THE owner of every garden tries to grow roses in it, but where one succeeds, ten fail. Perhaps I would be safe in saying that ninety-nine out of every hundred fail, for a few inferior blossoms from a plant, each season, do not constitute success, but that is what the majority of amateur Rose-growers have to be satisfied with, the country over, and so great is their admiration for this most beautiful of all flowers that these few blossoms encourage them to keep on, season after season, hoping for better things, and consoling themselves with the thought that, though results fall short of expectation, they are doing about as well as their neighbors in this particular phase of gardening.
One does not have to seek far for the causes of failure. The Rose, while it is common everywhere, and has been in cultivation for centuries, is not understood by the rank and file of those who attempt to grow it, therefore it is not given the treatment it deserves, and which it must have, in order to achieve success in its culture. When we come to know its requirements, and give it proper care, we can grow fine Roses, but not till then. Those who form an opinion of the possibilities of the plant from the specimens which they see growing in the average garden have yet to find out what a really fine Rose is.
The Rose is the flower of romance and sentiment throughout the lands in which it grows, but, for all that, it is not a sentimental flower in many respects. It is a vegetable epicure. It likes rich food, and great quantities of it. Unless it can be gratified in this respect it will refuse to give you the large, fine flowers which every Rose-grower, professional or amateur, is constantly striving after. But feed it according to its liking and it will give you perfect flowers in great quantities, season after season, and then you will understand what this plant can do when given an opportunity to do itself justice.
The Rose will live on indefinitely in almost any soil, and under almost any conditions. I have frequently found it growing in old, deserted gardens, almost choked out of existence by weeds and other aggressive plants, but still holding to life with a persistency that seemed wonderful in a plant of its kind. I have removed some of these plants to my own garden, and given them good care, and time after time I have been as surprised as delighted at the result. The poor little bushes, that had held so tenaciously to life against great odds, seemed to have stored up more vitality in their starved roots than any others in the garden were possessors of, and as soon as they were given good soil and proper care they sent up strong, rank shoots, and thanked me for my kindness to them in wonderful crops of flowers, and really put the old residents of the place to shame. All through the years of neglect they had no doubt been yearning to bud and bloom, but were unable to do so because of unfavorable conditions, but when the opportunity to assert themselves came they made haste to take advantage of it in a way that proves how responsive flowers are to the right kind of treatment.
The Rose will only do its best in a soil that is rather heavy with clay, or a tenacious loam. It likes to feel the earth firm about its roots. In light, loose soils it never does well, though it frequently makes a vigorous growth of branches in them, but it is from a more compact soil that we get the most and finest flowers.
HYBRID PERPETUAL ROSE
Some varieties do well in a soil of clay containing considerable gravel. Such a soil provides for the roots the firmness of which I have spoken, while the gravel insures perfect drainage, - a matter of great importance in Rose-culture. Success cannot be expected in a soil unduly retentive of moisture. Very heavy soils can be lightened by the addition of coarse, sharp sand, old mortar, and cinders. If the location chosen does not furnish perfect drainage, naturally, artificial drainage must be resorted to. Make an excavation at least a foot and a half in depth, and fill in, at the bottom, with bits of broken brick, crockery, coarse gravel, fine stone - anything that will not readily decay - and thus secure a stratum of porous material through which the superfluous moisture in the soil will readily drain away. This is an item in Rose-culture that one cannot afford to ignore, if he desires fine Roses.
A rich soil must be provided for the plants in order to secure good results. This, also, is a matter of the greatest importance. The ideal fertilizer is old, well-rotted cow-manure - so old that it is black, and so rotten that it will crumble at the touch of the hoe. On no account should fresh manure be used. If old manure cannot be obtained, substitute finely-ground bonemeal, in the proportion of a pound to as much soil as you think would fill a bushel-basket, on a rough estimate. But by all means use the cow-manure if it can possibly be procured, as nothing else suits the Rose so well. It will be safe to use it in the proportion of a third to the bulk of earth in which you plant your Roses. Whatever fertilizer is used should be thoroughly worked into the soil before the plants are set out. See that all lumps are pulverized. If this is not done, there is danger of looseness about some of the roots at planting-time, and this is a thing to guard against, especially with young plants.
Location should be taken into consideration, always. Choose, if possible, one that has an exposure to the sunshine of the morning and the middle of the day. A western exposure is a great deal better than none, but the heat of it is generally so intense that few Roses can long retain their freshness in it. Something can be done, however, to temper the extreme heat of it by planting shrubs where they will shade the plants from noon till three o'clock.