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Alabama Gardens: Roses to love

An ideal time to find roses to love

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February Gardening Tips

  • Order seeds for the spring and summer garden.
  • Plant roses and other shrubs and hardy perennials.
  • Plant dormant fruit, nut and ornamental trees.
  • Plant seeds for warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers and summer bedding plants, in cold frames or indoor settings.
  • Begin planting summer-blooming bulbs.
  • Prune summer-flowering shrubs now. Hold off on pruning spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom!
  • Clean out moldy or sprouting seeds before refilling bird feeders.
  • Attend gardening workshops and classes or get involved with your local gardening groups.
  • Shop for off-season garden supplies that may be on sale this time of year.
  • Repair and spruce up window boxes, lawn furniture, birdhouses and feeders, garden tools and other outdoor equipment and items.

F ebruary is not only the month to give roses to the one you love, but it’s also a fine time to plant roses in Alabama. It’s also the perfect time to find a rose that can become your botanical soulmate.

There are more than 100 rose varieties in the world and thousands of rose cultivars, with new ones coming out each year. This huge family of roses includes a plethora of botanical characteristics – roses with personalities that range from high-maintenance to practically no-maintenance; heirloom roses that have been around for centuries, as well as new-fangled roses that are the latest and hippest of the day; roses with blooms in all sorts of colors, shapes and fragrances; and roses with growth habits ranging from small, compact little wonders to larger shrub, trailing and climbing beauties.

So how does one choose among all these options? The first step is to decide where a rose fits in your garden’s design needs. You may simply want a single rose to serve as a focal point in the landscape or to fill a pretty pot. Or you may want to plant shrub or groundcover roses en-masse to cover a bare hillside or bed. Maybe you want them to serve as a hedge or screen along a property line, or maybe you’d like to drape them on a trellis or fence line. Whatever your needs, you can find a rose to fill them.

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Once you have an idea of where roses fit in your life and landscape, the key to establishing a good relationship with them is to give them a home where they can thrive. Roses typically need a sunny spot where they will receive at least six hours of sunlight each day. And they need a soil that will keep them thriving once they are in the ground. Roses prefer clayey, slightly acidic soils amended with organic matter, though they can do well in other soil types as long as the soil is well-drained and properly fertilized.

With all these endless possibilities of roses to love, perhaps the best way to start a relationship with your roses is to do a little research before you pick one, and there are many sources of knowledge to use in finding your perfect rose mate. Among these is the American Rose Society, which is the parent organization to Alabama’s five active Society chapters, which exist in Birmingham, Huntsville, Dothan, Gadsden and Ramer and contacts for which can be found at www.rose.org.

If heirloom roses are more to your liking, check out the Heritage Rose Foundation at www.heritagerosefoundation.org. Or, as always, check with your local nurseries, Master Gardeners or an Alabama Cooperative Extension office for ideas and advice. They are all great sources of help in understanding what roses will do best in your neck of the woods, advice for planting and caring for your roses and in helping you make a match that will last for years to come.

In addition to these and other organizations, there are also many great books, magazines and websites that focus on roses, a number of which concentrate specifically on growing roses in the South. Just do a web search to explore the options or visit your local library to check out a book or two that can keep you company during the cold weeks of February and maybe even kindle a new botanical romance.

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com.