Some late summer chores will make sure your roses look their best come fall.

I spend the summer adding perennials to my main rose garden.

Photo/Illustration: 
Paul Zimmerman Roses

While summer is going out with a hot and humid bang here in the Upstate of South Carolina, fall is in the air. We see it in the late afternoon light as the shafts ripple across our fields. There is a crispness in the morning air and our dogwoods have berries on them. The roses are waking up from their summer siesta and it’s time to do a few things to get them ready for the fall bloom.

First, grab your secateurs and check the bushes for dead or weak growth. This is a good time to get rid of it so the plant can focus its energy on healthy growth and hardening off any new canes that popped up in late spring or over the summer. This isn’t a hard prune, it’s just a light grooming to clean them up.

Check your mulch levels. If it’s looking a little light in spots go ahead and top it off where needed. And if quite a bit of the mulch you laid down in spring is gone give yourself a pat on the back. That means you have that living soil profile we talk so much about and the mulch is breaking down. All those little microorganisms in your soil are happily munching away and doing a lot of work for you!

If your mulch isn’t breaking down don’t worry about it now. Come spring, if it hasn’t broken down much, that is the time to add compost and/or try another liquid drench to add microorganisms. I put mine down late and it’s still pretty thick, but I know from experience come spring most of it will be gone. It’s takes time to build up that living soil profile.

Agastache 'Apricot Sprite' has been a real performer this summer.

Photo/Illustration: 
Paul Zimmerman Roses

Now is the time to break out the fertilizer for a late summer feeding. I always recommend a good organic fertilizer that also feeds the soil. Check with your local garden center for a good one or mail order sources like Garden’s Alive or Mills Magic Rose Mix are also good. The main concern is making sure it’s not a long term time release so you aren’t feeding nitrogen (the first number on the NPK scale) into winter. Most organics are not time release so you should be fine.

If you are so inclined, find a good seaweed based liquid fertilizer you can apply through one of those hose end sprayers that allows you to dial the amount per gallon you want to use. I find seaweed based fertilizers and roses are a great combination. It really boosts the foliage and I feel it helps with disease resistance. Put some on now and then again in a few weeks. That will get you right into fall and boost the flowering.

Personally, I’m finally adding perennials to my main rose bed. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while but every year it just never happened. This year I made a focused effort and found a great local source for plants. I buy them as small plants because it’s less expensive and I need so many. With the rich soil I’ve built up over the years they grow quickly!

White salvia always looks good with roses plus the bees love it. As you can see in the background my roses aren't looking so good after the summer heat and rains. So don't worry about yours!

Photo/Illustration: 
Paul Zimmerman Roses

I’m just planting them in large drifts to keep maintenance down. It will also keep the garden from looking too busy. Since my roses are almost all one of this and one of that, mass drifts of perennials will counter that. So far I’ve planted agastche, salvia, asters and gaura along the front edge. They are doing well and I love seeing all the bees in them! Towards the back I’m adding taller plants like buddleia, rosemary (for cooking!) and I’m trying a lavender. The latter is hard to grow in our soil but I’m giving it a shot!

The other benefit of the perennials is they will continue to help attract beneficial insects to my garden. And more importantly than attract is keep them here. Couple that with making the garden more beautiful means I’m getting a lot of bang for my buck!

Fall in the rose garden can be every bit as beautiful as spring. With a little focused work now we help our roses look their best at that time of year.

Happy Roseing
Paul

Sources

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