Then comes the question of protection, which I am convinced is made too much of, so far, at least, as concerns gardens in the southern England counties. I live in Middlesex, and I never protect any of my roses. Out of the many I have from time to time planted I can only remember losing one. Of course, if I had given the plants adequate protection I should not have lost even that one, I imagine some ” protection ” enthusiast exclaiming. But I submit that my experience makes out a very good case for ” nonprotection “-with no political significance, I protest.
Those who have the fortune to live in the cold northern counties should protect their Tea roses, but all the Hybrid Perpetuals and most of the Hybrid Teas are quite hardy. At least, there is no reason why anyone should take any risk, for it is the simplest thing in the world to protect one’s roses. There is no need for any of the elaborate methods often advocated; a little heap Of soil 3 or 4 inches high, around and among the lower branches, is all that is required. Readers may well cry ” shame ” that I do not even take so simple a precaution to protect my own roses rather than run the risk of losing even one; and while that censure is perhaps well deserved, I protest that I am so busy writing about roses in the winter that I am apt sometimes to leave them to look after themselves. And I make bold to say that it would be all the better for many other roses if they were similarly treated.
The surest way to weaken a rose is to coddle it. Many of those who protect their plants with bracken, straw and other material, leave these about the plants until late in spring, with the result that the roses start into growth earlier than they would otherwise do, and such growth as they make beneath the seductive covering that gives them a dangerous and unnatural warmth is soft and sappy and falls an easy prey to the least frost. And when is the rose grower out of the wood so far as late spring frosts are concerned justly we may term this winter protection a ” wolf in sheep’s clothing,” especially so far as the inexperienced gardener is concerned. And why go to this trouble when mother earth is all they need, and when nothing is better or even so good for them.
Even I, who would seem to hold a brief for garden soil as if it were almost to the ground in the month of March following planting. I believe, too, that most amateurs in their heart of hearts know this as well as the professional, but they have not the courage to put the precept into practice. At any rate, they have been told times enough. Anyone with a knowledge of the likes and dislikes of roses has doubtless had the pleasure of advising a friend as to the method of pruning his roses the first spring after planting. You find that he has cut bush roses back in the orthodox way; but the climbers, those with nice long growths that seem. to say, ” Ah just leave me alone, and I promise that you shall not be disappointed ” -with those it is different. He has listened to the siren’s voice, he has started on that seductive short cut to Elysium.
Naturally, you expostulate with him, you argue, and finally, threaten his roses will all the evils to which roses are heir. But no, he has heard the entrancing call, he is enraptured, by the charm of the dreams he has dreamed, and all entreaty is vain. Since he will do so, he must tread the path, which, alas! so many have trodden-I am not ashamed to confess that I am found among the number-that leads without delay to disillusion. You are told in a more or less shamefaced sort of way that, ” I thought I ought to have cut them harder back, don’t you know; but then I was not quite sure.” And, knowing better, you interpret this as really meaning that the gardener knew that the roses ought to be cut to the ground, but that he could not bring himself to do it. How much wiser would he have been to go away for the day and commission the jobbing gardener to come in and cut off not only the heads but also the legs also of all the newly planted roses. The jobber would have had no scruples about doing it, for the more cutting the untrained worker can do the better he is pleased, as a rule.
But let me to the point, and say that every growth of every rose you plant between November and March should be cut to within three or four buds of its base about the last week in March or the first week in April. As a preliminary, the growths may be half cut away as soon as they are planted. I have one crumb of comfort for the tender-hearted rose grower. If it -does really go seriously against the grain to treat the plants in this way, then all those that belong to the wichuraiana class may be more leniently dealt with, although, personally, I treat them all alike,. I am afraid I shall need at least a paragraph to explain all that is denoted by that fearsome word ” wichuraiana -a word that, though used glibly enough by gardeners and garden writers, is more often than not misspelled. I have made sure of that extra ” a ” before venturing on this mild criticism. The original rose called wichuraiana is a charming Japanese creeping kind with very long, slender growths and pretty little white blossoms, and by cross-breeding with some other roses distinguished by large flowers of rich coloring, Dorothy Perkins and many others have been evolved. They are commonly referred to as wichuraiana roses. Well, these make such remarkably vigorous growth with little or no attention on the grower’s part that it is not necessary to cut them hard back to induce them to grow strongly. And there is the whole case in a nutshell. One may leave the best growth almost its full length, and shorten all others by about one half. So much, then (and it is much more than I had intended), about pruning newly planted roses.