American Rose Quarterly 1(4): 4-5 (Dec 1930)
Putting Roses to Sleep

BECAUSE of the unprecedented drought which has afflicted the most of North America the past summer and autumn, all plant-wise gardeners are alarmed at the prospect of high mortality among shrubs and trees during the winter. One of the cardinal principles for safely wintering most shrubs and trees is that they should have plenty of water at the roots before the wood and surface freezes.

Roses are no exception. If there have been no soaking rains to wet the ground deeply, it will pay to water the rose-beds thoroughly as long as the ground is open. On page 69 of the 1928 Annual, A. C. Ellerman tells about soaking the rose-beds in order to carry the plants successfully through a South Dakota winter. All members in the drought-stricken areas ought to consult that article, as well as the many other items in various Rose Annuals concerning winter-protection.

When looking up Mr. Ellerman's article, we became interested to know just what has been written in the Annual on this subject during the past fifteen years. A rapid leafing over the first few volumes disclosed the following:

In 1916, W. C. Egan, living north of Chicago on the bluffs above the western shore of Lake Michigan, told how he protected climbing roses by coiling the canes on the ground and covering them with boxes filled with oak leaves which were collected and stored dry until the ground had frozen. In the same issue, Theodore Wirth, Superintendent of the Parks of Minneapolis, described the way they protected roses in the Municipal Rose-Garden in Lyndale Park. "We took special pains to ripen the wood. ... We stopped watering and cultivation in September and discouraged late growth. The last week in October we gave the beds a very thorough soaking, and a few days after tied the shoots together and piled the soil around the plants as high as we could with material taken from between them, covering four to six lower eyes. The garden was left in this condition until there were 3 to 4 inches of frost in the ground. Then we covered the beds loosely with leaves, not packed down, to the height of the soil about the plants, and boarded in the long sides of the beds 2 feet high. We also boarded over the top, but left the two ends open. Over the cover we spread a layer of bedding straw and hay. The aim was to prevent thawing after frost had set in, and to protect the plants from the drying effect of strong winds without interfering with free circulation of air. We have employed the same method of protection ever since and have been successful in bringing roses through the winter in very good condition."

The 1917 and 1918 Annuals contain nothing quotable on the subject; but in the 1919 Annual, Harold W. Nelles, of Montreal, has this to say: "I believe the best protection is earth piled up high and allowed to freeze, then a good dressing of old manure with some straw in it, and on top of this cedar boughs, brush, or cornstalks that will hold the snow and break the force of the spring sun." In the same volume, page 128, Peter Bisset, of Washington, D. C., objects to the use of decaying material against the stems of the rose during winter, which may cause them to rot. He says, "The ideal covering for tender varieties is coarse material which will keep off cold winds and hot sun alike and yet permit ventilation. Fresh stable manure, where long straw had been used for bedding, would serve if all the fine particles were shaken out, using only the coarse material for protecting. An excellent covering is the salt marsh grass so abundant along the Atlantic Coast. The easily grown stems and leaves of the Japanese grasses of the Eulalia family form excellent protection. Such material is coarse, firm, and does not pack, giving protection without holding moisture around the rose-stems .... It is not the amount of material that protects but its quality of open shading. It is essential that what is used be light enough and open enough to permit free passage of air. Severe frosts injure roses less than alternate thawing and freezing, exposure to drying winds, and the hot sun of late winter."

There are many other articles about winter-protection in subsequent annuals. Summing up, it is certain that the roses ought to go into winter with a bountiful supply of moisture at the roots, and the tops must be shielded from rapid freezing and thawing. Any method of protection which will accomplish these ends is right.