Roses take extra care - and give extra pleasure

Is there anyone who doesn't love roses?

These beautiful garden flowers have been grown and admired for thousands of years. It was one of the first flowers to become domesticated, and Greek poets sang of it and Roman matrons arranged it for flower shows.

Although they require a bit more care than some flowers, roses are not difficult to grow. In most areas, early spring is a good time to plant them. Rosebushes are graded according to a standard scale. Choose plants graded No. 1, having three or four plump green canes. They cost more than lower-grade ''bargain'' plants, but they will give vigorous growth and produce more blooms.

Select a spot in your yard that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day. If your yard is partly shaded, it is better that the sun hit the plants in the morning than in the afternoon.

Good drainage is more important than the kind of soil; therefore, be sure to choose a place where the water drains quickly. Roses need lots of moisture, but their roots will be severely damaged if they stand in too much water.

Prepare the soil well before planting by spading it to a depth of 15 to 20 inches. Most soils can be improved by working in peat moss or well-rotted manure.

Keep the roots covered with damp paper or sphagnum moss until you are almost ready to plant. Then soak the roots for about half an hour in a pail of water.

Space the rosebushes from 2 to 21/2 inches apart and dig the holes deep enough to accommodate all their roots without jamming them in. Mix a small handful of rose food or 5-10-5 fertilizer into the soil that you are going to put around the roots, then shovel a mound of it into the center of the hole.

Trim off any damaged roots and arrange the others carefully over the mound, making sure that the graft union will be one to two inches below ground level.

The graft union is a knob that forms where the desired rose variety has been grafted onto another kind of rose. This root stock, as it is called, produces a strong, vigorous plant, but inferior flowers. If planted too high, it will send forth its own shoots to compete with the more desirable variety.

After planting, flood the plants well with water. This will help settle the soil around their roots. Prune back each cane to about six inches. Make the cuts just above a fat outside bud. Always use sharp pruning shears to avoid injuring the plant.

Established roses should be uncovered in early spring, too. Prune out dead canes and burn them. Prune back live canes one-third to two-thirds of their height. Since all new leaves and flowers will come from those tiny buds, you really aren't losing a thing by cutting back the canes.

Wait to prune climbing roses until after they have bloomed.

Sprinkle rose food or 5-10-5 fertilizer around the plants, three tablespoons per bush, and work it in lightly after you have pruned them. Roses are vigorous feeders, so feed again in June when they are in bloom and a third time in July if the weather is not too hot and dry.

Don't apply fertilizer after the middle of August; it encourages succulent fall growth, which is more subject to winter injury.

A good soaking at least once a week is better than many light sprinklings. I like to use a soaker hose, because the leaves don't get wet.

Mildew and black spot, two enemies of roses, just love wet leaves. This is where many people get discouraged by all the advice about various dusts and sprays. The easiest way is to buy a good all-purpose rose-care product and apply it once a week. You can use dust or spray, whichever you like.

Mulching with bark chips or shredded leaves keeps the weeds down and conserves moisture.

Unless you are really into roses in a big way, you can save money by purchasing nonpatented varieties, such as Peace, Charlotte Armstrong, and Queen Elizabeth.

Once a developer's patent runs out the grower can produce them more cheaply and the savings are passed on to you.

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