Living Columns & Blogs

Ask a Gardener: How do I grow roses in the rainy Pacific Northwest?

Charly Moore from the Whatcom County Master Gardener Program trims roses at the Roeder Home in Bellingham on May 29, 2012. Great strides have been made in the creation of roses more immune to disease, and plants that will flower over a long period of time.
Charly Moore from the Whatcom County Master Gardener Program trims roses at the Roeder Home in Bellingham on May 29, 2012. Great strides have been made in the creation of roses more immune to disease, and plants that will flower over a long period of time. Bellingham Herald file

Q: I love roses and want to grow them. Any advice?

A: Roses have been around for a long time and are deservedly loved by countless generations of gardeners.

Great strides have been made in the creation of plants more immune to disease and plants that will flower over a long period of time. Breeders also recognize the need for smaller plants for smaller yards and have been successful in breeding great rose plants that take up less space.

Now, to the gardening needs of roses. They need fertile, friable soil (soil that has the crumbly texture ideal for root growth), good drainage, 6-8 hours of full sun every day and daily watering their first year planted, followed by weekly watering thereafter.

When planting, spread the roots around a mound you’ve created in the planting hole. Once entirely planted, make a trough around the outside edge of the hidden roots, and water the plant in this trough. Do not wet the leaves. Roses are quite susceptible to the dreaded fungus, and in our climate, the best way to avoid it is to keep water off the leaves.

Though stores are still selling rose plants in July, this is not the optimal time to plant them. It would be better to wait until fall, when the weather is predictably cooler. While you wait, you can prepare the soil and determine what rose you want. I highly recommend you go online to davidaustinroses.com. Austin has dozens of sumptuous varieties not usually available in stores.

And in case you’re confused about the types of roses, here’s a quick cheat sheet of the basics.

Hybrid tea: showy, most popular

Floribunda: shrubby, with bloom clusters

Miniature: only 6 to 8 inches tall

Climbing: over trellises, arbors, and walls

Q: I have many, many pine trees in my yard and rake up tons of pine needles every year. I was thinking it would be a great mulch, but some of my friends tell me they wouldn’t work. What’s your opinion?

A: Though pine needles are slightly acidic, they are perfect for acid-loving plants like:

▪ Blueberries

▪ Rhododendron

▪ Azalea

▪ Fothergilla

▪ Gardenia

▪ Begonia

▪ Ferns

▪ Magnolia

▪ Dogwood

▪ Hydrangea

Because of the only slightly acidifying effect on the soil that pine needles have, they also are suitable for plants requiring a neutral soil.

Pine needles compost quickly, and you can do this before you use them as mulch for neutral-soil loving plants.

Kathleen Bander of Bellingham is a lifelong gardener. Her column will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you'd like answered in the column, please email it to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com. For more gardening information online, go to www.whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg.html.

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