Winter Rose Bush Care for the Reluctant Husband

Written January 4th, 2013 by
Categories: Gardening

Photo by Gerald Kennedy

Photo by Gerald Kennedy

Every few days my wife comes up with something “we” need to do around the house. Naturally the “we” means “me”, as in “I”, the husband. Well—I have better things to do, but I have to live with her, so “we” will do “her” things around the house—sometime. The current project is winter rose bush care. It’s cold outside (for Texas), so I’ve convinced her the best thing is to sit cozy warm in the house and plan the project. So, this is what I should have done, or will do unless I can figure a way to get out of it.


To put things into perspective my wife comes home from anywhere and literally swoons over all the great roses on display everywhere but our house. Several years ago I started buying a rose bush on her birthday. I’d plant it along the driveway for her to see when she comes home. Of course I’d have to dig it up and replant because it wasn’t quite in line. The wife would look at the humpy-jawed branches rather than the main rootstock and want it moved a tad this way or that—several times. Hey—anything to keep her happy. The dirt was soft, only one rose (at a time), and it was her birthday! Now we have six rose bushes in a jagged line along the driveway. We had seven, but one died during a drought. My wife has a grey thumb and can kill any plant known to mankind. I now water in between her bi-monthly or quarterly irrigations. Her reasoning is that trees survive so rose bushes should. Okay…


One thing that really bothers my wife is the grass in the strip of ground along the driveway where the rose bushes are planted. I just mow up to the bushes and go on. She wants the ground cleared two feet around each bush with bark mulch carefully placed in perfect circles. The neighbor’s professionally maintained rose bushes are touted as an example. After much verbal abuse, discovering the weed eater won’t start and I can’t find the hand clippers, I sneak the biggest scissors out of the wife’s sewing room and trim the grass around the bushes right down to the dirt. Replacing the scissors is problematic, but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Famous last words.

So—what I should have done when I planted the bushes is clear the ground and mulch. My favorite mulching method is to place cardboard, newspapers, or landscape fabric around plants and cover with bark, leaves, or compost. I have piles of junk mail compost that work fine. Regular mulching aids in moderating seasonal temperatures, conserves water, and helps keep grass and weeds down.


I was able to get out of pruning for several years by saying the rose bushes need to establish good roots before cutting the stalks back. I used the bush that died from lack of water as an example of why we should wait. I guess I’ve milked the excuses long enough. The bushes really do need pruning. On a happy note pruning needs to be done in early spring just before buds emerge so I still have a few months.

Pruning is for removing old, damaged, diseased wood, reshaping the bush, and providing sustainable, productive canes and branches. Different rose types may require different pruning methods, but I have no idea what we have. I just bought what the garden center had on hand. Since my bushes have been ignored for so long I’ll do a hard (6” to 8” high) or moderate (16” to 18” high) prune depending on condition of individual plants. General pruning should be done in the early spring before buds become really active. Cut just above outward facing bud eyes at a 45 degree angle away from the bud.  The idea is to naturally help the rose grow an open center.  Suckers, canes sprouting from original root stock, need to be cut back to the main stem or root to discourage regrowth. Dead-heading is what I call the harvesting of roses done by the wife. It doesn’t matter to me how she cuts as long as she is happy. The roses look great and smell nice. Nothing beats a happy wife displaying roses “she” cared for…

And this is how a reluctant husband cares for roses. A general search online will reveal thousands of sites if you have a deeper interest in the care and feeding of roses. Here’s a couple to start with.

Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture
University of Illinois Extension: Our Rose Garden
American Rose Society

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About the Author:
Gerald is a freelance writer based in central Texas. A life in technical services, construction, underground mining and varied outdoor activities give him a solid foundation and pool of experience from which to write. In his spare time he designs and builds wood composite kayaks, canoes and paddles.

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