By Julie Martens Forney
Growing roses brings rewards: beautiful blooms, heady fragrances, and stunning showpieces, like this ‘Aunt Honey’ rose in full flower. A Griffith Buck hybrid bred for cold weather, this shrub rose is hardy to Zone 4, surviving even the nastiest Mid-Atlantic winters. It fits nicely in my small cottage garden.
Whether you have a yard full of roses or are growing your first, brush up on the basics of growing roses in the Mid-Atlantic.
Spring Rose Pruning
Prune roses as new growth appears. Postpone heaviest pruning until all danger of frost is past, especially at higher Mid-Atlantic elevations. I usually prune stems twice: once to reduce height—while frost can still occur. I make final shaping cuts after we’re past the danger of frost.
Trim shrub roses that bloom on new stems to about 18 in. To direct growth outwardly and create a vase-shape plant, cut just above a bud that faces the outside of the shrub. Remove any pencil-thin canes. Some shrubs and climbers flower on old wood; wait until after bloom to prune those roses.
Fertilizing doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply scratch organic fertilizer into soil beneath the rose’s drip line, and top with a 2- to 3-in layer of compost. Apply more organic fertilizer and compost in early midsummer (July Fourth) and early fall (Labor Day).
Japanese beetle is a big rose pest in the Mid-Atlantic, arriving with summer. If you battle lawn grubs, you likely see beetles on your roses. As a beetle feeds, it releases a pheromone that signals others to join the feast.
Check roses for beetles in the morning, as soon as sun bathes plants. Knock beetles into soapy water. Don’t squish them—that releases the pheromones.
Removing beetles in the early morning may help prevent more from arriving later that day, but it’s wise to patrol plants again late in the day or early evening. For long-term control treat garden and lawn areas with milky spore—bacteria that builds up in soil and kills Japanese beetle grubs. It becomes effective the year after you apply it.