Many rose growers are lucky enough to live in areas where additional mulch will provide all the winter cold protection their roses need. Rose gardeners in the New England states as well as the North Western states will need to take additional precautions to help their roses make it through the harsh winter. The preparations I’ve listed can be modified based on how far below zero your winter temperatures reach.
The first step is to protect your plants at the correct time. The fluctuating temperatures in early fall will cause disease and rot to your tightly bundled plants if you prepare them too early. It’s best to wait until you’ve had several frosts and you’re expecting temperatures to fall below zero soon. While you’re waiting for your weather to cool you can begin considering the best method of rose cold protection for you. If you’re unsure about the best method for your specific location consult your local master gardener association, found at your county extension office, or locate a rose savvy neighbor you can double check with.
Climbing roses and rose trees are handled differently than most shrub roses. To protect these types of roses you’ll want to dig a trench along side your plant. Then lay the rose tree or pruned climbing rose into the trench. Next you want to bury the rose with the dirt you removed from the trench and mulch over the top for extra protection.
You can get your rose into the trench one of two ways. The first is to cut through the root ball along the side opposite the trench so the rose’s root ball will be able to bend into the trench. This enables the rose to keep half of its connecting roots. If you choose this method be sure to bury the rose’s exposed root ball with dirt and mulch so it will be protected as well. You’ll then fill in the trench with dirt and mulch over everything. The other option that offers slightly more cold resistance is to completely dig up the rose with the largest root ball possible. Next lay the entire plant including the root ball into the trench. Then bury the plant with the remaining dirt and cover with mulch.
Rose shrubs and tea roses require a different type of protection. This method could also be done with a climbing rose that has been trimmed back to three feet. You’ll want to place a cylinder of wire mesh around the plant or you can also purchase ready made rose cones that will go over the top of your plant. Ready made winter protection products are most easily found on-line and in rose gardening catalogs, opposed to wire mesh that can be found at most home improvement stores.
If you decide to go with wire mesh as your structure, you’ll place the cylinder over your rose and then secure it to the ground with stakes. Once in place, fill the cylinder with seasoned pine needles, hay or dry leaves for insulation. For additional protection you can also wrap the stem and bud union with fabric or burlap before placing the cylinder over the rose. If you choose a ready made cone or other covering follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
Rose gardening in areas with harsh winter climates can be challenging. A particular rose’s winter survival can never be guaranteed, but you can certainly increase its chances. If all goes well in the spring you’ll have beautiful roses, and neighbor’s asking your advice on protecting their roses next fall.