Activities for seniors to keep busy #2 growing roses

The world is a rose, smell it and pass it to your friends. ~ Persian Proverb

Roses have long been treasured by those lucky enough to receive them. A universal symbol of love and caring, couples and couples-to-be as well as family and friends share them on every occasion.  And for those perfect roses, those symmetrically splendid specimens wafting that marvelous scent that only a rose can, there is nothing better.

Growing roses and maintaining a rose garden is a passion pursued around the world so it is not surprising that many trophy roses are carefully nurtured in backyards and planter boxes of senior citizens. With time to spend and attention to lavish, growing roses and seniors is a perfect match. Everyone wins as the proud gardeners keep busy and share the fruits of their labors while the rose itself  benefits from tender loving care throughout its lifetime.

Although many of us may like to try our hand at growing roses, it does require a basic knowledge and commitment that some find daunting. But with the right how to grow rose guidance, the experience can be truly rewarding.

It is our premise that upon retirement, senior citizens want to keep busy pursuing worthwhile endeavors and since I happen to have access to a master rose grower – aka my dad – senior project #2 will be how to grow your own rose garden or at the very least, grow one rose bush and see what you think. Dad has been growing beautiful, healthy, to-die-for roses for about 50 years now. He has learned through trial and error how to do it right and with his guidance I will share that intimate knowledge with you. Let’s grow some roses!

I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall. Eleanor Roosevelt

Growing roses

Here are a handful of important variables to address if you want to grow roses like Dad. HEADS-UP – through the years, the only books he read about roses came from Sunset Magazine in small pamphlet form. The relevant information should be contained in Sunset’s Roses: Placing Roses, Planting & Care, The Best Varieties.

Where to plant your rose bush – roses thrive in sunshine as well as dry conditions and heat. Although they can grow in indirect sunlight, the best results are achieved in direct sun.

(2)    Selecting the right rose for you – ask yourself what is the purpose for your roses – what is your goal? Do you want to beautify your garden and enhance the landscaping in which case something like a climbing rose may be your choice?  Or do you want to grow roses to cut and make splendid arrangements inside the house in which case the hybrid tea is best?

Additionally, depending on your chosen rose, you may decide to go with a potted plant which comes in a peat-moss-like container that disintegrates when you put it in the ground. Or you may choose a bare-root rose which is a bit cheaper but a little more sensitive when planted.

(3)    Where to buy your rose – Dad recommends purchasing your rose at OSH or your local nursery rather than places like Target or Home Depot. You may spend a few bucks more but with the work you will put into your new hobby, you want to start with as healthy specimen as possible.

(4)    Digging the proper hole – the hole you dig for your rose should be significantly bigger than the plant itself. Dig out a space that is twice the width of the container holding the rose and about two feet deep. Mix the dirt from the hole with a general multipurpose potting soil such as Miracle Grow Potting Mix or similar that you have in your garden shed to create a new soil that is a 50/50 mix. Put some of this mix in the bottom of the hole and use the rest to fill in around the rose.

(5)    Watering – this depends on your location and weather conditions, things like wind, temperature, etc. What you want to do is build up the dirt around the base of the plant so when you do water, it collects there and gradually sinks into the roots of the rose. Dad typically waters three times a week in summer and less in winter, basically keeping an eye on how dry the surrounding dirt is. Occasionally you may want to deep-water the plant, turning on the hose at a trickle and soaking down to the roots of your plant. Everyone loves a nice long soaking on occasion.

“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” – Tom Wilson, from the “Ziggy” comic strip

(6)    Fertilizing – when you begin to see green leaves on the buds of the rose bush, it is time to start fertilizing. Feed your roses frequently – every 6-8 weeks – using rose food that also provides resistance against disease such as Miracle-Gro Rose Food. Might as well take a shot at the pests at the same time since the cost is the same.

(7)    Spraying for pests – speaking of those little beasties, you will want to keep an eye on your rose for tell tale signs of pests. Aphids are lovers of roses maybe even more so than we are. When you see their little plump green bodies typically under leaves or around flower buds, it is time to spray. Dad goes with Malathion Plus Insect Spray Concentrate from ORTHO but there are other malathion options – just keep the concentration at 50% or better. There are insecticides other than malathion which is not necessarily the greenest option available – check with your local nursery for effective alternatives.

To head off fungus threats like powdery mildew, rust, and black spots, he recommends Garden Safe Fungicide. HEADS-UP: if you find any of these pests on a single rose bush, it is time to spray all of your rose bushes to prevent spreading.

(8)    Tracking your actions – Dad keeps a notebook to track when he treats which plants with what products to see what works best over time. Roses are only part of his garden as he also monitors this for the lawn, citrus, and camellias, each requiring a little different treatment of TLC.

(9)    Cutting your trophy rose – all of your hard diligent work has come to this moment when you select the roses for your centerpiece arrangement, the best of the best that will showcase your creations for all to see. Not a complex procedure, you basically snip the rose at the desired length and away you go. One more HEADS-UP from Dad – “prune while you go” or in other words, take this opportunity to cut away dead and over-the-hill flowers to keep the plant healthy with all effort focused on growing more good roses.

As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round. ~ Ben Hogan

There you have it the secrets of a master rose grower and a solid introduction to grow your own roses. And your total investment – depending on the number and variety of roses you select – is under $100! What I have documented works very effectively for Dad living in Stockton California. Growing up, I vividly remember how we were ever amazed with what showed up each night in the vase on the dinner table.

As for which rose varieties to go with, there are MANY to ponder but a few of our favorites are Mr. Lincoln with its deep red magnificence and the Double Delight which we agree is the best smelling of all. Part of the fun is in searching for your personal favorite!

Welcome to the world or roses. Good luck and enjoy. And remember, after all of your work, don’t forget to take time and smell the roses…

If you are looking for other worthwhile activities to keep busy take a look at our senior activities #1 Save pictures to preserve your family history.

A Few Additional Rose Growing Resources:

If you learn better from video input, try – short presentation that starts at the beginning with how to best prepare the hole and bush for planting.

Here is a website with basic information in selection of the right rose for your region as well as basics to keep them alive:

Stay Tuned for the next keeping busy activity for seniors where we will reveal another worthwhile way to spend your retirement days.

5 thoughts on “Activities for seniors to keep busy #2 growing roses

  1. My wife and I grew roses in our garden in the desert climate of Arizona. It was not easy. The extreme heat will burn up everything but the hardiest varieties. Even with the best care rose bushes generally only last 7-8 years.

    We went through all that because we love the look of fresh cut roses. All that effort paid off when our 17 bushes produced red, yellow, light purple, white, orange, and pink blooms.

  2. Roses are OK, and that was a great post on the subject. I prefer organic vegetable gardening. Same joys, but you get to eat your handiwork, and it’s good for ya.

  3. I have grown roses for some years but lately in my new digs on a rockpile with inferno summers, they just aren’t as easy as before. Still roses can give you purpose because for the most part, they take work and if you are looking for an activity that requires commitment, they fit the bill.

  4. One needs roses, but I also need Russian sage, geranium Rozzanne, lavender, Lillie’s, alliums, hosta, coral bells, etc., etc. Gardening is time user that brings great joy while you are doing it and even greater pleasure when you sit and enjoy the results. The best of all is to find some small plant that has beautiful leaves in the winter or flowers in Nov. or February in my zone 6 garden.

    • Bobbi I would love to see your garden! Sounds beautiful. I am planning on planting 3-4 roses in the front yard next week hoping the intense sunlight will be just what the doctor ordered. I plan to follow the guidelines from my dad (where the article came from). Enjoy those flowers!

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