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Roses Are Plants Too!

When Jack Frost Comes Blowing Through Your Garden.

Roses with long arching canes are beautiful but cold winter winds can snap them right off.  A little prevention in fall will help.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
Roses with long arching canes are beautiful but cold winter winds can snap them right off.  A little prevention in fall will help.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

We had our first hard freeze the other night.  Down to 27 degrees, which I realize isn’t cold by northern standards; but it is a freeze.  Hey, I lived in Chicago for five years and I know what winter can be.  I remember one night it hit 26 below zero without the wind chill! 

I moved shortly thereafter.

But regardless of how cold you winter eventually gets, that first hard freeze is important in the rose growing season.  It means the roses are now shutting down.  Yes, you may see a little more growth and some blooming but overall the season is done.

If you live where the winter Windy City winds can howl you should think about playing a little defense – like the Da Bears! 

Okay, enough of that.

A rose growing friend in Colorado wrote me and mentioned that he cuts the roses down by about ½ his intended pruning height once he knows they’ve gone dormant.  This helps prevent canes from snapping off in those winds.

But you don’t want to do this too soon or you’ll spur new growth.  So how do you know the roses won’t put out new growth?  When they are dormant.  How do you know they are dormant?  When you’ve had your first good freeze.  That’s why that freeze date is important.

After your first good freeze, and if you want to play it really safe wait till you’ve had a couple, go ahead and bring your taller shrub roses down by about ½ the height you are going to eventually prune them to.  Then when Jack Frost comes riding through your garden in a jet plane, you can relax knowing your canes won’t be leaving with him.

Just one more thing to not have to worry about during those cold winter Dalys.  Get it?  Daily, Daly, Mayor Daly!

It’s going to be a long winter.

Happy Punning!

View Comments


  1. toffee 12/04/2010

    Hi Paul,

    This is regarding covering bud union when planting. It's off topic, sorry

    I am in Zone 9a, SF Bay Area. I would like to plant with the bud union under soil level to encourage grafted roses to form their own roots. However, some people apparently think otherwise. (Link to their argument: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/roses/msg1101010014630.html?23) Those people passionately debated that different roses react differently to having their bud unions covered, and most react poorly.

    What is your advise?

  2. PFZimmerman 12/04/2010

    Bury the bud union. I've grown roses in Los Angeles and now in South Carolina plus talked to rose growers from around the world and all say bury the bud union. I've always buried mine.

    The rose will do exactly as you wish and become and own-root rose.


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