Preparing roses for winter in West Michigan

tkaleeSeptember 14, 2006

Greetings to everyone!

I am a first year rose grower with no experience at all regarding preparing roses bushes to survive our Michigan winters. I live in Wyoming, MI south of Grand Rapids. I have a number of questions for you:

- What do I need to do with my rose bushes to protect them during the winter and when do I need to do this - by the first frost maybe?

- Do I need to prune the bushes back to a certain point and if so, what "point" do I prune them back to?

- One of my rose bushes is the Royal Sunset, a rose not recommended for growth in any Michigan zone. It has grown well here this summer and I hope to protect it this winter so it can grow next year. What extra considerations should I make for protecting this rose?

- Both bushes (I only have two, one the Royal Sunset, the other a Betty White) are still growing and producing shoots/new blossoms. Should I just let these go or trim them?

I would appreciate whatever help you can offer.

Thanks for your time!

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goodhors(z5 MI)

I am not a great rose gardener, but mine do survive our winters. The out-of-zone rose will be questionable, particularly if we have severe freezing this winter. Last year was only bad in Dec.

To prepare I let any flowering go to build rose hips. I don't cut off these last flowers blooming now. Setting hips tells the plant to prepare for winter. I make sure the bush is mulched under the stems. When planted, the bush should have had the graft knob buried under dirt to protect from frost. If you have self rooted roses, then the knob is nothing you need consider.

I try to keep any dropping rose leaves picked up weekly to prevent any foliage overwintering with disease, near the bush for next year infections.

After a couple hard frosts, I will put a rose collar around bush for wind protection if I think it is needed in that location.
After ground freeze I fill collars with sawdust. I have it for horse bedding so there is plenty for me. Wood shavings in bags used for animal bedding work, also shredded leaves from oaks that stay stiff. You can add a couple mothballs as an aid to repel varmints.Freezing weather will quickly freeze the filler material.
Waiting for frozen ground prevents varmints, voles, mice, from taking up residence in the collar amidst the fluffy shavings. They would nibble the stems all winter, leaving you with stubs by spring.

Rose Collars are a hard plastic piece, flexible sheet roll, that will snap around bush. Open top allows easy filling with choice of materials.

However I do plan on stem die off above the collar in my windy location. I like that graft area stems are protected, willing to sprout next spring again. You are further west, may have better snow cover than I do. We usually have some bare ground times, very drying to plants.

Rose cones are also available, but can be hard to put on large bushes. Bushes can overheat in sunny weather since cones accept light and create heat inside. Will often overheat even with making holes in cones, blow off in the wind, break. I haven't been happy with them, too many problems.

Collars are more adaptable to all the size bushes I have. Last quite awhile. You do have to search a bit to find them. Call and ask at nurseries. Usually sold inexpensively in package of 3's, but sell out early. Perhaps an online location would be easier. Check under rose collar. I use them to wind-protect other bushes or delicate things during winter.

Good luck with your new bushes.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 4:32PM
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karenforroses(z5 NorthernMI)

Goodhors' answer is excellent. She hit all the importante points - make sure the bud union is buried several inches below ground if grafted, stop fertilizing and disbudding roses to encourage dormancy, don't mound roses until early November when ground freezes to discourage voles, mice, etc., mothballs help discourage critters, mound tender roses at least a foot deep with a good drainable mulch (I use wood chips), use a collar or other structure to keep mulch in place. A couple other items - I like to spray the roses with a lime/sulfur oil in late October or early November to smother disease spores and insect eggs. Because my back garden receives the full brunt of our Traverse City North/North west wind, I also put burlap windbreaks around the rose beds. Some of my more tender hybrid teas are grown in large pots, which I place in our unheated garage for the winter. Although it is just as cold as outside (or almost) it is out of the wind. I've done this with some of my roses for over 5 winters and they always come back like crazy in the spring. Good luck! Although it's too soon to winterize now, it is a good idea to get all of your materials ready now. It is almost impossible to get rose collars or woodchips in November. We have a covered trailer load full of wood chips ready to go (I have 180 roses and winterize about half of them). I don't winterize my hardy Canadian roses, my Griffith Buck roses, or my older established David Austin English roses. I do winterize all my new roses so they have an extra year to get established. I also winterize all my hybrid teas, floribundas, Romanticas, Generosas, and other more tender roses.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 7:32PM
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