Ma Nature controls it all!
I was out weeding and watering my roses yesterday and thinking hard about the reason for all the wonderful growth I saw around me. Now, first fact is that yesterday was the very first time I have had to water the gardens all year as we've entered the Dog Days of summer with extreme heat and no rain. Second fact (she says with some embarrassment) is that for the second year in a row I never got around to putting ANY of my fertilizers down in the spring; it's all still in the pole barn. So, no food in ages, no extra water and the roses are the best they've been in years. The first flush which just finished up would have been absolutely fabulous - other than the rose chafers apparently enjoyed just as good a spring growing season as the roses and chewed most of my once bloomers to little bits. :-(
Last winter was very mild for up here; I'd consider it a zone 5 winter at least. This spring I had six inches or more of live cane on roses that regularly need pruning to the soil line. I had no canker. We had a very extended cool, wet and steady spring. And the growth is just amazing. I have several roses that I had question marks next to on my spreadsheet because I thought they might need to be replaced this year due to the way they have looked for the last few years, getting smaller and smaller all the time. Suddenly, they have sent out tons of new canes, all of them are now taller and fuller than I've ever seen them before!
What should I conclude by these observations? I'm thinking I can work myself silly in the garden, I can feed everything from 10-10-10 to organic rose fertilizer, from alfalfa tea to Miracle Grow for Roses, I can water deeply several times a week, but I can't come close to having the effect that Mother Nature herself has - when she's of a mind to, that is. Guess the only thing to do is sit back and enjoy the year - and try not to be disappointed by hoping too much for a repeat in the near future, ha ha. But I just can't help thinking how wonderful it would be if every year was like this...