PHOTO: By Irene Hannestad
My rose garden has been a labor of love for the past nine years. Beginnings were small scale with only five roses humbly potted up in basic container soil. I was under the impression that that was enough. The journey of discovery, learning and sometimes disappointment had begun.
When one plants roses with the notion that standard soil and basic watering schedules will suffice, one is heading for the first lesson. I found that my roses bloomed admirably for a season but by the next season they were spent. Blooms decreased in size and the quantity and plants in general had lost their vigor.My thoughts were that I had bought inferior specimens and eagerly ran out to replace them. I also had by then created a small garden in which several hybrid teas had been placed in well dug holes in the ground; nothing special being added to the soil which, being unaware of at the time, lacked nutrients and was overly sandy. The majority of the roses declined in health. I would have given up by then had it not been for my extreme fondness for roses. I was determined to discover what made them tick!
The remedy for ignorance is knowledge and the library, plus any expert on the subject you can find. I immersed myself in many books and began rose treatments based on trial and experimentation. Discovering that roses are ‘greedy feeders’ with need for space, I began to plant them with plenty of added nutrients. The container roses were planted with Miracle Grow potting soil, bone meal, blood meal and alfalfa pellets in generous pots. Similarly the ground planted roses were also offered handfuls of bone meal, blood meal and manure.
A special piece of advice given by a knowledgeable ‘rose sage’ found me adding a banana peel into the soil mix just below the roots. Apparently as it decays nutrient rich elements are released for the use of the rose. On the surface around the base of the rose generous amounts of mushroom manure or steer manure were applied with a ¼ cup sprinkling of epsom salts (magnesium being a trace element necessary for healthy foliage).
To my delight and excitement the roses began to flourish and blossom. Every year in early spring I would amend the existing soil with copious amounts of manure and a sprinkling or drink of epsom salts (diluted in water). The effort paid off handsomely with the most gorgeous blooms and shrubby green plants. But over the last few years I noticed some deterioration in my prized roses. What was I doing wrong?