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Everything’s Coming Up Roses

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Do you look at the world through rose-colored lenses? In competition, do you come out smelling like a rose? Do you strive to have a rosy outlook on life? There’s no shortage of expressions about roses in the English language. This queen of flowers is one of the oldest in history, likely originating in Asia about 5,000 years ago. Roses have played an important role in poetry, music, religion, art, literature, medicine, perfume, home decor, fashion and more.

Long associated with love, the rose is the first thing you think of to offer your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day or to tell your mom how much she is loved and appreciated on the first Sunday of May. I clearly remember a single red rose given to me by my college boyfriend. He pilfered it from the campus rose garden! It was carefully wrapped in the tissue from a Florsheim shoe box and still had thorns on the stem. It must have made a favorable impression; we’ve been married for 40 years!

Roses are a star in the garden. They thrive in full sun and they like rich, well-drained soil. They need regular water and fertilizer and an annual pruning. We prune roses, traditionally around the first of the year, to force them into dormancy during the winter months. This allows the plant to store up energy in its roots to put forth the spectacular first flush of blooms in springtime, often in time to coincide with Mother’s Day.

There are seemingly endless varieties of roses, but did you know that over 80 percent of our nation’s roses are grown here in California? The majority of these are grafted on a single variety rootstock known as Dr. Huey, chosen for its adaptability and ease of propagation. Visit the town of Wasco in Kern County to see rose cultivation up close. This small town is a nationwide hub for rose bush production.

Roses can be planted already potted or as dormant bare-root plants. Container roses are easy to plant and get established quickly. You can purchase them throughout the growing season. Bare-root roses generally offer a greater selection of varieties but require a little more care to thrive. You will need to soak the roots overnight before planting and keep the plant moist for the first few months. All roses are best planted in the spring after the last frost, or in the fall well before the first frost. Space them at least three feet apart to allow ample room for growth. If pesky insects such as aphids come to feed on your roses, you can usually control them with a blast of water from the hose in the morning or a treatment with insecticidal soap.

Share the beauty of your roses! Using sharp garden pruners, cut roses when they are just beginning to open and while they are dewy fresh in the morning. Recut them again at a 45-degree angle before placing them in a vase, stripping off all foliage that falls below the water line. Whether it’s a single bud or a bountiful bouquet, roses you cut from your garden are the perfect way to say I love you.

The Sentiments of Rose Colors
Red: Passion, Romance, True Love
White: Purity, Loyalty, Innocence, New Start, Eternal Love
Yellow: Friendship, Joy, Caring
Pink: Appreciation, Admiration, Grace, Sweetness
Peach: Sincerity, Gratitude


Laurie Eager is the author and illustrator of In Papa’s Garden. A seeker of beauty every day, she works part time as an interior designer, loves adventure travel, all things French and dark chocolate. She lives in Stockton with her husband, Steve, and can be found most mornings enjoying a cup of coffee and the first rays of sunshine in their abundant vegetable garden.