Successful rose planting

Watch Bob Tomson, host of TV's ``Victory Garden,'' plant a bare-root rose and he'll have it in the ground and on the way to blooming in about the same time most of us take to pick up the spade. Mr. Tomson makes the whole operation appear exceptionally simple - which he insists it is, even for the new gardener, provided some basic rules are followed. Here are Tomson's five steps to successful rose planting:

1.In a deeply spaded, well-drained, sunny area, dig a hole 15- to 18-inches wide and equally deep. Add a quart of peatmoss or compost to the removed soil and form some of it into a cone at the bottom of the hole.

If your soil is a heavy clay, dig an even deeper hole and include some sharp builder's sand along with the compost. ``I'm convinced,'' he says, ``that more roses are lost by poor drainage than are killed by winter cold.''

2.Prune all canes back to about eight inches and remove any broken roots. Cut back all other roots to about eight inches as well.

3.Position the rose on the cone with the roots spread out evenly all around. In mild climates have the bud union, or swelling at the base of the rose, just above the soil surface; in areas where the soil freezes to any depth, have the union about 1-inches below the surface.

4.Add soil to the hole so that the roots are barely covered, and fill with water. Repeat the process after the water has drained away if the surrounding soil is dry. Add more soil to the top of the hole and firm it down with your foot (but not so hard as to compact the soil). Add more water.

5.Finally, mound soil around the canes to within an inch or so of the top. This is done to protect the canes from the drying effect of cold spring winds before the roots have become established.

Within a week or two, when the buds begin to swell, slowly remove the mounded soil (about an inch or so a day) until the natural soil level is reached. Be careful not to damage new shoots which may be growing beneath the mounded soil. Also, loosen the name tag so that it does not restrict the growth of the stem.

Once the rose is fully established and growing, Tomson recommends a monthly feeding ``with a high middle number fertilizer'' - that is, any fertilizer rich in phosphate.

If the common 5-10-5 mixture is used, he suggests sprinkling a handful around the outer edge of the bush and watering it in. Stop all fertilizing at the end of July, he says, so that the plant will have time to harden off for winter.

By following this approach, few roses have ever failed to grow for Tomson - though at one time in his career he planted as many as 10,000 a year.

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