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Master Gardener Suzy Palmer explains the finer points about planting and fertilizing a new rose bush. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, January 10, 2019

By Chris Frost



Oxnard—The Ventura County Master Gardeners braved the chilly weather Jan. 5, and hosted a lively discussion about how to raise roses, called "Roses 101", and have them flourish.

The event drew a full house to the Oxnard Farm Park and Historic Museum and became an informative discussion between people with questions about issues that arise during the year, followed by common sense answers that gardeners can put to good use in their yards.

Master Gardiner Suzy Palmer gave a history of the rose to the crowd and said in 1986 the rose became the floral emblem of the United States and the official flower of four states: New York, Iowa, South Dakota, and Georgia.

“The nursery rhyme: Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Honey is sweet and so are you, what are the flowers saying,” she asked. “The red roses say I love you, but what are the violets saying? The violets are saying I love you too. That is fun stuff for you to know.”

She identified the intent behind each rose color, as the red rose says love, romance, courage and respect, and the dark red rose signifies unconscious beauty and a single red rose means I love you.

“The white rose is marriage, new beginnings, purity, innocence, charm and heavenly,” she said. “If you get a red and white rose together it signifies unity, red and yellow means jovial and happy feelings and the list goes on.”

A single rose signifies simplicity and gratitude, she said, and a rosebud is a symbol of purity and loveliness.

“The fruit of the rose bush is the head, and the head is where you find the rose seeds,” she said. “You can propagate those rose seeds; I haven’t personally done that.”

The most popular rose is the hybrid tree rose with a large bloom and long, straight stem and people give them on Valentine’s Day, she said. They will grow to between three and five feet tall with a mild to strong fragrance.

“It has spectacular flowers on it,” she said. “The Floribunda is an abundance of flowers, and they can grow, and they can be a single flower as well. They are great in landscaping. The next one is the Grandiflora, and as the name applies, they grow tall, high and can be used to create a rose wall.”

The rose bush needs a sunny location to thrive when planted and requires five to eight hours of morning sunlight, which is preferred daily. If they are planted in the shade, they will not do well.

“Choose a spot where the rose will not have to compete for sunlight,” she said. “If you have a whole bunch of trees, you don’t want to put them in front of them where they will have to compete. You also don’t want to put it in a windy area because they will break and dry out.”

From there, Suzy demonstrated on a rose bush in a container and said you want to dig a hole, put some pearlite in there and mix it into the soil.

“You don’t necessarily want to cover your bud union, but it’s not going to hurt it,” she said. “The dirt you took out of the hole you want to put back into the hole along with your rose bush.”

Palmer said the American Rose Society provided a good recipe for planting roses and advised the group to make up a mixture of soil and potting soil and then plant it in the ground.

“After you get your rose in the ground you want to give it a lot of water and fertilize around it, and it’s good for a while,” she said. “You want it to dry out, but not get so dry that it wilts. You don’t necessarily want to say today is Monday, so I am going to water my rose bushes and then next Monday you’re going to water them again because you might get rain in between there and you don’t want them to get soggy, and you don’t want the roots to rot.”

Palmer lives in Ojai which get hot, and through her gardening, she discovered that her roses are drought tolerant, which means she does water them, but not a lot.

“You can use your garden hose, drip emitters or soaker hoses which can be removed,” she said. “When you water your roses, if it’s early, the sun is shining and not too hot, you can water your whole rose bush and wash it off. That will keep it free of dust and things. In the evening, you don’t want any water on the leaves because that will cause diseases to come in and attack the rose bushes.”

She bought her fertilizer at the local hardware store and advised the group to read the back of the bag to determine how much to give their roses.

“Sometimes your roses can have mineral deficiencies, and there are certain nutrients in relatively small amounts that are required for a healthy plant,” she said. “Deficiency causes tip chlorosis and can cause the foliage to fade. Nitrogen and iron deficiencies are the most common when it happens.”’

Palmer said another virus the group has learned about is the Rose Rosette Disease that will cause “Witches Broom” on your rose bush.

“It will make the cane (stem) swell and turn a dark color or a bright color, and if that happens to your rose bush you have to take it completely out of the ground and throw it into the trash,” she said.

After the class, Palmer said she loves roses because they have a variety of colors.

“They are hearty and don’t take a tremendous amount of water, and they are beautiful,” she said.

Master Gardener Melissa Roghani lives in Newberry Park and said the group’s website tells you how to become a master gardener and it requires lots of time.

“You’re in classes for four hours and hands-on training for two hours a week, and you get involved in volunteer activities like the master gardeners are here,” she said. “It’s a tremendous organization, and they accept about 40 trainees a year, and it’s taught through the University of California (UC Davis), and it’s all scientifically based. We’re not talking about myths and old wives’ tales. If you enjoy gardening, I highly recommend it.”

To maintain certification, she said you must complete 20 hour of volunteer work and 12 hours of continuing education.

“You see a lot of master gardeners in this class because you get two hours of continuing education towards that annual 12 hours,” she said.

There are great sites in the area Master Gardener Carolyn Willard said, including Channel Islands National Park Service.

“We do a demonstration garden there, and in Camarillo, we have a ranch house, and Santa Palo has a research farm,” she said.

“I did hands-on there,” Roghani added. “In Thousand Oaks, there is the Global Center which is an approved site.”

For more information about becoming a Master Gardener, visit ucanr.org/sites/VCMG