Rose Magazine 4(6): 138-139 (Nov-Dec 1941)
Breaking the (Rose) Rules
FOR the year 1941 I have broken a lot of rules relative to Rose culture set up by our authorities. In my garden I have about 500 plants, including 200 different varieties. Heretofore I have pruned hard and medium and have had the best and most abundant blooms in the fall. Last year I started early in mixing a three-way concoction to ward off mildew and black-spot and had them heavier than ever. This year I let the plants grow, trimming back only as necessary. I fed heartily and watered thoroughly. The only spray used has been for aphids, and very little of that.
Result, practically all my plants are large, healthy, covered with blooms—thousands of blooms—the yard a riot of color. A Mme. Charles Mallerin, 32 inches high, had 39 blooms averaging 4 1/2 inches; Etoile de Hollande, 44 inches high, 24 blooms averaging 5 to 6 1/4 inches. An Angels Mateau bore blooms resembling large peonies and Dicksons Centennial had 9 master blooms. There were 33 glowing Rome Glories, every one on long straight stems. (Every cutting Rose in my garden has been disbudded.) Picture a bed of World's Fair, Donald Prior, Smiles, Holstein, Gruss an Aachen, Improved Lafayette, Permanent Wave, Carillon, and Anne Poulsen, that stands out like a flame, rainbow colors intermingling!
Then there are Roses like Souv. de Mme. C. Chambard, Duquesa de Peñaranda, Golden Dawn, Brazier, Cathrine Kordes and National Flower Guild that you can hardly see the foliage for the mass of blooms; and Editor McFarland so heavy with buds I could not disbud, a single cane having 16 blooms; a Catalonia covered with buds like a Mabelle Stearns; a red sentinel, Southport, flanked by a tall, slender Ramon Bach for contrast; a Will Rogers, north-side-house planted, a green lawn, the bush, a single large cane leaning forward, and on it 6 dark red velvety blooms—a God-made bouquet!
These are ordinary plants, nothing fancy, just horse-sensed along. I can only water in the evening, sometimes as late as 11 p.m., and in spite of the Detroit quiz I water in hot weather and shock the Roses by heavily soaking the soil, using a canvas hose. On May 25 I dug up a 3-year-old Daily Mail, in bloom, no water, and transplanted it while my good friend Dr. Dulaney, a rosarian of Perryman, Md., looked on. Then I watered and covered with burlap. Not a leaf has withered.
About the middle of May I gave two 3-year old Talismans, in bud and bloom, to a friend. They were watered, dug, wrapped in burlap, and the friend put them in his car, kept them there all afternoon, drove about 20 miles to his home, set them out, and never lost a bloom.
With a temperature of 98° I have raised full-grown Hybrid Teas, as Rouge Mallerin, Dorothy James, etc., from a sunken position to surface level without retarding the growth or bloom. I set out plants now with the knuckle, bottom side just about level with the surface. (Rose plants rarely raise, but will sink.)
I gave Dr. Dulaney a 6-year-old New Dawn along about the first of May. We trimmed it down at least a half from its 10 to 12-foot length. It was a job to dig it out and break the taproot (had a knuckle the size of a cow's heart.) Then Dr. Dulaney and I jammed it into his car. He transplanted it in his garden at Perryman and can tell you of its vigorous growth and bloom. At this time he gave me a Dr. Huey, about 4 feet high and covered with buds. It was 3 days before I could set it out. Every bud had withered. Death was apparent. I hard pruned it and fed B1 copiously for days. Every short cane sprouted a wealth of buds, so I dug it up and transplanted to the base of a pillar in the front yard. It is in bloom now.
This last fall I pulled a Paul's Scarlet Climber out from under a neighbor's house that had been demolished and transplanted it in my yard—simply dug a hole and set it in. In doing this the knuckle broke in two parts, one with a single cane, so I dug another hole and set it in. I have the big one now twined about a pillar, and in bloom. Dr. Dulaney took the single-cane specimen and reports a splendid plant.
I have one plant with mildew; it is Sterling, but it has mildewed ever since I have had it. I go about and pick off occasional black-spotted or yellow leaves and have sprayed twice for aphids. Most of my plants are sturdy, tall and bushy. The blooms, enriched from mineral secretions in long canes and abundant leaves, have come forth in deep colors, much more vivid than I have ever been able to obtain from pruning. I have not striven for large Roses nor tall plants. I let nature work, and, seemingly, it does a good job. There is a 2-foot Topaz in my garden with 133 blooms and buds as I write this, a Smiles with 63, and I got tired counting full blooms on Improved Lafayette when I got to 92.
But if high-priced firms don't quit sending me puny, two-cane, inferior plants I'm going to utter a prayer and patronize the dime-a-dozen boys. Shame on a reputable nursery that will allow a single inferior plant to reach the humblest buyer! The country grocery store I attend each Saturday sells better Rose plants at $1.20 a half dozen than the majority of 1941 plants for which I paid $1.50. So while Dr. Dulaney experiments with budded plants I am stringing along with own roots. I've got a collection of about 200 as fine as you ever saw. I cut off withered blooms, stuck the stem m the ground, covered with a glass jar, and in 8 months I have had blooms. I don't worry about cutting off first buds to stimulate plant-growth. Next year I'll have plants 18 inches or more in height, healthy and vigorous.
Most of my plants are set 3 feet apart on a lawn, except a 9-foot bed of Polyanthas. They are mulched with rotted manure and fed every 30 days. (No manure or filth next year.) I cultivate as required. Grass cutting is the big job. How are the plants set out? I simply dig a hole, throwing out rocks, cinders, lime, bricks, broken tile, sand, gravel (I've dug more than an hour on a single hole), set in the plant, fill with clay I have taken out, mixed with vegetable garden dirt, poor at best, water, and let it go at that. Of course I keep new plants hilled for a week or two, then remove the dirt gradually, invariably knocking off choice buds.
When beginners ask me how to grow Roses I tell them just to dig a hole in the ground, set them in properly, fill, give them lots of water, and feed regularly. The continuous health of the plant and beauty of bloom is a matter of loving labor.
Amateur Rose-growers are getting too serious in striving for perfection. They scare the beginner whose backyard gardening does not mix with college research, including soil-analysis. The successful growing of Roses in a home-garden is not mysterious nor complicated. Half of the rules laid down by the experts are a lot of balderdash. I have living proof in my garden—a garden on a Government reservation, in the yard of the quarters in which my family and I live, where soil and location must be taken as they are, with landscaping by special permission only, even to a weeping willow tree that shades the choicest plants. Strong winds sometimes tear off blooms and break canes. Some Roses are planted under trees, some get no sun, some get sun all day, and Jap beetles come in swarms.
Yet I have Roses.—John Kaiser, Edgewood, Md.