Roses are perennial plants that grow, die back and regrow during each year's life cycle. Roses can be propagated by cuttings, grafts or seed germination. The American Rose Society lists 48 classifications of roses, with hundreds of cultivars in each classification. The Elizabeth Park Rose Garden in Hartford, Connecticut, is the oldest municipally own rose garden in the country, with 800 varieties of roses.
Roses have been part of our planet's natural life for more than 35 million years, as fossil evidence shows. Roses were cultivated 5,000 years ago by Chinese horticulturists. Rose gardens are a part of our romantic literature and mythologies. The sacred feminine has been represented by rose symbolism in Celtic, Greek and Egyptian lore. Rose gardens have historically been cultivated as a place of beauty and repose.
The rose garden comes to life in early spring as green leaves start to sprout on the dormant rose canes. Roses thrive when given a side dressing of organic compost in early spring. Compost is a self-regulating fertilizer that responds to the plant's individual needs by releasing nutrients as needed. New rose plant cultivars may be planted in the spring and still have time to establish strong root systems before winter dormancy.
Flowers are at their peak and rose plants expend a lot of growth energy during summer. Roses prefer a long, deep soak of water once a week to light sprinkling daily. Flowers may be deadheaded to encourage repeat blooming. If you want to experiment with growing rose bushes from seed, allow a few rose hips to stay on the plant until time to prune. Ohio State University Extension recommends a routine fertilization program "because roses are heavy feeders." Mid-July is the time to fertilize in summer.
A rose garden may be finished with its strongest bloom phase when autumn comes but it is not time to prune yet. Rose bushes need to go slowly into their winter dormant period. Continue to cut flowers for indoor bouquets and deadhead blooms left on the plants. Climbing roses and heirloom roses can be pruned after they have finished blooming, as they produce blossoms on the previous year's wood.
Pruning is the most important rose garden activity of late wintertime. Roses are pruned to improve the appearance of the plant, reduce disease and encourage bigger flower blooms in spring. Pruning also allows sunlight and air to reach the mid-section of the rose bush. Experienced rose growers recommend pruning just before spring growth begins in March or April. Most roses should be pruned to a uniform height of 12 to 14 inches from the ground.