Drought and watering, request your experiences

melissa_thefarm(NItaly)July 2, 2011

On the current thread on 'Arethusa' there was some discussion of the Earthkind trials and watering roses during drought or not watering them. I thought it would be useful to gather some information from you individual gardeners about your various situations, soil, climate, weather, whether you water in dry weather, and what the results are. We don't water after the first year--for the most part--and this policy works for us. It might not work for other people, though, who garden in different conditions, or who want different results. That's what I want to find out, and I hope to hear from many of you.

I've talked plenty about our garden, but will risk boring you all and restate here. We're in the hills at about 1400 ft above sea level, southern exposure, steep slope, very heavy clay soil to a depth of several feet in most places. Our average annual rainfall is about forty inches. We're just below the 45th Parallel (central Oregon; Bangor, Maine), which means that we have short winter days and long summer days. Our summers are hot and dry, with low atmospheric humidity and comfortable temperatures at night; winters are chilly and wet, with temperatures running from the high twenties through the low forties much of the time, and seldom dropping below 20F. We get a good deal of snow, but it doesn't stay around long. We're probably in USDA Zone 7. Our climate is mild enough that we can grow olives and Tea roses, but we have enough winter chill to grow cherries, tulips, peonies, and lilacs.

We have two garden zones. One is the shade garden, with a drainage running through it: it's cooler, moister, shadier, and more protected from wind than the big, or sunny garden. That garden is open to full sun and all the wind that roars through our valley. We're trying to get trees and shrubs growing there, but it's a slow business, and until they get some size on them the sunny garden will suffer all the disadvantages of exposure.

Our garden currently has, probably, about five hundred roses, and of course hundreds of other plants. We water it all with one hose. This is deliberate: it means we don't water more than is necessary to keep plants alive. We water plants the first year only. Naturally we try to select plants that can take a summer drought. Every year we have two to four months in which we get little to no rain, that is, no more than a centimeter in that period. We plant thickly and mulch heavily with hay, which helps keep the ground cool.

Our climate seems to me to be on the cusp between Mediterranean and continental climate. Many classic English garden plants do well here, but so do Mediterranean plants like olives and Italian cypresses. But the weather varies considerably from year to year. The last two years have been very wet and cold, and the Teas and Chinas have been miserable, many ornamental sages have died and the rosemary has suffered, and the olives have frozen back; while the once-blooming old roses have been glorious. Some years back we had a run of warm and dry winters, and the warm climate roses were healthy and vigorous, though we worried about drought.

The results of our dry gardening are that almost all our plants survive droughty periods. The reblooming roses don't flower once they get really dry, and if the autumn rains start late, well into October, they may not flower even in the fall. This is yet another reason to have many different plants in the garden, and to pay attention to structure: so that if the roses are sad or out of bloom there will be other things to enjoy.

I believe in sustainable gardening, and hope this thread can be a start on thinking about that, but I want it to be clear that I'm not telling anybody what they should be doing. We can go months without watering and the garden does well enough, but perhaps this is because we have abundant annual rainfall, and soil that is both heavy and deep. I hope many of you will write about your garden conditions and help make up a kind of anecdotal database and a starting point for thinking about water in the garden.



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catsrose(VA 6)

I have [rose] gardened in Silicon Valley, Santa Fe and now here in SW Virginia. Drought has been a real issue in the first two, and periodic in VA, which has heavy red clay soil that bakes into brick. I am no-spray, very much survival-of-the-fittest and rules of thumb. I'm single and until this year, have worked full time, so low maintenance has been a priority. I currently have about 450 roses, planted in absolutely no order.

My watering solution in all of these environments is drip irrigation with 1-gallon emitters. I have all ages and varieties on any given line and I used to vary the size of emitters with the size of the plant and the soil, but it was too much work. 1-Gallons are fine for babies and youngsters and the older ones don't need as much. I also used to use programmable timers, but there are too many exceptions--need more, need less--so now I just use manual wind-up timers. Under drought without severe heat, I run the irrigation once a week for about 45-60 minutes. If I have a lot of babies on a line, I'll run it every four days. If I have just one or two babies, I'll hand-water them. Under drought with high heat, I'll run the system every four or five days. I also have several roses that are not on drip and they now get watered about every 10 days if they are lucky, even in high heat. They are all established now and do fine.

There are optimal conditions and differing tolerances for each of the rose classes and someday it would be fun to lay out a garden by class, giving each one it what it needs by way of soil, wind protection, sun-shade, etc, and putting each class in all at the same time so the watering can be more specific. In the meantime, I've found my gallon-a-week keeps everyone alive.

In several areas, I also have companion plants and these are either on 1-gal emitters for shrubs or small sprays for small perennials, annuals, ground covers.

If I'd had kids, I probably raise them in the same way. I'd give each one pocket money, a dictionary, a swiss army knife and pair of good boots and tell them to make their way in the world.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 8:49AM
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I too believe in sustainable gardening, trying to do my part to conserve resources and go easy on fertilizing. I live on a canal in Florida which connects to a creek, a bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

We shut down yard irrigation after testing revealed it was too salty (and explained why so many roses died the first year we lived here). Watering is expensive using municipal water so it is rarely done even though our area is in a multi-year drought. (It is raining today! yay)

The selection of plants is so important when rainfall is the water source. What I love about the roses in my garden is that they survive bad times and look gorgeous in average to good times. They aren't prima donnas. I can go away for several weeks and know they will be fine on their own.

There are many sub-categories in my yard: roses, bamboo, butterfly plants, edible plants, fruit and citrus. They all share the common trait of being survivors in a brutally hot and sunny environment with occasional hurricane winds and water.

The secret for the individual gardener is to choose plants suited to their garden, not someone else's garden hundreds of miles away. I have learned the hard way that just because Lowe's or Home Depot sells it and it's pretty doesn't mean it will live long in my garden. In fact it is in the store's interest that it not live so I'll buy more.

I love where I live which allows me to grow so many things, it's up to me to make good choices.

zone 9.5 Florida

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 10:43AM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

I've probably described my conditions ad nauseum but here goes again.

I live in inland San Diego County, about 25 miles from the ocean, at 1700 feet, and garden on decomposed granite. I'm out in the country, on a property that has an abundance of boulders and one very large rock formation very close to the house. Behind us the hill goes up another 300-400 feet with yet more boulders and bare hillsides. The result is that this is a sun- and heat trap, with an average rainfall of 7-8 inches. There is quite a bit of hardscape and a large cement pad for parking in the middle of the garden area, which does not help matters. The garden is basically five divided plots around the house, which was formerly grass, which is a good thing, since the grass was incorporated into the soil when we began gardeninig on this area. In addition there is a long line of roses and other plants along a steep hillside where there was formerly nothing, which flanks one side of the house, the cement area and part of the driveway. I garden organically, mulch as much as possible and hand-water everything. The ironic situation is that we were told to conserve water, which everyone did, and then the water company was in trouble since they couldn't generate enough revenue to keep up repairs! Even with hand watering we don't use a huge amount of water since there are only two of us and the majority of the one and two thirds acres is left to fend for itself, except for sprinkler systems for some of the trees which we turn on occasionally. My ideal goal is to have most of the roses bloom for 8-9 months of the year and to have evergreen companion plants that will give structure and interest when the roses are resting or being recalcitrant. I still have many young roses since I'm constantly looking for replacements that can tolerate my extreme conditions. With the last two abnormally wet and cool winter and spring seasons I'm now battling with diseases that I've never had before, although battling may not be the right word since I garden organically and use nothing stronger than a spray of water, and fertilize only with alfalfa meal. I use few varieties of companion plants since most of them don't survive long here, even the drought tolerant ones. What we do have is an abundance of wildlife which we cherish greatly, much of which was sparse when we first moved here.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 11:05AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

We are in eastern New York state, about 100 miles up the Hudson River from New York City. Elevation here is about 100 ft. The Hudson is still a tidal river here, and we can walk and see the difference between high and low tide. Soil is a rocky clay loam. Average rainfall is a bit over 40 in., distributed pretty evenly through the year. However, summer rainfall is mostly from thunderstorms, which can be a very hit-or-miss proposition. There are summers like this one, where practically every afternoon brings the daily thunderstorm, or dry summers where the thunderstorms seem to be everywhere but here. Even then, humidity is very high, and plants don't necessarily suffer from drought stress even if it hasn't rained in weeks.

At least my, unwatered plants don't.

One of the things I've watched over the years here is the spread of the idea that plants *have* to be watered to survive. While that may be true in some parts of the country, it definitely isn't true here. So people will obediently go out and give their trees and shrubs daily drinks of water, while the same species thrive in the wild without any such 'help'. This may seem just a case of freedom to be stupid except for the kicker. Exactly the same rains that water the garden put water in the aquifiers that supply the piped water. So if it hasn't rained for several weeks, the water company people start getting nervous and put watering restrictions in place. Once that happens, those plants that are used to getting watered every day or every other day are in big trouble. They just don't have deep enough root systems to get at the water that is still there.

What this means for rose growing depends on what somebody is growing and why they are growing them. Most repeaters bloom better with a lot of water, but I personally don't consider this a big deal since I grow so few of them for other reasons. I haven't noticed a difference in the once-bloomers between wet years and dry years, so they aren't going to respond noticably if I suddenly start watering them. Serious hybrid tea growers in this area are a different breed to start with. They do what they have to to get the best performance from the roses, with the understanding that the roses may draw the short straw. Given that a particularly bad winter can kill off more than a quarter of their roses, it's just another part of the territory.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 2:23PM
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My conditions are as different from yours as possible here in east central Sweden. The only similarity is drought (30 mm rain the last three months, annual precipitation is 600 mm) and heavy clay. Clay is water retentive so I do not water established roses unless they wilt. I don't think I've seen an old wilting rose. But I water new roses and other woody plants for the first two years, not so much at the end of that period.

I water nearly everything else, in fact, my husband is outside now, watering. We are going away for three days and are getting nervous about how we'll find the garden on our return. We worry about the pots, the vegs and some perennials, such as phloxes and rudbeckias, but not about our 200 roses.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 3:38PM
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Campanula UK Z8

hmmm, the whole watering issue is always fraught for me and I have, so far, failed to find good ways of dealing with my lack of time, general technical ineptitude and unreasonable demnds. My home garden is essentially one large collection of pots which require daily watering. The thought of attempting any sort of irrigation system for over 300 pots (not counring the hundreds of seedlings, cuttings and so on) makes my blood pressure rise and mostly, the daily hour and a half carting cans about are nicely meditative (and with a headlamp, can be done at midnight, catching any cheeky molluscs as well). But......by August or so, I am getting seriously fed up and by the end of the summer, I am more than happy to finish what has become an onerous chore.
The allotment is exposed river silt and sand - lovely to work but complete rubbish for holding onto water or nutrients. Although there are a couple of ill-concieved areas (the prairie!!!!which does need deep watering at least evry couple of weeks), mostly, I have been sensible and planted a range of tough plants suited to my soil and climate. Roses, at least the ones I grow (and I have far fewer than most forum users) are considered as drought resistant. They may only have one good flush (because they just do not get any water after the first year) and they often stay quite small....but they do survive and often even thrive. Vegtables are a different matter.....all my irrigation goes on the potatoes, squash and corn while the tomatoes get nothing. In general, I am loathe to start a regime which I know I will have neither the time not the inclination to stick to so I will grit my teeth and put up with crop failure (what is desperate for some plants is sunny heaven for others though - there is always something good to pick). Don't do any feeding either apart from a spring top-dressing and an autumn compost mulch. I have tested a large number of plants to destruction but there are always more to try out so I don't generally mind plant deaths (opportunity)....which is good as I certainly suffer quiute a few every year. If a treasure really is on its death, I will intervene at least for a while but I am not a pamperer (my offspring will line up to testify to that) and have too many fingers in too many pies to be a really good and conscientious gardener.
My very worst year was the year of 13 hanging baskets....I was phytocidal (flames coming out of my nostrils, teeth gnashed to stubs, children and sweetheart cowering in secret hideouts, cats and dogs turning nocturnal, hiding in sheds and cupboards to avoid my raging wrath at yet another fruitless round of dribbling water into bone dry vessels, all inconveniently just out of reach.....these days, there are NO hanging baskets.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 7:00PM
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I garden in No Cal, in what I believe is a classic Mediterranean climate. We have about 35-40 inches of rain per year, but it all falls in about 5 1/2 months of our cool, wet, winter. US zone 9. In the remaining 6 1/2 months, we get practically no rain at all, and it is hot and dry - very low humidity. We do not use the word "drought" unless it is failing to rain in the wintertime.

They used to call most of California "the great California dessert" in the early 19th century, until it started to get irrigated. Now we feed over half of the country. Think of Israel.

If I wanted a "no irrigation in the summer" garden, I could have Spring and maybe Fall flowers, but the summer would be just dry grasses and some green bushes & trees that are drought resistant. These tend to be resinous, and most of them are VERY fire dangerous, some of which (such as juniper, bamboos, eucalyptus, etc.) have been banned (the law actually says you have to remove them if you have them!) or actively discouraged by our fire departments. We live in an urban/wild area interface, and there have been some very bad wild area fires in the state that have burned up dozens or hundreds of houses in some cases. Most native plants go dormant in the hot summer months. The fire department & City encourage people to either have NO vegetation on their lots near their houses, or to irrigate and have nice wet, green water-filled vegetation. I'm not planning on paving over our lot anytime soon.

So, all of the above is to give some background - we irrigate maybe 60% of our garden in the summer. Not the established trees or wild areas of our garden, but certainly all of the flower beds where the 100+ roses live with many other types of perennials. We use drip irrigation and soaker hoses, most of which are on an automatic timer system - 18 stations that run at night (to allow the water to sink in before it evaporates, and to not annoy the water police neighbors), so that every bed gets 10-20 minutes of water about every 3rd day. There are other parts where we have soaker hoses on stand alone timers, and then of course there are the numerous pots not connected to the system that get hand watered, again about every third day (which is when they wilt). We tend to turn the system on in April, and turn it off with the first rains which come in late Oct or early Nov.

Our lot is about 1/3rd of an acre, 6 feet above sea level, and it is level. If you discount the space the house takes up and the garage and wild areas and driveway and patio, the actual garden space is much smaller. I am lucky re the very high water rates in our town, because our house is a duplex, and as the landlords to our tenants we pay 100% of the water. The lucky part is that we have 2 separate water services, and as the system works on a "tier" theory where the more water you use the more it costs per unit, we get to use the allocation for the bottom two tiers twice for the garden. So far we have been able to balance the irrigation between the two services so that it is equal during the summer, which means we never have to pay the higher rates in tiers higher than the second one.

We don't every spray anything. We have lots of mature trees and large bushes, and a huge population of birds (including visits by hawks), squirrels, butterflies, some possums, some raccoons, some deer, and even an occasional fox. This is all 4 blocks from downtown. I love all of the wildlife, keep 4 birdbaths filled at all times (3 of which are at ground level), and don't feel guilty about the water at all.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 8:14PM
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Hi Melissa and everyone, what a great thread to come back to. I have spent any computer time I have had for ages studyding up about coal mines as there will probably be one near here in between 3 to 5 years. I shouldn't be buying more roses this winter seeing my future is so uncertain here as I am not going to live near a mine, but I can't help my self. I want to finish what I started.
We are about 472 metres or 1548 feet above sea level and have a average of 26 inches or 660mm of rain a year. The last year and a half we have had very good rainfall which has made my rose garden of 750 roses independant except for one whole watering and two half ones where it ended up raining anyway. I have good deep soil so I plant my roses real deep with the graft below the ground, which gives them great protection.
My garden is on flat ground about 10 feet or more above a semi permanent creek, although there is always still some water coming up from under the sand and we have hand dug a well there. I also have a dam up the back that my late partner didn't want me to use for the garden when we had a small herd of cattle. I only have a small mob of sheep now and the dam will go back to what I originally wanted it for, a backup to the creek water, if needed.
Soon I hope to put in another 200 roses, half heritage and the other half modern. It feels real good knowing I will only have to water the older roses a few good times if we don't get much rainfall in Spring, just so I get atleast one good blooming. Although it sounds like I won't need to worry too much about the once bloomers.
How great it is reading all your discriptive, knowlegable and entertaning posts, and to bring all these gardeners about the World together. I vowel never to leave here again. No matter how tired at night when it is finally my turn on the computer.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 10:16PM
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Thank you all for writing, and I hope to hear more from you and from other forum members.
What this thread is about is water use in the garden, and specifically what are the conditions of your garden, so that we can frame questions about what gardens need to be watered, when, and how much? I very much don't want to get polemical, since once voices are lifted information exchange flies out the window, and I hate quarreling anyway. I want to know in what conditions we're gardening in. You folks are telling me.
What determines water use? Nature gets along without irrigation. I had a major lesson in 2003, a big drought year when we hardly got any rain from February until September. Very hot; fires all over Europe. The native flora took it in stride: the plants didn't die, weren't even seriously distressed. So it occurred to me that properly chosen plants once established don't require irrigation, at least not to survive.
Your native or well adapted flora may not make good ornamentals, of course. We're lucky that our conditions allow us to grow many classic garden plants without supplemental water. We have deep heavy soil and abundant annual rainfall. Our neighbors have a spring fed pond that doesn't run dry, which means that the winter rains sink in and remain available. So I want to know what your annual rainfall is--Mariannese, I'm surprised you get so little rain! Perhaps you garden with fairly shallow soil over rock--is this your case, Ingrid? There's a difference between two feet of soil above rock, and five feet of soil. I've tried to grow roses on our land in places with little depth of soil, and they died. And the kind of soil: look at the sand Suzy has, and Denise perhaps as well--a lot of Floridians. Catsrose, I'd like to hear more about your annual rainfall, temperatures, how you condition your red brick soil. You've gardened in several different environments: how did they affect your gardening? We garden in adobe too, though ours is gray.
Different places have different patterns of rainfall. Having grown up in Florida with its summer thunderstorms and high humidity, then moved to the Pacific Northwest with its summer drought, I grasped this idea. Henry Mitchell wrote about the great burst of May flowers overwhelming all the rest of the year: roses, peonies, irises, and so on. He focused my attention and I realized that many plants make their growth during a wet spring, bloom when the weather is drying out, then sit quietly through a dry hot summer. Other plants bloom in the dry summer, like lavender and buddleia. But some plants need summer water to grow or to bloom, and I don't grow them, or at least, I keep them in pots, and water them. I grow few vegetables, because they need water during the dry season. It doesn't work. In the case of roses, once bloomers don't mind summer drought, and older roses are often thriftier than modern varieties, which is one reason I favor them. (I also think they're usually more beautiful.)
The longest summer dry spell we went through since we got the garden well started lasted four and a half months with one centimeter of rain. None of the established, unirrigated plants died.
Other considerations are sun, wind, and protection from them, by plants or structures; and the effect of tree and shrub belts, thick planting, mulching. How about debilitation caused by diseases, and having to keep plants in growth so that they can regrow foliage? How about the effects of time? Soil microlife--something most of us can't investigate directly--and plants forming symbioses with root fungi? Special conditions like Jackie's fire prevention requirements?
rosemeadow gardener, it sounds like you have quite a garden! Thanks for the kind words; I'm glad you're enjoying this thread.
Keep the information coming, and your thoughts!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 2:03AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

The big distinction is between (a) watering roses so they continuously make maximum growth and (b) keeping plants alive through a dry season without wasting water where water is scarce and expensive. American rose books, extension service fact sheets, etc., are almost all oriented toward the former goal, leading to the familiar advice that "roses require at least an inch or five gallons of water per plant per week."

As mad_gallica points out, tender repeating roses in subzero climates need to be kept watered and growing fast all season, whereas established, cane-hardy, once-blooming roses can go semi-dormant for two or three months with no loss of garden value at all. In milder climates, people could choose to let repeating roses go semi-dormant and forego a mid-summer flush. This would be a reasonable choice where water is scarce, or where Japanese beetles or extreme heat tend to spoil the midsummer roses anyway.

Of course, new plants with small root systems must get regular water.

For those who want to experiment with not watering, I can tell you how to worry about whether the plant will die. You can expect afternoon wilting of new growth after a week or two. This is temporary and will stop as the plant hardens up and reduces its water loss. Then afternoon wilting may resume later, maybe six weeks depending on soil and climate. Plants recover overnight because water moves up from the subsoil by capillary attraction. Then, finally, plants are still wilted in the morning. This is the "permanent wilting point" that means the plant will die very soon unless it is watered. So if you check droughty plants regularly in the morning, and find them properly stiff, you can be fairly confident you aren't killing them.

Depth of soil--medium or heavy soil--is a big factor because it creates a reservoir that feeds water into the topsoil through capillary lift. That doesn't work much with sand soils; also layering, such as sandy or organic soil over clay subsoil, inhibits the vertical movement of water.

As to my own situation, I'm on a steep slope with rock near the surface, and my beds are terraced, averaging only 16" soil depth. The soil doesn't have a deep reservoir, plus there are tree roots. Fortunately our region is well watered with about 45" per year, and the local water system currently has an ample supply even in dry years. We usually have a summer drought of 4-6 weeks, but recently suffered several consecutive dry years (classed as "extreme drought") such that some native trees in my neighborhood dropped their leaves in August.

I have a couple of once bloomers on a dry bank that I don't water and that went through the extreme drought with no harm. They have deeper soil owing to a retaining wall. It is water-retentive silt loam.

I water the beds with repeating roses regularly when it isn't raining. Because the soil is shallow and some is quite fast-draining, I tend to water lightly (a half inch) every four days or so. The average-sized rose gets around 4 gal/week in summer and less in cool weather. We do not have extreme heat.

The standard advice to water slowly and deeply at relatively infrequent intervals applies if you have deep, medium to heavy soil.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 6:04PM
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daisyincrete Z10? 905feet/275 metres

Here in my north eastern Cretan garden I am lucky to have a loam soil. O.K. it is very sandy loam, but still loam. It is only between 12 and 20inches deep above a yellow slightly clayey subsoil.
When I first moved in, I thought about putting in a watering system, but decided against it. I am so cack-handed and clumsy, I would be sure to be forever tripping over it and puncturing it with my fork. Also, the garden is so small, I can hand water it.
I water it all once a fortnight. That, so far, has worked very well. New plantings and pots get water more frequently of course,but other than that, once a fortnight is fine.
I am glad that I had been doing this, before, I found out the average, annual, rainfall figures for my area.
They are 18.8inches!!
Had I known that beforehand, I would have thought that more water was necessary, to have the sort of garden that I want.
That is a garden that goes on and on, and does not aestivate in the summer.
Well. That is what I have got, on just 18.8 inches per year, and a once fortnightly watering between June and October.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 4:03AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Long ago, I experimented for a season with giving hybrid teas only a gallon per week in weeks that it didn't rain. They continued to grow and bloom, but not as much as with more water. There was probably a month of drought in there. I was maintaining moisture only right close to the crown of the plant, but there are a lot of feeder roots there. This is how drip systems keep plants going with only a small amount of water.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 10:53AM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

I'm afraid that I was mistaken in stating that annual precipitation here in inland San Diego County is 6-7 inches; it's actually less than 12 inches, which is lower than in any other part of the west coast.

Miichael, I'm sure it gets very hot in North Carolina but I imagine your humidity must be a mitigating factor. Here I can expect new growth to wilt in two to three days with no water if the rose is in full sun. Duchesse de Brabant had dead branches over half of its bush in a particularly hot summer with watering every second day. I know that's hard to believe but it happened nevertheless. My microclimate is particularly harsh, but at that time I was also not mulching adequately and I believe that made a huge difference. This year I have an excellent source of mulch which I hope will cut down on the need for water and supply the nutrients the roses need to prosper.

I just want to say that your advice and knowledge on this forum and the Rose Forum have been invaluable. I very much appreciate your being here.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 1:06PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Ingrid, we've seen pictures of your rocky desert landscape and understand. My summer climate here at 2200 ft. altitude is actually pretty mild as well as humid. Normal plants such as roses need less than an inch of water per week during high summer to maintain rapid growth.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 1:22PM
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Oh dear, I'm definitely guilty of overwatering. Living on 1/2 acre with my own well, the cost of my wantonness is only the extra cost of the electricity which runs the pump from the well at 200'. My excuse for myself is that the same water that goes into the ground percolates back down into the property and eventually to the water table rather than running off into a sewer system. Small excuses, but I'm fearsomely afraid of losing things I have worked so hard to find, grow, protect, feed, etc. (Friends to whom I offer plants always ask "how much water does it need", and I never have a good answer since everything I have gets as much as I have time to give it.)

Most everything that is in the ground is on drip, but every season it takes me half the season to get it set up again. Last year's gopher predations meant I had to move most of the 1/4" tubing so I could use the hoe to disrupt tunnels around to and through every rose. So, the drip around the house itself is still not "working", and today the sprinkler is being moved around the house in increments with the timer set for a hour between my running out and moving it to it's next location. Every day I plan to work on the irrigation, and some days I actually do; other days it's just been too hot during the day so I've let it slide and gone back to just watering....a lot. And, even when all the drip is working there are pots and pots and more pots that will still need regular hosing....

Vacation? Go away? You're kidding, right? Gotta feed four dogs and water....

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 1:40PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

landperson, your description of your drip irrigation is really the reason why I haven't attempted it here. I hate the idea of crawling around under bushes to see whether it is or isn't working or, worse yet, having a rose at death's door because I didn't check.

Your comment about vacation so resonates with me. Two dogs, one cat and one cactus mouse....and lots of watering. In Roman times I think they had slaves for that sort of thing.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 8:40PM
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Well, Ingrid, at the rate I'm getting around to it this year, the irrigation will probably be working just about the same time that the rains start up again. Given the amount of time and money I have invested in the system at this point, there's probably no going back, but just watering all day has its advantages, up to and including that wonderful smell the ground gives up when it has just been drenched, and even a brief hint of humidity....


    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 9:18PM
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So, having stated in the post above that I was waaaaay too invested in the spaghetti tubing and elbows and t's and emitters of every possible description, I have -- once again -- changed direction almost entirely. The front and back of the house -- some 8 stations in all with about 30 outlets which were originally for sprinklers and then converted to hubs for drip tubing are almost all going to be replaced with.....wait for it: sprinklers again. yup back to water water everywhere....

Ingrid, I think this is your fault :-)))))


    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 5:35PM
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Michaelg. thank you for that information regarding how capillary uptake increases hydration overnight, I have been watering my mature Teas that showed wilting in the afternoon.

Site: I live in the San Francisco Bay area in California.
Soil: I amend the clay soil with one third "rose soil" that has compost in it, bone meal and alfalfa,etc. and add a shovel of well rotted manure to each planting hole.
Climate: 60's and 70's are normal in the early spring when the Tea roses begin fully blooming from Feb through May.
June through September is our typical 4 month yearly drought time. This year is atypical with rain in June, a few times. where I live day temps in summer are usually between 90 degrees and 78 degrees F.

I have been watering my Tea rosebushes that have a canopy larger than 2 feet tall by two feet wide:
- c. once a month in May and June
- c. 1-twice a month in July, August and September.
The rest of the year, between October and April there is usually enough rain.
I grow mostly Old Garden Tea rosebushes, and I've been measuring the growth rate of roses of this class for a few years.
I have 4 cultivars presently that are older than a years' age and each one is still only 4" to 6 inches tall, by 12" to 22" wide (Teas often grow wider before they grow taller) I use the canopy measurement, before drought testing because root size in rosebushes is proportionally related to canopy size in rosebushes.

Four cultivars of my one year old Old Garden Teas, bought band sized last July are still only c. 6 inches tall by c. 12-18 inches wide. If I drought tested them now as much as the H.P.s on rootstock, of a similar age, that are more than 2'tall by 2' wide the smaller Old Garden Teas would probably die.

I would love to start a home trial of testing for drought tolerance in Old Garden Tea and Tea-Noisette rose cultivars;
-by size of canopy being the first constant instead of the date the plant arrived in the garden. Any Tea rosebush with a canopy larger than 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide would be included. Or perhaps 3' by 3'. what do you think?
-the second constant being own-root plants only. if you would like to join me by making a chart and keeping data, I would be honored and grateful

thank you for your posts Melissa I always enjoy reading them.
(sorry this is roughly written and unedited, I'm at the library)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 6:44PM
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I must correct my statement about the amount of rain we had during the last three months. My husband says we had 50 mm, almost 2 inches. Most precipitation is in the form of snow in winter, our springs and early summers are usually dry. We normally have rain in late summer and autumn. Our local problem is that we are in rain shadow here in the east and it is impossible to make the rest of the country understand how deprived we are. Their rain never comes to us. A friend has complained to the weather service about the use of words like "good chance of sunshine" rather than a more neutral choice of words. I don't understand how gardeners with sandy soils manage. Our soil is very deep alluvial clay. It is great for pottery and making tiles and bricks, old industries in these parts, now closed. We add homemade and bought compost every year but we don't mulch a lot. We cover only one gallica bed with no companion plants with pine bark chips. We plant closely in other beds and use groundcover plants wherever possible.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 8:27PM
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bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

Hi, everyone. I think I mentioned before already that my garden is far from my home, with no running water, so it really has to rely on rainfall. This is very scanty here in Northern Tuscany. I don't water established roses (a lot of these are so big that there's no way you could),just new implants and moved ones if they start to wilt. regards, bart

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 4:06AM
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greybird(z7 TX)

As you might have heard on the news, Texas is in drought, historic in nature. It is hard to describe, so very dry, hot and windy, and for so long.
The mesquite trees are drying up. And the sticker weeds are dead. Some tumbleweeds are making it. My yaupon hollies are all making it sans irrigation, but have produced no berries for winter forage for the birds.

The high-100 degree temps won't let up, not even for a day.

Have to rise early between 0530 and 0600 to beat the sun. In the 100s by 10am. It is so cool (80-85) in the early mornings.

My roses are surviving for the most part, with the 1 inch of irrigation I give them via overhead sprinkler. The leaves have a whitish coating of mineral deposit from our hard water. 3-4" mulch helps keep the moisture. The roses are sunburnt and beat. Heck, I'm beat.

The ones that are doing the best:
Jeanne d'Arc, still lovely, but huge crispy bloom clusters Angel's Camp Tea, I love the spicy/wildflower fragrance
Souvenir d'Elise Vardon, tiny bloom machine
Le Pactole, blooming, but crispy
Mrs. B.R.Cant, vigorous new growth through the heat.
Trinity, lots of new growth, no sunburn.
Eglantines love the heat, especially Lady Penzance, gorgeous new growth and apple scented foliage.

Teas that look like heck: Safrano, Isabella Sprunt, McClinton Tea, Mrs. Dudley Cross, Rosette Delizy, Mme Lombard, Mons. Tillier. My Natchitoches Noisettes look really bad. It is hard to tell if it was the hard winter or early on-set heat that has been the hardest on them.

Souvenir de la Malmaisons look wonderful, a true lover of desert-like heat. Perfect foliage and blooms that hold up in the heat.

Most of the Old Europeans look terrible beyond belief. I will have to cut them way back in the fall. Some will require shovel pruning, I'm sure.

We continue to pray for rain and some relief.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 6:22PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

greybird, it's difficult to imagine what you're going through, and also the hardship this imposes on the native vegetation and wildlife. For you it must be awful to never have any respite from the heat, day after day, and to see your garden shriveling around you. I'm so sorry this is going on and hope that some miracle occurs where it rains like crazy in your area and gives everyone some level of comfort again.

Best wishes,


    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 6:48PM
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We're about 500' elevation, growing on glacial till (clay and LOTS of rocks), with mild, wet winters and mild, very dry summers, with a some very cold (in single digits--yeah, I know, it's all relative) and very hot (into the low 100's) days thrown in just to keep things confusing. I try to plant my roses in late summer/early fall when the rains start up again, and some of them never get a drop of water--not even when planted, if the ground is wet and rain is in the forecast. We've literally gone months at a time in the summer without a drop of rain, and the roses don't get anything. They may sulk a little, but they perk back up when the rain starts, and do better every year as they get better established.

If I had to water them, I wouldn't grow them.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 8:48PM
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I can't imagine any of my roses making it through the summer without extra water. I would love to live in an environment where that was possible, but here it just isn't. I actually get more summer damage from high temps and drought than winter damage and the roses go 'dormant' for a time in the middle or the summer heat. I water new roses several time a week and the established roses about once every 7-10 days. Without that extra help, everything but the toughest old birds would die. This is part of the reason that I have started searching for roses in old cemeteries in the area, that make it with very little care. I have found a few gems.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 4:28PM
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bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

Just an up-date: here, the temperatures have gone up so high; yesterday my car thermometer said 36 degrees C (about 96F) in the shade. I'm hopefully driving out to my land this evening-after 6PM-to see if anything's wilting(our last fairly decent rain was on July 1st). My soil is clay, but in many places very shallow; I have to "make" soil for many areas, and often barely can obtain a two-feet depth for roses; this worries me,though the established ones seem OK.I was thinking:ok, maybe I'll water the new implants today;it's been 2 weeks since that nice shower,but I still feel perplexed;maybe I ought to wait and see if/when any wilting occurs. The fact is, when it's so hideously hot ,maybe the plants want to go dormant. I'm a little worried about stressing them out by sort of "forcing"them to continue to try to grow when their natural inclination would be to go dormant because of the high heat (I think that's what many of the numerous wild roses are doing;leaves turning yellow and dropping).regards, bart

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 9:47AM
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It's good to hear all this input! I was gone for a while, then DH erased an almost-complete answer that I spent some time on (this is the adult version of "The dog ate my homework", though it happens to be true).

Michael, thanks from me too for the informative response. I agree with Ingrid, your contributions are valuable.
Susan/landperson, you bring up a point worth thinking about: where does the water we use come from? Yours is right under your feet; some westerners' comes from hundreds of miles away, and used water isn't necessarily recycled back into the area it came from. (Our water is local; the dam is perhaps three miles away as the crow flies, in the next drainage over from us.)
Luxrosa, your post gave me a lot to think about. You sound like you have a milder version of our climate. Do you know what your annual rainfall is?
After the first year, we pretty much stop watering, even if the roses are still tiny. Their size doesn't seem to have much to do with their ability to handle drought once they're established. I'm wondering whether your soil modification, while creating a better growing medium for your plants, might inhibit the capillary lift Michael talks about?
I appreciate the invitation to participate in drought tolerance testing, but we garden in such uncontrolled conditions--at the mercy of the weather--that I can't. Here, if it rains, it rains, and if it's dry, it's dry. Also growth of our warm climate roses is hugely affected, I think, by how wet and cold our winters are: the last two years they've been hit hard by canker, I think as a result of relatively harsh winters, and quite a few have actually grown backwards. It's a good project: good luck on your trials!

This message is incomplete, but I'm posting it now so I won't lose it like I did the last one.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 1:49PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Ingrid, thanks for starting this informative thread. It's good for us all to learn how much water stress roses can endure if they have to. Over the years I've seen a number of posts here where people say, "Our city has imposed watering restrictions, but I'm not going to let my roses die!" Well, it takes pretty extreme conditions to kill them.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 2:24PM
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It's good to hear all this input! I was gone for a while, then DH erased an almost-complete answer that I spent some time on (this is the adult version of "The dog ate my homework", though it happens to be true).

Michael, thanks from me too for the informative response. I agree with Ingrid, your contributions are valuable.
Susan/landperson, you bring up a point worth thinking about: where does the water we use come from? Yours is right under your feet; some westerners' comes from hundreds of miles away, and used water isn't necessarily recycled back into the area it came from. (Our water is local; the dam is perhaps three miles away as the crow flies, in the next drainage over from us.)
Luxrosa, your post gave me a lot to think about. You sound like you have a milder version of our climate. Do you know what your annual rainfall is?
After the first year, we pretty much stop watering, even if the roses are still tiny. Their size doesn't seem to have much to do with their ability to handle drought once they're established. I'm wondering whether your soil modification, while creating a better growing medium for your plants, might inhibit the capillary lift Michael talks about?
I appreciate the invitation to participate in drought tolerance testing, but we garden in such uncontrolled conditions--at the mercy of the weather--that I can't. Here, if it rains, it rains, and if it's dry, it's dry. Also growth of our warm climate roses is hugely affected, I think, by how wet and cold our winters are: the last two years they've been hit hard by canker, I think as a result of relatively harsh winters, and quite a few have actually grown backwards. It's a good project: good luck on your trials!

This message is incomplete, but I'm posting it now so I won't lose it like I did the last one.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 3:42PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

I meant thanks to Melissa, of course. Wish we had an edit function.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 4:08PM
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My apologies for the double posting: our Internet connection got a little weird.
Bart, what's your annual rainfall? What kind of rock underlies your soil, if you know? Much of Piacenza seems like one big mud pie, with ripples for the hills, and often no very sturdy rock beneath (we do have rock of volcanic origin, though, as well, I think).
We've been going through that same ugly weather, but this evening it seems to have come to an end, with wind blowing and the air freshening. I hope you get the same!
I've had that same question about roses going dormant during the hot weather. We can't do much in any case, but I don't see much point in having the roses bloom at a period when I don't particularly want to be out looking at them anyway. Right now, and very unusually, the roses are having a good second flowering. This is due to all that rain we got the first half of June, possibly helped by the mild temperatures that lasted until just a week ago. But I must add that the quality of the blooms is mostly rather poor.
collinw, are you sure about that? But that's what this thread is about, to collect some ideas about roses and their growing conditions, what they need, and how they'll respond to a given cultivation. What kind of roses do you grow, what are your growing conditions? You don't have to say so, of course, but I was wondering.
Greybird, thanks for describing a genuine drought, not just a period when it doesn't rain for a while--it helps to know the difference. It sounds awful, and I hope when your drought finally ends that your roses and other garden plants will mostly have survived. The report on rose varieties that can take the heat is helpful.
I didn't always have something specific to say in response to your posts, and so didn't answer everyone. But I've read everything everyone has written with interest, and appreciate the trouble you all have taken. I hope with all these contributions this post raises some questions and offers some beginnings of answers.
P.S. Luxrosa, thanks for the kind words.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 4:21PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Michael, the real problem with watering restrictions is that too many people do too much watering without regard to future restrictions. So when the water supply is cut off, they are dealing with plants that, for example, have no feeder roots more than 2 inches down because daily sprinklings have trained the plants that way.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 5:04PM
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bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

Hi, everyone. Melissa, I don't know whar our annual rainfall is, nor exactly what kind of rock it is I have mostly. I think it might be the raw material for terracotta though. It is predominantly this very soft rock that in many places literally makes up the only "soil" that is there. It is a total b###h to dig and work this type of earth; as of now I have all the paths covered in mounds of this rock which I've removed in the course of making the beds. Once exposed to the elements, it starts very quickly crumbling into smaller pieces,which in time very gradually will continue to break down until it becomes clay. So I think it's very poor and alkaline.
I gave in and watered some of the new implants the other day. Probably not necessary (none were wilting) but I felt so bad for all of the roses. Many have leaves that are turning yellow,so that means they are going dormant. There are a few, very poor quality flowers. I agree, sort of pointless when it's so hot and unpleasent outdoors,you don't want to encourage roses to bloom in July here in Italy at least. IMHO, they just exhaust themselves. Paul Zimmerman said he treats summer as a dormant time for roses, and I think he's right.Contrary to what tourist publicity wants us to think, in reality summer is the beginning of the year's decline.
A few years ago, I tried soaker hoses, but gave it up:I'm still changing too much in my garden,it's on such a steep slope that I'm not confident that the water is being distributed evenly, and above all I just don't have enough stored-up water to really SOAK the roses. When I dug up some roses that I had watered artificially to move them, they really did, quite literally, have roots growing UPWARD to the soil surface!So, I stopped . Maybe one day I'll have my act together enough to lay down the hoses under a thick mulch, and use them to distribute water, not with the idea of watering the roses, but only in the spring, with the idea of maintaining the soil moisture as far into the season as possible.This past year, we had good rain during autumn and winter,but the "drought" (I put that in quote after reading about greybird's situation)in April messed things up. regards, bart

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 4:34AM
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Bart, your rock does sound like the kinds that turns into clay. Don't assume it's alkaline. For a long time I thought ours, which sounds similar, was alkaline, but more recently have begun to think it's close to neutral, as chlorosis is quite rare in our garden. (Acidophile plants generally require not only an acid ph, but also loose soil rich in organic matter and summer water.) We also have soft crumbly rock underlying our soil. If you keep piling on the organic matter you might one day find yourself with decent soil, since clay can be quite nutrient rich. But what a lot of amendment soil like this requires!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 5:52AM
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Melissa ,

A companion plant that might work for your summer drought is ironweed, Vernonia. It grows wild here to 8' and so I assume it has an extensive and probably deep root system. It is a somewhat coarse plant that blooms with bright purple flowers (deeper than magenta) in late summer for about a month. Its blooming now prodded my memory.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 5:40PM
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