Rose Rant

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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