Signs of Spring Daffodils

“It seems that Canadian Geese are one of the most followed bird groups in the US. Their overhead migrations are a sure sign of the changing of the seasons.”  ~ Lisa Shea

Canadian Honker in Flight
Canadian Honker in Flight

Nothing can lull us into thinking we have plenty of time to get ready for spring than the heater running full blast and a few snow flurries swirling around. I was idly starring out the window when what to my wandering eyes should appear? No! Not a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. Hundreds if not thousands of majestic Canadian Honkers flying in their classic V-shaped formation due north signaling the transition from winter to spring. And their haunting sound echoing across the cold, brown corn fields of Illinois. Guess what can hurl me out of my winter doldrums faster than a jet propelled water slide? That’s right! Canadian honkers on their way back to what we are thinking is still the frozen tundra. Images of icebergs floating in Lake Michigan appeared in my mind and I think “what’s the deal with these geese?”

Don’t they know its still winter? It was -8º the other day. Do they know something I don’t? Obviously they do. They know spring is just around the corner and they don’t want to be caught in the wrong zone at the wrong time of year. What are three sure signs that spring is not far off in northern climates? Canadian Honkers heading north, the first robin and little crocuses peaking out of melting snow.

Signs of Spring Daffodils
Signs of Spring Daffodils in The Little Ranch Across The Street


Tell Your Local Independent Garden Center (IGC) The Roses You Want

Listen, many folks who order roses for Independent Garden Centers (IGC) order what they feel is the ‘safe bet’ and only order traditional roses that they think will sell. And then they only carry a limited number of popular varieties like ‘Mr. Lincoln’, ‘Peace’, or ‘Queen Elizabeth’, and KnockOuts®. Lovely as they are, what if you want ‘Neil Diamond’, ‘Julia Child’, ‘Francis Meilland’ or Sunblaze® Miniature Roses? Will your IGC have them? If the person ordering roses, as they say, “doesn’t know roses” which 9 times out of ten is the case, sometimes they just go down the Weeks Roses and the Star Roses order guide and choose roses based on names they like. I know this for a fact based on my investigations. My suggestion is that you learn who places orders for roses at your favorite Independent Garden Centers (IGC); after identifying roses you want from studying the Star Roses and Plants, and Weeks Roses online catalog or any of the catalogs below then ask them to order these roses for you. But you have to do this a season ahead of when you want these roses. If you are a Consulting Rosarian work with the ordering department of your local IGC to order roses based on the American Rose Society’s Handbook for Selecting Roses rating system.

Let’s talk about what needs to be well underway for your spring rose garden. If you are in the country and cannot count on running down to your local well-stocked nursery and IGC,  that has many of the roses you see pictures of all winter on the Internet that sell roses in 3-5 gallon potted containers then you need to have placed your orders from your favorite rose catalog listed below so your bare root rose will arrive after the last hard freeze for your USDA plant hardiness zone.

Roses that will be at The Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Have you been dreaming  and planning from the selection of what you see in the magnificent Star Roses and Plants online catalog and the Weeks Roses Catalog or one of the catalogs listed below, then you better get used to the ease of ordering and planting a bare root rose. Because the roses you want may only be available from the mail order suppliers. Here are my favorite must have catalogs for selecting the most beautiful roses today. Several of the catalog sellers of roses are offering free shipping if you order through the end of February. You Pinterest fans there is no better place to start pinning then the list of online catalogs I have just linked you to below. Let the pinning begin. But better yet rather than pin roses why not plant some bare root roses. It’s easy.

Weeks Roses 2013

Star Roses 2013

Certified Roses, Inc.

Proven Winners (Oso Easy Landscape Roses)

For Love of Roses (Miniature Roses)

Weeks Roses And Star Roses are wholesaler’s. Here’s how to enhance your rose shopping experience, you could go to the online wholesale catalogs to identify the roses you want then locate a supplier who has the rose you have identified then order it if you cannot locate it your garden center. You need to get a move on. As of the first week in April I am still receiving email offers for free shipping, etc. on orders over $100.00, etc. so you can call to see if there are special offers going on.

Planting A Bare Root Rose

I want you to feel confident planting a bare root rose so I am going to go over planting and care of a bare root rose. First identify your Plant Hardiness Zone. I am in planting zone 5b according to PlantMaps and  according to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map I am in zone 6a. Most shippers of plants will ask you your zip code and identify your plant hardiness zone so they will ship to you in after the last possible chance of a hard freeze. If you receive your plants early you can plant them in pots.

Some of our savvy rose friends plant them in pots and let them harden by placing them in their green houses. I have bought potted roses and hardened them by taking them inside the warmer garage each night and taken them out in the sunshine until they acclimate to cooler temperatures than the greenhouses they just came from. However, let’s talk about what I did with the bare root roses I received early.

Look for and expect grade 1 roses:

Unpacking Bare Root Roses

  • It’s key that you unpack them immediately
  • Most shippers include very good instructions with their roses
  • Your new bare root rose should never be allowed to become dry.
  • Immediately place your roses in a large bucket of water
  • I used Haven Brands Moo-Poo Tea to soak my roses


  •  Before planting, broken or dead roots and stems may be gently pruned.
  • Now dig a hole large enough and properly shaped for each rose on 2 ½ to 3-foot centers.
  • Minor pruning of long roots is fine as well.
  • Prepare the mound in the bottom of the hole that allows the roots to be draped around it. This provides a firm base for the plant and minimizes captured air. The mound should be a height that would allow the bud union to set at ground level. While no fertilizer is used in the planting process, a cup of bone meal can be mixed in the bottom of the hole and in the mounded cone as well and I add plenty of Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss.

After arranging the roots around the cone, cover the roots with a small amount of soil and check the plant position of the plant. Fill the hole with water and let the dirt settle, repeat until ground level. With proper drainage, the water will settle in a few minutes. Firm the soil with your hands, do not stamp in. Mound loose soil or mulch around the bud union. Then after the possibility of freezing temperatures pass slowly remove the mulch until the bud union is completely exposed to the warmth of the sun.

Sunsprite Planted as A Bare Root Rose
Sunsprite Planted as A Bare Root Rose

Planting Bare Root Roses Is Easy

Many folks simply do not know that the lovely potted 3-5 gallon roses you see at the nursery and garden centers are arriving now and earlier from my favorite grower like Week’s Nursery as bare root and they are planting them in 3-5 gallon pots to leaf out and grow strong and for you to buy in a matter of a few weeks later.

There is no reason for you to be afraid of planting your own bare root roses and if you want the kinds of roses you see and can only dream of in the Weeks Catalog then let’s become one with the bare root planting process. It’s easy, fun and rewarding.





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3 thoughts on “Signs of Spring and How To Plant A Bare Root Rose”

  1. Suzy, we get lots of the Canada Geese out here in west TX also. They bed down on our little pond in town. Lots of info you included in your post. Hope you have another great crop of roses this year!

    1. Linda,
      Clearly I need you to get out there, don’t drown and snap a picture of a reaL Canadian Honker. The geese girls don’t really look like Canadian Honkers now do they? And look at their wardrobe, they look a mess.

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