- Author: Jannike Petrovska
By jannike petrovska
Stressing Out Your Roses For Blooming Fun!!
It is time for bare root roses in southern California, and nothing fuels my love of
gorgeous blooms more than the petal-packed English roses, especially the David
Austins. The blooms are heartbreakingly beautiful, but the thorny shrubs -- not
so terrific to my eye. So keeping the blooms coming is of great interest to me.
Here's a simple trick that has the potential to transform your rose bush into a
blooming machine: put the canes under stress. No, I'm not suggesting you shout
at your roses and call them ugly names; that's too much stress for the roses,
your neighbors, and your vocal cords. I'm talking about bending the main canes,
the ones that come up from the base or bud union. Forcing these main canes into
a curved shape encourages more bud eyes (the little red dots that are usually
right above a horizontal line or node). The bloom bearing canes emerge from the
bud eyes, so more bud eyes means more roses. This stressing technique is
especially effective with climbers, but can also be used on shrub roses with
young canes or long flexible ones, and of course on most David Austins with the
gangly octopus canes they tend to grow in our sunny southern California climate.
Here are some fun ways to stress your roses:
Pegging: Grab the tip of a long cane and bend it down and around into
an arc. Tie the tip to a lower part of the cane, or use the grab of the thorns
to make a connection. I like to get creative with pegging, and shape my pliable
roses into giant hearts, globes and other interesting living structures.
Pillaring: Winding rose canes around a structure puts
them under stress, and increases blooms. I've used metal obelisks, and beautiful
antique posts as structures, but I've also made rose pillars out of simple 4 x
4s. Take a ten foot tall 4 x 4 and pound two feet of it into the ground. Using a
post level, a tool that attaches to the post and costs less than $10, helps you
keep the post (yes -- what a surprise) level while you're installing it, or you
can just do this by eye. Insert wood screws up and down the post on all four
sides, but leave them sticking out some. These serve as anchors to grab the rose
canes. A touch of clear silicone on the screw threads will keep them from
scratching the canes. Wind your main canes around the structure, barber pole
style. Wind some of the canes clockwise, and others counterclockwise. For a
crowning touch, I use screws with hand forged fancy heads instead of plain old
wood screws, and I top the 4 x 4 with a decorative finial.
Tying to fence rails: Bending the canes horizontally and tying them
to the rails also puts them under stress and encourages the growth of blooming
stems. I recently designed a rose fence for a client. We used six foot long
branches cut from one of his trees as our posts, and pounded two feet into the
ground to create a four foot tall fence. Holes were drilled in the tree branch
posts, and decorative wrought iron was threaded through the holes to serve as
the rail. This one-of-a-kind rose structure was simple to make, cost next to
nothing, and should transform his roses from wimpy to wunderbar.
Espalier: Bending the main canes into a fan shape on a
wall also stresses them. It's important to leave some airspace between the canes
and wall. I attached an old, discarded screen porch grill to a garden wall, and
tied the rose canes to that. You can also use eye screws and wires, or wooden
Growing up an arch, arbor, pergola, or
gazebo: You'll want to stress some of the canes by winding them up the sides of
the structure. If you run all the canes straight up, they won't be under stress,
and you'll only get blooming roses at the top where the canes are bent into an
arc. I like to use two roses on each side: one that grows straight up and then
arches over the top of the structure, smothering it in blooms. The second rose
snakes from the ground up, creating a luxuriant flower covered wall; thus
maximum bloom potential over the entire structure, just by putting your rose
canes under stress.
Now, go have fun stressing out
your roses, and may the new year bring you many blooms!