Friday, April 27, 2012

Roses & pots

You can thank Cyd for this post. She was so taken with them that two days after her visit she called and said my next post should be on the potted roses. Being easily led and very open to good suggestions, I have done as I was told. There’s just one catch. I have no great how-to lesson to pass on. And I will tell you that I have read absolute statements that roses can not be grown organically in pots! What can I say? I guess the following photos are figments of our imaginations.

I have three thoughts that may explain my success…well, maybe four. First, the roses themselves. There have been rejects, but the ones you see here are great in my garden. Second, Milorganite. Someone needs to write a love song about sewage sludge so I can sing it. Third, composted horse manure. And fourth, using organics eliminates the salts of chemical fertilizers which over time accumulate and do damage to plant life.

Roses look best – in the ground and in pots – with leaves on them. Good foliage comes from good health. Good health is mostly genetic and depends on your location. When I selected the roses for my front circle, it was based solely on the recommendations of the owner (Linda at the time) of Rose Petals Nursery. She was mostly right. My failures were mini roses. The successes are polyanthas. Well, heck, one is a mini, but it must be an exceptional one, and one of the not-so-successful ones is a polyantha. So much for hard rules. Size does matter unless your pot is a hot tub. A rose that wants to be six feet tall and wide does not belong in a pot.

'Lauren' (on the left) and 'Sweet Chariot'
The reason “they” say you can’t grow roses organically in pots is that maintaining microbial life in artificial conditions is difficult and eventually probably impossible. In the ground nature is constantly moving and shaking, consuming and replenishing. In a pot the normal consuming works fine, but the replenishing doesn’t always. Periodically – three, four years? – they say the rose must be unpotted and repotted with new soil (I haven’t done that yet) unless (keeping my fingers crossed) you get really lucky with your organic amendments (still hoping) and are diligent about your replenishing duties. You see, you have taken on Mother Nature’s job in the little world of your potted rose. I use a complete organic rose food. I didn’t say completely – though it is – but rather complete in that it includes the whole spectrum of nutrients – major, minor, all of them that roses need and in the right proportions. (I use this because that’s what I was told to do.)  I also use Milorganite in goodly quantities which will not burn the plant and is basically timed-release. It feeds the organisms and gives a clarion call to all earthworms in the vicinity which, of course, aerate the soil and leave their poop (more organics) everywhere they go. I also use alfalfa which is really hormonally good stuff for roses and organic. And last but not least, composted horse manure which is naturally full of live organisms and periodically adding it to the pot provides the army of microbes that will consume the organic matter (that you will replace), converting it into a form of nutrition that roses can utilize. I don’t want this part to discourage you. CHM is what I use (mostly because it’s free for me), but it isn’t the only compost that can be used. The important thing is that the compost must have life and air in it - no air, no life. By the way, good compost does not stink. It smells like soil, good old fashioned, healthy (for plants) dirt. Or maybe it won’t smell at all. Or maybe like urine, but don’t tell that to the scaredy cats. I can hear them now, "Eeewww!"

'Sweet Chariot' is a magnificent rose. Not quite purple in color, it is fragrant (I know this for a fact after weeding next to her last weekend) and a prolific bloomer. Today she was a bit past her peak but still beautiful.
She is so healthy and green. Pretty much no black spot. Of course, she will cycle through a period of dropping old leaves that have yellowed but that's life, and we all have to get over it.
The poor thing is lopsided since mama hasn't been good about rotating her. Like a houseplant, garden plants grow toward the light. I'm not positive about the size of the pot. Maybe about 16" diameter, 10-gallons, but that's a guess. That's probably the minimum you'd want to use unless it's going to be a small rose when it grows up. This one is about 3-1/2 feet tall including the pot and about as wide.

'Lauren' grows a little taller. She's about 4-1/2 feet tall including the pot, and she is here way past peak and needs deadheading and feeding. For these polyanthas I remove the whole cluster back to the next budeye/leafset since I want to keep them fairly compact. I'm not looking to see how huge I can grow them in these little pots. I want them to be "in balance", copasetic, in tune with their true nature as potted roses. No, they don't do yoga. I'm just tryin' to be cool and not kill them.
'Anda' is the not-so-successful polyantha to which I referred earlier. Well, I see on HMF that she's half floribunda, so that may explain her weakness for black spot. It's not an awful weakness, but I have become so used to looking past her that I probably overlook her neediness, too. She may just be demanding more food, and I keep saying I'm going to give it to her, and then I forget. Mother Nature wouldn't do such a thing.
Her big clusters of single red blooms are my weakness, so I keep her. None of us is perfect, right?
'Softee' is the successful miniature to which I referred earlier. She's green, green, green, covers herself with pale yellow flowers, pretty much deadheads herself, and is thornless. She finished blooming not too long ago and has leafed out, raring to go again.
Apologies for the bright western sun. She is so bushy - take my word for it.
'White Pet' aka 'Little White Pet' is very healthy and becomes one big pompom - or almost - at peak bloom.
This year she has thrown two long canes, much longer than previous growth. She has a slight fragrance.
And she has prickles, sharp ones. Here you can see the two longer canes.
She, too, is lopsided, growing more toward the southwest.  She doesn't bat an eye at the heat. I have another 'White Pet' in the back garden planted in the ground.
Look at that...a red, white and blue bed.
'Marchesa Boccella' is a Damask Perpetual which I had always assumed was disease prone, so I've been amazed at how healthy it is in my garden. However, upon reading the HMF description (hadn't I read it before? or did I just not believe it?), I find that she's "very disease resistant". We can all vouch for that now, can't we? And it also says "shade tolerant". Voila! She's in a lot of shade!
She had a lovely flush recently, still has three open flowers & more buds. An excellent, fragrant rose!

Another 'Sweet Chariot' (center pot) and a 'Red Drift' are on the back patio. The Drift roses (I have four, two red and two peach) are completely healthy so far, growing well and blooming a lot.

Here's the other 'Red Drift' and behind it, my potted 'Pink Gruss an Aachen' which is not doing as well as the one in the ground to the right of 'Red Drift' in the photo above this one. I theorize that it needs more of something than I am giving it - whatever that is. She stays without question, however, because of her totally gorgeous and lusciously fragrant she usually looks better than this.
'Pat Austin' is new to the garden this spring. I was advised to put her in a pot because she's "iffy" and "weak". Maybe so, but her blooms are neither iffy nor weak. They are drop-dead gorgeous - and shades of orange. And I don't even like orange.

Do not be alarmed by the fact that the following photos are unrelated to the current topic. They’re here because they are beautiful – to me, anyway.

No, I didn't forget to rotate my tulips photo. For one thing they're not tulips. They're 'Princess Diana' clematis growing outward from the obelisk in the front garden. Pretty amazing.
The buds of 'Madame Abel Chatenay' and the blue of Salvia farinacea. 'Clotilde Soupert' is in the background.
Mr. Bumble Bee adores Salvia farinacea, too. Boy, he was big!
'Absolute Treasure' may be on her way to being my new favorite daylily. I had to step into the bed to take her photo because she was bending low and facing/almost touching the potted rose on the patio. But I got her!!
My new 'Gruss an Teplitz' is blooming! Thank you, Cyd! But oh, how I wish reds wouldn't explode in my camera.


  1. Everything looks lovely. Had not heard that you can't grow Roses in pots.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

    1. Cher, thank you for the compliment and comment. The issue is the type of fertilizer to use. The Container Garden folks on GardenWeb prefer Miracle Gro and Osmocote type fertilizers. Since I garden organically in the rest of my garden, it was hard/impossible to abandon that principle for pot growing. Maybe I'm just stubborn and unteachable. :))

  2. Beautiful! Glad to see that you grow roses in pots also. I've grown roses in pots for years now. I had someone tell me I could not grow roses in FL at all. Glad I didn't listen to them.

    Have a great weekend in all that loveliness.


    1. FlowerLady, I'm curious which roses you grow in pots and how you fertilize them. Sometimes it does pay not to listen, doesn't it? You never know until you try something, right? I think gardeners must need a bit of the pioneer spirit sometimes.

  3. This is such a good idea! ( Well. In my climate, I would be able to keep roses in pots but I could dig a hole and put it there for the winter if I don't have enough space to keep it there ) but I never though, also, that the type of roses could be a factor in success or fail.

    When I've moved to my new place, there were 4 roses bushes but none of them was giving me any satisfaction. Now, after reading your post, I understand that maybe that kind of roses was not the right type to plant in my garden. So maybe I should try another type. Thanks for all the infos, really helpfull! 8)

    1. VertiGrenouille, I'm glad you thought it was a good idea. Since you're in a colder climate, you already know what you need to do to protect your potted roses in winter. Thankfully, I don't have that issue. I decided to plant in pots because I had no more room in the ground. Also, I think they add interest to the garden. Yes, you, too, have experienced the wrong roses in your garden. Those of us who don't want to spray fungicide have to choose disease-resistant roses, and sometimes that's a hit-or-miss proposition. But I believe every location can grow roses no-spray -- you just have to find the right ones. Local rosarians are usually helpful with that.

    2. Thanks 8) I used to say that I didn't want roses in my new garden because of the thorns ( if I hurt myself on one, the wound is burning and getting red, I must be careful ) but I'm telling myself, as I see yours, that I could get stronger gloves and be more careful and roses would give me such pleasure. I already plant a climbing variety last year and can't wait to see it bloom in June. My next one will probably be one I use to have in my other garden, it was de 'Blanc double de Coubert' and was very resistant, disease free.

      You inspire me! Thanks! 8)

  4. Such a great teaching post! We need to do a Power Point on this and have you speak to our Rose Societies on this very subject! You're a natural....


  5. Cyd, you're very kind, but I don't speak in front of people. Sad to say, I have a terminal case of shyness. :))

  6. Very healthy and beautiful looking roses in those pots. I see that purple one! Love it.

  7. Thank you for so interesting post! I'll try too to plant my new polyantha rose in a container. I think it better for a rose in our climate zone 5a in
    Saint Petersburg.