Archive for the ‘winterkill’ Category


Swollen Rose Buds

What’s with the heat wave in February? Temperatures went well over 60F for four days last week and actually hit 70F for a few hours the other day and it’s still winter. This is not Miami Beach. We are in New England and it’s supposed to be cold!

3-stone-men-2-27-17I strolled through our rose gardens yesterday, as the snow has melted, and found swollen buds on all bushes, some ready to pop — five weeks too soon.  Even the Stone Men object and want their snow back. This very early retreat from dormancy, reminiscent of last winter, does not bode well for the upcoming growing season. Last year’s week of warm winter weather, followed by a period of plummeting nighttime temperatures, created wide-spread winter kill, requiring severe spring pruning and a whole season for some varieties to recover. The garden roses were not used to such uncertainty and were flummoxed and confused. With a repeat of last year, I fear we may have to bring in a rose therapist to provide counseling.


Hilled Up Roses for Winter

While we have long since replaced tender roses with winter hardy varieties, with a few exceptions, we winterized them all last fall anyway as added protection. But some years that’s not enough. With temperatures scheduled to return to seasonal normalcy, even drop below 20F this week, I see a repeat of last year’s carnage.

Nature has become increasingly fickle and there’s nothing we can do about it.


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1-IrisesNext week is the end of May and spring has finally arrived…I think.  Although we’ve had some warm weather, it’s been “spotty” and our roses are confused. In late March we  thought spring was almost here with temperatures in the 70’s and then a totally unexpected snowstorm on April 4 gave us 5″ of snow.  Mother nature has been especially fickle this season.

Now we wonder when we will see our first blooms. From the notes I made in my garden journal last year, I see that All the Rage, as well as Campfire, started blooming on May 23, 2015. While those varieties aren’t even close to blooming yet, the good news is they’re chock full of buds just waiting for enough heat and sunlight to allow them to open.



Strangely what was a good winter for humans — warmer than average temperatures and well below average snowfall — was not a good winter for roses. When temperatures plummeted suddenly to minus 10F for several nights in February, the  roses were taken by surprise as were we. With no insulating snow cover to act as additional winter protection during what Mike calls the “Valentine’s Day Massacre,” the rose garden took a major hit. Because of these extremely low temperatures, our bushes experienced significant winterkill which resulted in a garden full of black canes poking out of the winter cover like a noir scene from a Steven King novel.

7-New basal growth

Basal Growth

Mike spent several days in mid April pruning away all the damage which resulted in some large, older bushes losing half or more of their size. He was sure some irreplaceable old favorites were dead. Nevertheless, he applied his special poultice and patiently waited for the soil to warm up and lo and behold,  fresh new basal breaks appeared. Other bushes that we also thought were goners gained new life with lush new growth emerging from the bud union. Now we’re keeping our fingers crossed, hoping to get some consistently warm weather to turn our garden full of buds into a garden full of  blooms in time for the RI Rose Society Rose Show on June 18. The warm weather over this Memorial Day weekend is a good start.


“Crib” rose with gnawed cane but new growth

However, one truly sour note occurred when Mike uncovered the winter “crib” in late April only to find that mice had camped out in the crib all winter and ate the bark and roots of almost all the potted plants. He had to throw most of them away but was able to save a few.

Meanwhile, I walk around the garden, noting what is in bloom. Surprisingly, our irises bloomed about the same time as last year, even a few days earlier, starting on May 14. We’re especially thankful to the friend who passed these fancy flowers along to us 2 years ago, because right now they are the Stars of our Garden! The white, purple and peach irises are a welcome sight in an otherwise garden of green!

6-First-ClematisOther signs of spring include the ever reliable blooming of our chives, clematis and catmint and the garlic planted last October is jumping out of the ground.

But as far as our roses go, we’ll just have to be patient — warm weather is forecast for this Memorial Day Weekend which is a good start and we’re hoping our roses will get into the holiday spirit.

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