This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Hardy roses that are kept dormant over winter often fail to grow, though they may appear to have good roots and strong stems. The causes of failure are various. But the principal cause is generally from too much dryness in the keeping. A well aired root cellar where all other roots keep to perfection is often disastrous to roses. Large quantities of roses are dug up in the fall, packed in cellars, and though they may be handled with all possible care, yet, if exposed to excessive dryness through any cause, will be so exhausted of their sap by spring that they will fail to grow for any one, either amateur or professional. A rose plant that has been grown rapidly all summer has probably the least root in proportion to top, of any plant that is grown. Every commercial grower wants to get as much top as he can on a One-year plant, and the rapid growth in rich ground is too often followed by as rapid evaporation when either roots, or stems, or both, are unduly exposed to any drying influence. In a two-year-old plant the growth of the stem is more concentrated and the root is proportionately better, but not every buyer is willing to pay the difference in cost.
The material in which rose roots are packed in cellars should often be changed. Sand or earth in which roots are stored for several years generates fungus, which often literally eats them up; serious losses are often sustained from this cause.
A current of air blowing through a cellar from one door to another will dry up roots and stems more rapidly than many suppose. In the latter case watering must be resorted to, which, though a necessary evil, is better than excessive dryness. In all severe climates, where sufficient snow does not remain on the ground all winter to protect the stems of roses from the great changes in temperature, the best way of keeping them is to heel them in outdoors in any dry sheltered place, covering stems completely up with earth. No straw, corn fodder, or anything that will attract mice or other vermin should be used. From such a covering hardy roses will come out in spring in the best possible condition.
The only inconvenience of this method of keeping is, that when the spring comes late, they are not accessible for early orders. Hardy roses that are grown for two years are best left undisturbed, allowing them to make their second season's growth where they did the first. If covering is necessary it can easily be done by laying down stems close in the rows and covering up with earth from each side. Three good hands can cover up half an acre in a day. In spring it is very little trouble to loosen the stems with a fork or pronged hoe. With a little pruning they are ready for another season's work.
As a rule, pot-grown roses are better and much more certain to grow than those in a dormant state, but the plants are necessarily smaller, and it is probably more for this cause than any other, that the majority of buyers are unwilling to give the preference to pot-grown plants. A great advantage of the latter is, that they can be planted at any time during the growing season from spring to fall. Let any one who doubts this try both methods, and he will soon be convinced.
Vast sums are annually spent on roses imported from France, England and Germany, all which arrive in a dormant state, and in the handling are subject to more or less exposure; the only merit of which is size. At the end of the first season's growth, if the losses of these imported plants are taken into account, the balance will be found largely in favor of the smaller pot-grown plants of home manufacture. Perhaps, in time, the current of trade may be reversed in this as in some other industries.
Rose growers might more frequently tell their experiences with benefit to themselves and the public generally. No one individual ever knows what all know. We can learn some things even from our failures. Delaware, O. 2nd mo., //, '84.