Bill and I were discussing romance this morning, and he asked me what I thought was romantic. You know I love roses, but not a icky, chemical-laden bouquet with no scent. Thinking about traditional Valentine’s Day gifts, reminded me that it’s also a great time to compile a list of gifts for rose gardeners. Tools aren’t just for Christmas, and I bet your sweetheart would rather have a garden tool than a bunch of mass-produced, red roses for Valentine’s Day. If you do want to buy him or her flowers, check out Debra Prinzing’s Slow Flowers in coming months for local flower growers. While Slow Flowers won’t be up and running in time for St. Valentine’s Day, you will soon have a resource to find American-grown flowers throughout the U.S. That’s something to cheer about! In the meantime, if you want to know more about the flowers you place in your vases, check out Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, and you’ll never look the same way at cut flowers ever again. I still buy cut flowers, especially in winter when I can’t cut from my own garden, but I source mine from Whole Foods, and I ask questions about where they were grown. This isn’t just an issue of chemicals, but also, the people and countries who grow and harvest cut flowers.
Instead of a bouquet, why not buy a new rose bush for your love’s garden? Give him or her a gift certificate to a local rose grower. We have Roses, Inc. in Green Country, located near Tulsa in beautiful Broken Arrow. My love may be a red, red rose, but you too can find the rose of your dreams there. I found two David Austin roses already this spring. I’m trying to resist, but I bet eventually I won’t.
All winter I dream of my roses . . . what and how I’ll feed them; how they should be pruned; who is sick, etc. Yes, even with 90+ bushes, I know who is ailing. ‘Buff Beauty’ is one. She hasn’t looked this good since 2010. Why? The summer of 2011 was brutal, and disease has been a bigger problem in recent summers. I don’t spray, and I don’t use chemicals. Instead, I try to grow more disease resistant rose varieties, and I use roses in a mixed planting, excluding one bed on the side of the house. I need to work in that bed soon to get better airflow in it. I think I’ll be forced to dig up ‘Buff Beauty’ this year. We shall see. If you’d like to read more about growing roses organically, try this information from the British National Trust. While their growing conditions are quite different, the information regarding planting and disease is still spot on.
When thinking of roses, I also always think about tools to prune, feed and water my beauties and the rest of my garden each spring and summer. I hope and pray Rose Rosette Disease has departed, and I’ll have a banner year. Of course, we need rain desperately so how good the year is depends upon that too. You can water, but you can’t replace rain.
Taking care of roses isn’t hard. The main work is early in spring. Having the right tools is essential.
- I think everyone knows I write for Fiskars, but if I write about a product and include it in an article for them, you know it’s one I use all the time like my Fiskars Garden Bucket Caddy. Gardeners keep tools in all sorts of things from totes to mailboxes in the garden. However, I’m a five-gallon bucket kind of girl–they are spread throughout the garden, and I require a good compartmentalized carrier that fits like a belt around my bucket’s exterior. I’m rough on garden tools, and I need something strong. I also garden on a hill, and those floppy totes will roll down it if I’m not careful. Plus, I like to carry around a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol to clean pruners between roses. There’s some thought that gardeners are spreading RRD and other diseases due to a lack of hygiene and the Rose Rosette Virus.
- The interior space of the bucket also needs to be empty for my favorite tools like DeWit’s Dutch Hand Hoe and my small Fiskars PowerGear® loppers. In the pockets of the caddy, I also want a good pair of shears and some floral snips. Short loppers reach in between rose canes, and I use the hand hoe to work the soil around the rose’s roots and to move away mulch before feeding roses.
- A long-handled pair of loppers like Fiskars Quantum ones are essential for pruning climbing roses and large old heirlooms. These loppers are super sharp. I’m surprised the Mafia doesn’t use them for enforcement purposes.
- Rose food is a tool too. Instead of ordering Mills Rose Magic this spring, I’m trying either the Dark Forest or Prairie Gold compost from our local Minick Materials. Compost always benefits the soil, and Minick lets you buy whatever amount you need. I’m planning on a dump truck load. I’m not kidding. I garden over an acre, so that’s not as surprising as it sounds. I’ll add some alfalfa pellets to the roses as I work in the compost. I don’t think I’ll do any other feeding this spring, and I’ll watch my plants over the summer. If our drought continues and high temperatures threaten, I’ll spray everything with some manure tea or Sea Tea from Gardenville. If you don’t have farm animals like chickens, you can buy manure tea from Haven Brand.
- Pruners. Pick those that feel good in your hands. Don’t buy the cheapest ones you find. Felco is an obvious choice. So are the Fiskars Quantum pruners. I think if you have several roses, a good pair of pruners will save your hands.
- An aluminum ladder to reach the rose canes of climbing roses is essential. Just remember not to prune climbers until after they’ve bloomed. That’s when they put on their greatest growth. If you prune beforehand, you’ll reduce the number of blooms.
- A good trowel to shovel in compost or manure.
- An excellent watering wand like this one from Haws. I know it’s pricey, but it’s about the same price as cut roses during Valentine’s Day shopping. Haws produces an entire line of watering tools that don’t break and are made specifically for gardeners. Just remember to unhook your wand and drain your hoses before cold temperatures come. In Oklahoma, that can be every other day in winter so don’t forget. I still need to water things in the greenhouse so I do a lot of hooking and unhooking. I use quick-connects.
Now, your average or even passionate gardener don’t need all of these things, but they sure come in handy. Buying one or two tools–or a rose bush–for your love would be the perfect thing for Valentine’s Day–if they’re a gardener, that is.