Bare root roses 2

Planting Guide for Bare Root Roses

Bare root roses are an excellent way to establish a new rose in your garden. Follow these 5 easy steps to ensure your rose gets off to a great start.

Before Planting – If you cannot plant right away, keep the roots covered in soil or mulch and keep watered to ensure they don’t dry out.

Step 1 – Remove the elastic bands

The roots are wrapped in elastic bands for transport, these need to be removed before planting!

Step 2 – Rehydrate the rose

Submerge the rose roots in a bucket of water for at least 30 minutes to allow the rose to rehydrate before planting.

Step 3 – Prepare the hole

Dig a large hole, approximately 2’ wide by 2’ deep. Make sure to loosen soil up at the bottom of the hole. If existing soil is poor quality, make sure to add a good quality garden soil when planting. This is also the time to add bone meal and rose fertilizer to ensure strong growth in the first season. If adding rose fertilizer sprinkle in the bottom of the hole and add soil on top to prevent the roots from coming in direct contact with the fertilizer.

 Step 4 – Planting the rose

Planting depth bare root rose

Fig 1. Planting depth for bare root roses in the Pacific Northwest.

Mound soil in the centre of the hole so that the roots lay on top of the mound of soil. This will help to prevent any air pockets from forming.

If adding new soil, make sure to mix it in with the existing soil so that the change in soil type is gradual for the plant as it grows.

Plant the rose so that the bud union is at, or just slightly below, ground level. The bud union is the swollen area where the stems arise from the root stock.

Fill in hole with soil about half way making sure there are no air pockets and water thoroughly. Once water has drained fill in the rest of the hole with soil and water generously.

 Step 5 – After Care

Make sure to keep the rose well watered, especially in the first year. Roses are heavy feeders and will benefit from regular fertilizing.

Hellebore Tutu 400x

Irresistible Hellebores

By Susan

Hellebore 'Tutu'

Hellebore ‘Tutu’

It’s hard to resist the siren call of hellebores.  Winter blooming, in a wide variety of colour and form, they are long lived and don’t even need dividing. All that and they are both drought tolerant and deer resistant! No wonder we love them.  They are the most collectible of plants.

Helleborus niger aka Christmas Rose and H. orientalis aka Lenten Rose are the species we are most familiar with.  Hellebores seed themselves freely and are notoriously variable.  That variability has long fascinated plant breeders, who had to grow their different coloured plants miles apart from each other in order to have some control over pollination.  Growing hellebores was always a bit like hosting a pot luck dinner, they never knew what they were going to get.

The real challenge though, comes in duplicating hellebores.   It’s only relatively recently, thanks to new techniques like tissue culture, that hellebores have been readily available commercially.  Hellebore varieties are still often sold as ‘seed strains’, meaning that one will be similar to others in the group, but rarely the same.  They have become complex hybrids, known botanically as Helleborus x hybridus.

Separating Seedpods

Seedpods are individually bagged and collected by colour strain.

Hellebores have come a long way from their original murky shades of pink and white, thanks to breeders like Marietta O’Byrne from Oregon’s NorthWest Garden Nursery.  Her ‘Winter Jewels Collection’ features doubles and singles, rich colours and intricate patterns which result from hand pollination and careful selection.  Even their names are irresistible – ‘Berry Swirl’, ‘Onyx Odyssey’, ‘Golden Lotus’,  ‘Apricot Blush’ to name a few; they even sound enticing.  The colour and form of each plant will be similar to others in the strain, but again, rarely identical.
Through successive generations the colours become more stable, and the strains improve.  Hellebores can be expensive, but considering the amount of work that goes into producing them and the fact that they will live for years, they can be considered an excellent investment!

The Same But Different:

Onyx Odssey

Onyx Odyssey

Hellebore 'Berry Swirl'

Hellebore ‘Berry Swirl’


How to Grow Hellebores
We think of hellebores as woodland plants, but in their native Eastern Europe they are found growing in open sunny meadows in alkaline soil.   They are very adaptable though, and will thrive in a lightly shaded acidic woodland.  Although they are drought tolerant, hellebores are at their best in moist, rich, well-drained soils.  At planting time, dig in plenty of leaf mould, garden compost or mushroom manure.   Additional feeding is not usually needed, but an occasional application of a balanced slow release fertilizer won’t hurt.  Mulch occasionally in spring with compost.

It’s a good idea to cut off all the old foliage just as the flowers are starting to emerge.  For one thing, the flowers will show better when the foliage is cut away, but the main reason is to keep the plants healthy.  By spring the old foliage is ratty looking and buggy.  Removing it will allow the new foliage to stay clean.  Put the old foliage in the garbage, not the compost.

Warning: Buying hellebores can be habit forming and can lead to obsession!

If you are interesting in exploring the world of hellebores the Plant Delights website is a great place to start


cotinus during v1

Spring Haircuts For Shrubs: Pruning To Avoid ‘Bad Hair Days’

I look back with horror on how I used to prune my shrubs. Akin to a “bowl cut” for hair, basically I just trimmed off the ends of branches to keep shrubs the size and shape I wanted, resulting in a “witches broom”, a scary hairstyle indeed. Alternatively, I didn’t prune at all, favouring the wild and wooly look.  It’s embarrassing to think of the Buddleia that I had to support with  a complicated rigging of stakes and twine. Then I took a 4-session pruning class with Patty Brown, at the Horticulture Center, and my gardening life changed. Always ask yourself ‘Why do I want to prune this plant?’ Here are three of the main reasons. Training—To direct the growth in a direction that you choose. Cut to a bud which faces in the direction you want the branch to go. Maintenance To enhance the health of the plant. Removing dead, diseased, or damaged wood (the famous DDD); removing branches that cross, rub, or otherwise impinge on the space of their fellow limbs; increase air circulation. RejuvenationThis is often drastic and requires experience. Don’t attempt to do this all in one year; the process may take several years, with some rejuvenation pruning done each year on an old, decrepit and suffering plant. Sometimes better to buy a new one.

The joke in the class was that we had to prune all of our deciduous shrubs on March 1 at 2pm; a rule meant to be broken, but a guideline to follow. The rationale is that the sap is about to flow, bringing food and energy gushing to the freshly cut branches, stimulating new growth.   Pruning in the dead of winter when it’s cold and wet can invite rot on the cut surfaces, so March 1st gives the best of both worlds; the plant is dormant but growth is about to begin for the new season.

To prevent loss of the current year’s bloom, follow the adage “If it blooms before June, you don’t have to prune.”  Well, you do have to prune, but not now.  Wait until after flowering to prune your spring bloomers. We learned that there are only two main types of pruning; heading back, and thinning. That witches broom I mentioned is from heading back incorrectly.

This hydrangea will be both headed back, (cut to a fat bud on the bare stem) and thinned as well (by cutting out one quarter of the oldest branches to the ground).

Heading back is to shorten branches, direct growth, or maintain size, but is also used to keep some shrubs tidy and full, as in shearing hedges or small-leafed evergreens such as boxwood, heather, etc.  Remember that at any cut point, new growth will erupt, so you must decide whether you want a burst of new green, or just a more controlled response.  I have a Rose Glow Berberis right beside a pathway, and if you’ve ever crossed swords with one of these, you’ll understand the value of heading back in a responsible way, to keep it within bounds but not encourage rampant re-growth. I always shorten the branches by cutting to a smaller side branch that is aimed away from the path.

Many of our favourite shrubs benefit from being totally cut back every year, in a technique called coppicing, which is a fancy word for cutting off all the branches just above ground level (a severe form of heading back). This encourages strong new growth, and bountiful bloom on the ones that flower on new wood such as Lavaterra, Buddleia, Leycesteria Formosa (Himalayan Honeysuckle), Hydrangea arborescens eg Annabelle,  Hydrangea paniculata eg Limelight.

Think of how much energy this Buddleia has wasted putting on these leaves. The pruning should have been done a few weeks ago.

All ready to start growing.

The very popular red-twigged dogwood, Cornus stolonifera, is another candidate for coppicing, as the new growth is always much redder and more vibrant. A newly coppiced Cornus will sprout new red growth quickly and make a much more stunning specimen in the following winter.

Thinning cuts are exactly that; meant to thin an overcrowded shrub by removing branches at their point of origin —either at the ground, from a larger branch, or from a Y-joint junction.  Entire shrubs can be gradually renewed by taking out one quarter of the oldest branches, to the ground, each year.

Broadleaf evergreens can also be pruned now unless flowering is an issue. This is usually done by heading back, ie. as in maintaining a hedge, or with thinning cuts to eliminate crowding.  The burst of new spring growth will cover up any stumps or stubs. Pruning at this time of year gives us the gardening fix that we so need, and only ‘good hair days’ for our shrubs.

Cotinus before coppicing

Cotinus being pruned

Coppiced cotinus.