• Carolyn Thomas

Balcony roses: so far, so good!

Updated: Jul 23

Barely four short weeks ago, I planted my first four Drift® roses (one each in red, coral, apricot and pink) out on my small balcony. These were bare root roses (essentially bare sticks attached to a bunch of roots - no dirt, no pot). For more about the advantages of choosing bare root roses, read A Bare Root Rose, or a Rose in a Pot?

At the time, it was hard to get too excited about my new balcony rose planting based on appearance alone that day. I've reminded myself every morning when I wander out onto the balcony to "survey the estate" (as my family likes to call my careful inspection tours of the tiny garden) that their little roots are busy getting nicely settled into their new home underground even when not much is happening above ground.

The leaves are opening! This is my Coral Drift® in its new balcony pot.

But this past weekend, something miraculous started to happen! Those little green buds along each 'stick' that had been slowly swelling for weeks have suddenly opened. In each of the four pots, the bright green, slightly serated (or "toothed") leaves have unfurled. They look gorgeous! Still tiny, but on their way. . .

JUNE UPDATE: My four Drifts® are growing like mad and looking healthy, with several buds beginning to form - which is good news. The not-so-good news is that with the grey and gloomy unseasonable cool spring we're having here on the west coast, the stems seem to look quite thin and frail - and not nearly sturdy enough to keep the blossoms upright once they fully open. Will we have drooping floppy stems?

JULY UPDATE: Hallelujah! All four Drifts® are now blooming - at the same time! For more on this thrilling news, read this!


Those straight sticks poking out of the dirt I'd mentioned? In rose plants, those branches are actually called CANES.

Rose canes are the branches that bear the leaves, thorns and flowers. They grow from the trunk, and may be branched themselves. Canes are usually green, or they may also be bronze, reddish or woody, depending on the rose variety and age. Apparently, my roses

will benefit from having these canes pruned back after their first winter (some sources say up to 1/3 of the plant should be cut back). I'll report back on how this pruning works out after I do the deed on them in early spring.

By the way, I've also learned that the best time to prune your roses (no matter what the variety) is when the forsythia start to bloom.

I love this kind of gardening advice because it applies to all roses in all zones no matter where you live!

Forsythia, in case you don't own one of these must-have spring plants, is a deciduous flowering shrub that belongs to the olive family. This low-maintenance, fast-growing shrub features an upright, arching form, known for long branches that fill with lovely yellow blooms which emerge before their leaves do. Even in late winter, I keep an eye out for the distinctive shape of forsythia alongside the road. They may look like dead brown sticks to the uninitiated, but put them in a big vase of water indoors, and within a week the sticks will explode into brilliant yellow blossoms. Every garden needs a forsythia bush.

Even on my four young roses, you can clearly see their 5-leaflet leaves. Sometimes you'll see a few 3-leaflet leaves close to the bloom. Other rose varieties may have 7, 9 or even more leaflets. Leaves grow on alternate sides of the stem.

These leaves are often the site of common rose problems like unsightly black spot or powdery mildew (which explains why I've been so uninterested in planting roses until this year). But the good news about these easy-care Drift® roses is they are somehow remarkably disease-resistant - among many other advantages.

TRAGIC and RELATED UPDATE: It turns out that Drift roses are NOT entirely immune to the dreaded black spot if the weather takes a wet and cold turn as has happened in Victoria, and as I whined about here. And a JULY UPDATE: what you never want to see on your roses (scary photo of powdery mildew on leaves and rosebuds of my Flower Carpet Scarlet.

Time will tell, but I'm hopeful that these beautifully healthy first green leaves will remain just as beautiful all summer long. Meanwhile, you can find out how Ben's four unplanted bare root roses are coming along in his own back garden (carefully "heeled in" to a raised bed until they're properly planted out in their planned new homes)

Until then, please remember to s-l-o-w down and smell your own roses. . .

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