Late last year, I ordered six roses from a local Armstrong Nursery
store. I went into the store to order them, and I returned to the store
to pick them up when they arrived. Today, I started planting them.
I really wanted to buy my roses bare-root, but no local nurseries carry
them that way. Instead, Armstrong's roses were potted in cardboard
pots, which are intended to be planted intact and then rot away. For
each rose, I carefully peeled away the cardboard (quite easy since it
was very wet) over a large bucket. The potting mix fell into the
bucket. I blended the potting mix with the native soil in the planting
hole along with some peat moss.
I effectively got my bare-root plants, but had to pay extra for them
being sold as potted. After preparing each planting hole, I turned my
attention to the plant. Almost every one had at least one broken root,
which I had to cut. (This is one good reason to buy roses bare-root, to
find the broken roots.) Also, the canes were generally not pruned
correctly. Several ended with 1 or 2 inches of bare cane without any
buds. Other canes ended with buds pointing towards the center of the
plant instead of outward. Several plants had dead snags, 1-2 inches long.
Why do I prefer bare-root roses? I can check for broken roots, which
might promote rot if not removed with a clean cut. Also, planting
prepotted roses in my heavy clay soil would result problems with roots
not growing beyond the potting mix. Further, if we get more rain, the
cardboard pots would hold too much water before they completely rot
away, causing the plant to drown.
Finally, bare-root roses are less likely to sprout while waiting to be
planted. One of the roses from Armstrong was already leafing out when I
picked it up. ("That's your order. Sure, it's in leaf. It's been
potted.") Because of rain, I had to delay planting until the soil dried
enough to be worked. When I went to plant it, it was in full leaf. I
still found it had to be pruned some more, but I then had trouble seeing
all the pruning defects through the foliage. This was one of those that
had bare canes extending above the last buds, but that defect was hidden
by leafy shoots originating lower on the canes.
By the way, one variety that I wanted was not available from Armstrong.
I mail-ordered it from Regan Nursery in northern California. It was
shipped in a plastic bag inside a box. There were no packing materials
(e.g., shredded wood). All roots were sound, and all canes were
properly pruned. I generally hate to mail-order anything; I prefer to
look at what I'm getting before I pay for it. But, in this case, I was
very pleased with the rose I received.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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