' market, plants you preserved, plants you prepared (wine; cider; tea; dried beans), plants you harvested (grains; chanterelles), plants you picked (flowers), plants you dried (herbs), plants you covet or hope to grow someday. Herbal remedies, propagation tips, new varieties, etc.. And if you can, include some solid detail about the plant, too -- a story, the genus and species, or where you got the seeds, or the recipe, or your grandmother gave it to you. Or challenge us with a "Name That Plant" mystery entry ... And please feel free to add corrections and additional information in the comments.

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insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

As a gardener in northern California, I see roses growing in yards where they are lucky to get watered once a month. If you prepare a good planting hole and water deeply and infrequently...they will develop an enormous root system and root very deeply. and can be trained to become quite drought tolerant. They can survive with very little water.
Now, on the other hand...they LOVE abundant water and will grow and bloom like mad even in overly saturated soils.

There are even roses now called "Earthkind" that survive with very little water once established.

And an answer to your question, no it is not just in zone 10 that roses are worshiped. They truly are the Queens of the garden.

insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

Mulch can really protect soil moisture and help plants grow enormous root systems that mine water deep.

It is expensive to pump water, so I use all kinds of mulches to hold the moisture in and shade the soils. I use straw in my vegetable garden and wood chips around my shrubs. I use compost as mulch under my roses and flowers. I even use cardboard and newspaper as mulch. I just hide it with a thin layer of wood chips.

Yes, this is zone 9 , here, in the wine country. We can pretty much grow anything.
Roses are huge. Many vineyards use them as end rows and hedges and cover buildings with them. This is a great year for them. We got tons of rain this winter.

I really look forward to your daily Plantidote. Your photos are superb.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

can be combined soon! Seriously, last summer was much cooler than any I can remember and this year the same thing is happening -- tons of rain in the winter, then gray, cold, damp spring/summer with maybe one very short super hot spell. So odd ...

But as you were saying -- mulch! Of course, excellent idea for water retention -- thanks for the reminder. And thanks for the kind words, too -- much appreciated!

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

So how the heck do I clean up wet petals that are all over the wet mulch? Any suggestions?

( I have a circle with 3 hardy own-root roses on it, which I hardly ever watered after they were planted 2 years ago. We get more than enough rain. In fact, this week it's all rain & wind -- the wind blasts the petals off and the rain sticks it to the mulch. Hence my clean-up dilemma)

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

the other plants I don't really need to tidy, but roses need to have growing area that doesn't have anything that might harbor rose attackers (whether viral, bacterial or insect).They also need good air circ.
This is true even for the the disease resistant varieties (which is what I have).

The peonies and the sickly dogwood are also showing signs of white spots (blight) - too humid/wet. We already lost a lilac tree last year bec of it. :(

Turlock