A little off the top: President’s Day is time to address your roses

Published 6:57 pm Saturday, February 18, 2017

Tomorrow is President’s Day and for many, the third Monday in February has been a reminder that it is time to prune the roses.

Assistant Public Works Director Jeff Richardson and his crew began the arduous task of pruning the hybrid tea roses that grow in the Memorial Garden on Monroe Street Thursday, and for those who are new to rose gardening, Richardson shared some tips on how to take care of them.

“Generally with a hybrid tea rose you take a good bit of the growth back,” Richardson said, anywhere from three to five major trunk branches or stems.

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Richardson also added that in the south it is also good to prune roses in late summer.

“You don’t prune them as severely as in the wintertime,” he said.

Roses will produce after a summer pruning Richardson said, but the new growth and blooms will not be as prolific as in the spring.

Because of this year’s mild weather many of the rose bushes did not loose their leaves, but pruning is still recommended, and as always, refrain from any fertilizing until there is no chance of a freeze, which is usually after Good Friday.

“You would not want any new growth to be killed by a frost or hard freeze,” Richardson said.

In addition to pruning, Richardson said it is also a good idea to clean out any debris from around the roots of the rose bushes, weed, let the plants aerate and then put out fresh mulch.

Floribunda roses or Knockout roses, which are a cross between the hybrid tea rose and polyantha rose have also become a popular choice in rose gardens and flower beds.

These shrub-like roses, which are unlike a hybrid that has a single blossom on a long stem, produce abundant clusters of flowers on its stems, and they too, can be pruned now, Richardson said.

“With all the shrub roses, you want to remove all the dead, get them into shape and if they are overgrown, you can severely cut them back into a manageable state,” Richardson said.

Knockouts can also benefit from a good “shot” of fertilizer, Richardson said, and even though the roses have blooms, fertilizer will encourage new growth and blooms. Richardson emphasized that it is best to fertilize after any chance of a frost.

“It pains me to see all the new growth on all the roses right now, but if you encourage it too much and we get a hard freeze and it all dies back, it will hurt the plant more than help it,” he said.

Beyond roses

Pruning this time of year applies likewise to trees, crepe myrtles and plants that have already bloomed.

“With the scrubs and trees, you need to remove all the dead wood and shape it up so it is tidy,” Richardson said, and for spring blooming plants like azaleas, spiraea and some of the japonicas pruning is done after the plants has bloomed.

Richardson suggested using a dormant oil spray on camellias to help keep them free of aphids, white flies and scale.

This should be done either when it is in bud or before it has gone to bud, he said, and not when it’s flowering.

Richardson added that dormant oil spray should not be used when the temperatures are too hot or it will burn the plant.

And like camellias, azaleas should only be treated before the plants bud or after the blooms are spent.

And when it comes to the yard, Richardson suggests giving it a good raking to rid it of any dead material, which can kill the grass, promote fungus and or bugs.

Weeds can be treated with herbicides, Richardson said, but the temperature has to be about 60 degrees to really work with some of the hard-core weed killers requiring the temperatures be higher.

For those who love gardening and are trying to figure out how to manage a multitude of time constraints and hoping to get everything done, not to worry, Richardson said.

“Gardening is forgiving, mostly. At my house and even for the city, I never get to do everything I want to do because stuff happens and the weather changes.”

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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