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June flower of the month: Rose

Shakespeare said you could give this flower any name and it would still smell sweet. Writer Emma Goldman said she’d rather have these on her table than diamonds on her neck. Nat King Cole sang about one that rambled and had a number one hit. And if that’s not enough, it is our national flower. Of course, it could be none other than the rose.

Many people are hesitant to plant roses because they think, or have been told, that caring for them is difficult. In truth, they are no more difficult to care for than any flowering shrub.

A few hard and fast rules apply. First, choose your variety carefully. There are more than one thousand available so chances are you will be able to find at least one that will guarantee success. Second, roses love sun so plant them in a spot that will ensure six hours of sunlight daily. Third, don’t skimp on the water. A good rule of thumb is to provide an inch of water weekly. Fourth, mulch to keep soil cool and preserve moisture. Roses love magnesium and a good source is Epsom salts. Work about three-quarters of a cup into the soil around the rose bush in the spring. A soil test would be a good idea if you are uncertain how fertile your soil may be. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of pruning. Most roses should be pruned in the spring, usually when forsythia is blooming. Some roses bloom twice in one year, usually late spring and again in early fall. If your rose blooms once a year in early summer, reserve pruning until after it has bloomed. You can remove spent blooms if you have no desire for rose hips. Otherwise, ignore the spent blooms and be rewarded with deep red rose hips during the winter months. They are great for holiday and winter decorating.

A few roses that I have had great success with are: Zephirine Drouhin, a beautiful, highly fragrant dark pink climber; Albertine, a rambler that progresses from salmon colored buds to coppery pink blooms; and Rose d’Ispahan, a clear pink Damask rose that produces masses of blooms.

If you plan on giving someone a bouquet of roses, tradition says the following holds true:

Red roses signify true love. Yellow roses signify friendship, dark pink blooms mean gratitude, white roses mean purity and innocence and coral blooms cut to the chase and signify desire.

Successfully growing roses is possible, but they can be attractive to pests. If you suspect disease or pests are plaguing your roses, I encourage you to give the master gardener hot line a call.

If you have questions about roses or gardening problems in general a master gardener can help. Call the hotline at (717) 248-9618 or send an email to MifflinMG@psu.edu.