Flowers · Gardening · Roses

How to Prepare Roses for Winter – Gardening Tips

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William Morris rose blooming in my garden. They have delicate smell and the flowers are pastel shades of pink and peach colour. It is one of the first roses I started to grow in my garden.
William Morris rose blooming in my garden. They have delicate smell and the flowers are pastel shades of pink and peach colour. It is one of the first roses I started to grow in my garden.

At this time of the year many of you in the northern colder regions of North America, Europe and Asia might be wondering how to save your roses from freezing. In this post I will describe how I do it.

Let me tell you first a little bit about my roses and  where I live.

This is my second year of keeping roses and gardening. In the first year I have purchased 4 roses, including 2 pretty delicate *David Austin’s roses – Othello and William Morris. This year I have bought 6 more roses, so presently I already have 10 of them.

I live in Canada in Greater Toronto Area, which is mostly American zone 6b, and part of GTA where I live is zone 5b. All my roses, which are usually rated as suitable for up to hardiness zone 5 or 6 have survived the previous winter. This last winter was very strange.  The weather was constantly changing from very cold to over zero, when the snow was melting. Such weather is very dangerous for roses and many other perennials since when it becomes warmer, they might start to wake up, grow and then the next frost can kill them. I guess I did something right when protecting my roses, or maybe it was just good luck, or both, that all my roses made it into the following year.

There are various ways you can protect your roses. I have researched them and I have chosen the one I like the most. I have selected  it because it provides extra protection compering to, for example, just mulching, or mostly using burlap or straw and similar materials to protect roses.

Do you know hardiness zone of your roses and where you live?

Othello rose blooming in my garden. It has big flowers and strong, beautiful rose smell. Flowers usually do not last for too long, but are worth waiting for.
Othello rose blooming in my garden. It has big flowers and strong, beautiful rose smell. Flowers usually do not last for too long, but are worth waiting for.

But before you start protecting your roses, find out if they need winter protections. Some of them, like those closely related to wild roses, are just fine without winter protection even in a bit colder climate zones. Because of that, it is a good idea to check out first if your rose needs to be protected or not. To find out the answer to your question, first check how your rose is rated according to so called plant growing hardiness zones.

Poseidon Rose in my garden. I planted it in the summer of 2016.
Poseidon Rose in my garden. I planted it in the summer of 2016.

For example some roses can be rated as hardiness zone 4, other 5,6,7 etc. Once you know the rating of your rose,  if you don’t already know it, check out in what hardiness zone you live. If you are in Canada, you can for example have a look at this website

If you are in the USA you can find your plant hardiness zone here. Keep in mind that even if you already know the answer to both questions, some areas in your garden might be warmer or colder than your hardiness zones. For example if you put your rose in a very windy spot it can be colder than if you have it in a sunny, sheltered place.

First of all when do you start protecting roses?

Rose protected from cold with mulching, chicken wire collar and burlap.
Rose protected from cold with mulching, chicken wire collar and burlap.

It depends on where you live and when there is usually a first frost date in your area. Here we have it usually around the middle of October. Roses I keep are usually Ok with just a little bit of frost and some even continue blooming even till temperatures go slightly below zero C for a while.  For example most of my roses still have leaves right now and we are almost at the end of November, and 4 of them are still blooming. Now, after stronger night frost of -6C, some blooms got frozen, but roses still have leaves.
However when the ground starts to freeze or a little bit sooner, you need to protect the roses.

Here is what I did to protect my roses last year and this year.

This is my tallest, Memorial Day rose protected from winter. I will most likely cut the sticking out branches and close the top once the leaves will fall, or if it starts snowing or becomes even a few degrees colder.
This is my tallest, Memorial Day rose protected from winter. I will most likely cut the sticking out branches and close the top once the leaves fall, or if it starts snowing or becomes even a few degrees colder.

Last year I have put some earth and cedar bark wood chips mulch on my roses roots area around the first frost time, but then I have found out I can actually wait till closer to the time when the ground freezes. I have added more cedar wood chips mulching when it become colder – about the 3rd or 4th week of November, or maybe it was already the beginning of December. It all depends on the weather, so you have to watch it out closely.

This year I have only started protecting my roses last weekend, around November 20th before we were supposed to have -6 C at night.  I have put a lot of cedar chips mulch around the roses and above their roots building a little mounds over the center of each rose (above the place where the rose was grafted into the root). You can recognize it since this graft  looks thicker and is just above the root (unless you have a rose growing on their own root). If you have planted your rose so this graft is already under the ground, you did well, since it should be a few centimeter under ground level in colder climates.

The mounds I have build last year and this year are about at least 20 -35 cm (about 10-15″). You can build even higher mounds, depending also on your rose size. Some of my roses are new and small, so I could not build too high mound or I would have to cover their leaves. This could result in rose becoming moldy and dying.

Here you can see the kind of chicken wire we have used inside the burlap enclosure.
Here you can see the kind of chicken wire we have used inside the burlap enclosure.

Before the ground has frozen, with the help of my husband, we have put 2 or 3 wooden sticks around each bigger rose (we used cedar) or rust resistant metal pipes (we have purchased pipes about 4 m long and cut them, according to the height of the roses or a bit higher). It is important to put the poles in before the ground freezes or you won’t be able to do that.

Then once it become colder and the bigger frost below zero was expected, we have put around the roses collars made from chicken wire. We did it so, the collars were supported by the poles. You can buy chicken wire of various height at Home Depo, Lowe’s and similar home and hardware stores.

Cedar wood chips we have used to protect roses in our garden.
Cedar wood chips we have used to protect roses in our garden.

We have added the collars, so the burlap fabric, which we have stretched around chicken wire collar, would not touch the roses. My idea was to allow roses some space, since, as I have mentioned, they still have leaves and some of them have flowers. I was afraid that if the burlap would get wet, it will freeze and get attached to the roses causing them to rot.

By the way, you can buy burlap at home and hardware stores and in many garden nurseries. If you have more than one rose and other perennials shrubs and small trees you need to protect, it is usually the most economical to buy in as a roll.
Once the construction was finished and burlap in place, I have added some dry leaves I collected inside the structure around lower part of my roses as additional insulation from cold and winds. You can also use straw.

Roses ready for winter.
Roses ready for winter.

I have added several photos to this article where you can see how such rose winter protection looks when done. I also show what kind of cedar wood chips I have used. The idea how to protect my roses I have got from this video on You Tube made by the University of Illinois Extension and I really like how it was done. Thank you to them for making such a great video and I highly recommend you watch it as well. I think such rose protection is better than just stretching the burlap over the roses or using cardboard. I think it is better to allow some air circulation and space for roses inside the protecting burlap cocoon.

Roses protected from cold. Some of them will be cut back a bit to allow closing of the top.
Roses protected from cold. Some of them will be cut back a bit to allow closing of the top of the burlap cocoon.

If your roses are not protected yet and your are also in colder regions, start working now to shield them from freezing before it is too late. It is maybe not the most enjoyable work to be done in the garden, but it is better taken care of sooner than later, before the weather becomes even colder.

Let me know what you think about protecting roses in this way and if maybe you know some better methods. Good luck with your roses and I hope all your roses will survive till the next growing season.

The copyright.

This article and all photographs are copyrighted by me, Renata Ratajczyk. If you would like to use any of them, please contact me. Thank you.

A note about David Austin I have mentioned in this article.

*David Austin and his son, also David, are famous rose breeder crossing different rose varieties to achieve some of the most beautiful and often fragrant roses, which the emphasis on creating roses with many characteristics of so called “old garden roses” (like rose gallica, damask and alba), but which can also flower more than once during the season (repeat bloomers). They are also trying to achieve wider colour range similar to modern roses from the hybrid teas and so called floribundas groups. You might like to check out David’s Austin official website here.

The Gallery.

You can see bigger size pictures in the gallery.

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