Throughout history, the flower most coveted and cultivated is the rose. There is no doubt that roses are both beautiful and fragrant flowers that can be found in almost every color of the rainbow. There are countless poems about them and books dedicated to their culture and care. Despite this, many people who grow roses still have questions about caring for their beloved garden flowers. Here in the North Country, the most common concern is how to make sure their rose makes it through the winter.
Some roses need very little, if any protection to make it through a cold winter. Hardy shrub roses and wild-type roses (such as rugosa roses) can be left in the garden in zone 4 with little to no extra protection. To winterize these roses, simply irrigate adequately in late autumn and discontinue any fertilizers by late summer or early autumn.
Hybrid tea roses and floribundas will need extra protection to make it through our long, cold winters. In late November or early December, reduce breakage of tall canes by winter winds by cutting them back to 30 to 36 inches and tying tips together. Remove dead and fallen leaves around the plants. Hill soil over the center of the plants in broad rounded mounds at least 12 inches high and 12 inches wide. Cover the soil mounds with a mulch of leaves, straw, boughs, or some similar material.
For maximum winter protection, cover the rose bush with a protective cylinder. Use straw, leaves or similar material to insulate the bush inside the cone. Puncture several one-inch holes around the top of the cone for air circulation.
To winterize climbers, remove them from their support. Lay them on the ground and cover with 3 to 4 inches of soil. If this cannot be done, gather the tips of the stems together, tie them, and wrap in straw with a wrapping of burlap over that. The base of the climber should be covered with 10 inches of soil.
When severe winter weather conditions have subsided, which is typically early April here, remove most of the mulch and soil from around the bases of plants.
Anne Lenox Barlow has had experience in the agricultural field as a horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.