Fall is a time when the rose garden is in all its glory. An English style formal garden takes on a wild abandon arresting us with an expression of their last hurrah before dormancy. The transitional beauty of autumn deepens the colors and intensifies textures of the garden.
The Glory of Rain
“Have you always wondered why your roses look so lush and turgid after some rain has fallen? Well, the scientific explanation is no secret. Our atmosphere contains nitrates, nitrites as well as other nitrogen containing compounds such as nitric acid (the so-called acid rain). If the soil needs a pH adjustment to the acidic side (i.e. 6.5) from neutral then the rain is indeed a much-needed tonic. However, it is the nitrates and nitrites that are immediately responsible for the lush look of the rose bush remembering leaves have breathing pores (called stomata) and can take in water and nutrients (the basis for foliage feeding). Water is the main reason foliage becomes turgid and healthy and access via the stomata is beneficial for immediate results.” Dr. Tommy Cairns
Fall Clean Up
A little cleanup will improve the beauty of your garden and allow light to reach the soil in the spring. Theories vary on fall pruning but here’s the philosophy I’ve followed for years: “The less ambitious the cleaning, the more natural your garden will look,” says Connor Shaw, a purveyor of native plants and owner of Possibility Place in Monee, Illinois.
One of the first things Shaw suggests be done is absolutely nothing. “Let things lay,” Shaw urges. “As the plants begin to die back, you can cut back — it won’t hurt the plant, and I’ve never heard one scream. But the best way to make it look good is to not prune, so you have interesting shapes.” Fall brings a mix of color, shapes and texture.
Prep For Next Spring
Gardeners can also use autumn as a time to prepare for spring. You can incorporate all organic matter back into your garden as long as you have no trace of blackspot or other problems that can survive the winter and cause a problem next spring. Mound mulch around your rose bushes with fallen leaves if you rake your lawn, hard wood or pine mulch. These organic materials keep the ground warm and protect plants as the natural materials break down adding nutrients back in the soil. Fallen leaves are a natural way to protect your plants from winter cold.
Winter A Time for Planning
Winter is time to look at your rose catalogs, plan and order roses. Remember many growers sell out early so don’t miss out by waiting too late to order.
As plants finally fall back to the earth, replacing elements — roses, climbers, and your garden — take on more subtleties of beauty, and can continue to provide structure and interest all winter. A rose garden draped in snow is a majestic site.
Sit back and enjoy. Fall and winter light is dazzling. Overcast days make greens appear greener. Sunny days make gold and orange vibrant. Spring may seem a long way off while you wait for the first bud eyes to appear, but think of what lies dormant below the ground. Your roses are protected. Now take time to pause and reflect on the garden in all of its wild natural beauty.