Barely four short weeks ago, I planted my first four Drift® roses (one each in red, coral, apricot and pink) out on my small balcony here on the beautiful west coast of Canada. These were bare root roses (essentially bare sticks attached to a bunch of roots – no dirt, no pot).
At the time, it was hard to get too excited about my new balcony rose planting based on appearance alone that day. I’ve reminded myself every morning when I wander out onto the balcony to “survey the estate” (as my family likes to call my careful inspection tours of the tiny garden) that their little roots are busy getting nicely settled into their new home underground even when not much is happening above ground.
But this April weekend, something miraculous started to happen! Those little green buds along each ‘stick’ that had been slowly swelling for weeks have suddenly opened. In each of the four pots, the bright green, slightly serated (or “toothed”) leaves have unfurled. They look gorgeous! Still tiny, but on their way. . .
WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT ROSE BRANCHES and LEAVES:
Those straight sticks poking out of the dirt I’d mentioned? In rose plants, those branches are actually called CANES.
Rose canes are the branches that bear the leaves, thorns and flowers. They grow from the trunk, and usually branch themselves. Canes are usually green, or they may also be bronze, reddish or woody, depending on the rose variety and age. Apparently, my roses will benefit from having these canes pruned back after their first winter (some sources say up to 1/3 of the plant should be cut back). At the world famous Butchart Gardens near my home, gardeners dramatically cut back their stunning rose garden canes each winter, mere inches from the soil.
By the way, I’ve also learned that the best time to prune your roses (no matter what the variety) is when the forsythias start to bloom. I love this kind of gardening advice because it applies to all roses in all zones no matter where you live!
Forsythia, in case you don’t own one of these must-have spring plants, is a deciduous flowering shrub that belongs to the olive family. This low-maintenance, fast-growing shrub features an upright, arching form, known for long branches that fill with lovely yellow blooms which emerge before their leaves do. Even in late winter, I keep an eye out for the distinctive shape of forsythia shrubs alongside the road.
They may look like dead brown sticks to the uninitiated, but when you cut a few sticks and put them into a big vase of water indoors, within a week the sticks will explode into brilliant yellow blossoms. Every garden needs a forsythia bush – mostly because they tell you when the time is right to prune roses!
Back to those roses: even on my very young roses, you can clearly see their 5-leaflet leaves. Sometimes you’ll see a few 3-leaflet leaves close to the bloom. Other rose varieties may have 7, 9 or even more leaflets. Leaves grow on alternate sides of the stem.
These leaves can often be the site of common rose problems like unsightly Black Spot or powdery mildew (which explains why I’ve been so uninterested in planting roses until this year). But the good news about these easy-care Drift® roses is that they are apparently disease-resistant – among many other claimed advantages compared to the fussy roses of long ago.
Time will tell, but I’m hopeful that these beautifully healthy first green leaves will remain just as beautiful all summer long. Until then, please remember to s-l-o-w down and smell your own roses. . .
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