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Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How come roses look so different from each other?
A: Over the centuries, roses, like dogs, cats,apples and other domestic plants and animals, have been hybridized and crossed so that there are a number of different types and sizes. Today, you can find:
Species (like the wild roses) Old Garden Roses Classic Shrubs
Hybrid Perpetuals Modern Shrubs Hybrid Teas
Grandfloras Floribundas Miniatures and Minifloras
Polyanthas Climbers ,,, and much, much more!
Q: What is a miniature rose?
A: Miniature roses actually started with the original China (Old Garden Rose) rose,' Roulett'i, found in a windowbox in Europe. Since that time, crosses have been made with all types of roses to come up with a rose bush that produces blooms of a small size, and stems and leaves in smaller proportions. Because some of the larger roses are used in the crosses, size was forgiven in certain cases of exceptional roses, and miniature roses began appearing with blooms rivaling some Floribunda blooms. Because of this a new category was established, Mini-Flora Roses, to cover the larger blooms, larger leaves and/or larger bushes. But generally speaking a miniature rose will have a diminutive bush and smaller bloom. You can even purchase Micro Mini Roses with an even smaller bush and very small bloom - roses such as 'Hat Pin',' Dot Com', 'Jelly Bean', 'Si', 'Cinderella' and' Elizabeth Abler' to name a few. Miniature roses are normally quite hardy as they are on their own roots, not grafted onto a rootstock of another type of rose.
Q: Aren't all roses 'shrub roses'?

Yes - botanically - roses are hardy woody shrubs. But Shrub Roses is a class of Modern roses - they are mostly used for landscape, mixed borders, 'english' gardens and 'country gardens'. Shrub roses range from creepers and crawlers to upright shrubs with lots of blooms and and easy-care nature. They are more often on their own roots, tend to be hardier, and have types that are one-time bloomers and others that bloom throughout the growing season. They include the David Austin English Roses that combine the look and fragrance of the Old Garden Rose with the repeat bloom habit of the modern roses. Other types are the Romanticas, Generosas, Town and Country, Renaissance and Palace Roses - all part of marketing ventures by breeders and nurseries. There are also the 'Classic' Shrub roses that fit well into a 'family' - the Kordesii, Moyesii, Rugosa and Hybrid Musk roses.

Q: What is a 'sucker'?
A: A sucker is growth (a stem) coming from beneath the bud graft or bud union, that knob above the root structure of a grafted rose. The reason for it is that one or more of the buds on the rootstock was not cut completely out, so this bud keeps wanting to send out its own growth, often a smooth, long, light-green stem with 5- or 7-leaflet leaf clusters. You need to dig down in the soil and cut this growth off as close to the roots as possible (or even take out that root!), as it will just suck the strength from the grafted rose. It also may grow back each season if not cut completely out.
Q: What is a 'basal break'?
A: A basal break is new growth coming from somewhere on the bud graft. It is sometimes reddish, depending on the variety of the rose, it is soft and succulent with no thorns. It is to be prized, as this is the next generation of blooms for your rose bush.
Q: Will my roses die if I prune them wrong?
A: Roses are very forgiving. Unless you cut out all the basal breaks and cut the canes completely to the bud graft (and even this may not be enough), the rose will begin to grow again. Pruning is done for two reasons: To shape the bush, and (surprise!) to strengthen the bush. By removing twiggy, dead, or crossing growth that will encourage disease and decay, you are actually making a stronger, healthier bush. So grab those pruners and tackle the job with confidence. Technically, you are pruning every time you cut off a bloom, so you should cut way down to a leaf on the stem where a strong branch can break from the bud, cutting at an approximate 45-degree angle away from the leaf and about a quarter inch above the leaf.
Q: When should I prune my roses?
A: Do not prune for the sake of pruning. The leaves are factories that use sunlight to produce food for plant growth. Removing too much foliageduring the growing season will slow plant growth and flowers. From late April to October, remove only dead branches and old flowers [called deadheading]. Prune out spindly growth from near the ground, and keep the center of the rose bush open for air to circulate, preventing moisture from collecting inside the bush. [Morning and evening dew that cannot evaporate may cause mold and mildew problems.]

Starting in late-December, cut out dead canes and spindly growth. Cut out any canes that cross over the center of the bush - you want a smooth, vase-like shape. Consult a Consulting Rosarian or good reference book on proper pruning techniques for our area.
Q: How much water do my roses need?
A: Generally, roses need deep watering down into the root zone one to one-and-one-half feet deep. In warmer weather more water is required. Avoid watering the foliage during the late afternoon and evening to prevent mold and mildews. Good mulching of the soil at planting time will help keep water in the soil around the roots.

In the East Bay, roses will need about 10 gallons of water a week - less in winter, more in summer. This needs to be spread out over the days of the week. If you are in doubt, dig down three inches and see if the soil is moist. If the soil is dry the plant needs water. Deep watering by filling a reservoir around the root zone is better than surface watering.

Sandy soils require more water than soil with a lot of organic matter. Clay soils may hold water at the surface, making it difficult for water to move deep into the lower root zone, so soil amending is required.

Q: What about winter?
A: We don't have a 'winter' that the roses would recognize. They would keep on trying to bloom if you did not stop them so they could rest. You can slow them down and let them rest by NOT cutting any more blooms off after about Hallowe'en. From then until mid December, just pull off the petals - leaving the 'bulb' under the flower sitting on the stem. This is a seed capsule, called a hip. It sends hormones into the plant telling it to stop flowering and go dormant. It will be cut off when you prune in late December or early January.
Q: What should I feed my roses?
A: Roses are 'heavy' feeders. They need a lot of nutrition to keep them in top condition. Luckily, the clay soils in our area provide most of what they need. You will need to feed your roses when they start to grow back after pruning - in early to mid March. A balanced formula of any fertilizer will work well. Feed again in late May, mid July and early September for good bloom all season long. Always give the amount stated on the label - never more! Granular, liquid, whatever ... spread it on the ground and they will consume it!

For an extra 'treat' you can get coffee grounds and alfalfa meal, and scratch it in around the drip line at any time of the year. Fish emulsion or Alfalfa tea is good as a spring tonic, scratched in and watered in. Compost is always welcome as a 'pick-me-up', and any organics you can think of can be scratched in at the drip line for long-lasting 'trickle-feeding'.

In warmer (temps above 70°F in the first few inches of the soil), you can use time release capsules.

Q: Where can I buy black roses?
A: Sorry - there are no 'black' roses. There are many very dark red roses with buds that look almost black before they open - but no real black roses.
Q: What about blue roses?
A: Well - that's another myth. Roses don't have the ability to make that blue pigment - so, no real blue roses. Lots of roses have names that indicate they are blue (Blue Girl, Blue Nile, Outta the Blue), but they are really shades of lavender or purple. There is a Japanese company that has inserted the gene for a blue pigment into roses. So far, the rose blooms are lilac and lavender - still not blue.



Our climate is Mediterranean, and our soil is mostly heavy clay. Here's a list of roses that have proven to be good for our area and a list of disease-resistant roses you might try.

We meet at Lakeside Park Garden Center in Oakland, CA

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Last Updated: 2 January, 2016   
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