By Karen England.
British playwright and author, James M. Barrie, 1860-1937, is attributed with saying “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December” and for the Brits of his time this was, and probably still is, seasonal truth. However, for lucky us, who garden here in San Diego County, we can have actual garden roses blooming in December.
Today I grow about 60 different rose plants; hybrid teas, floribundas, heritage, David Austins, shrubs, trees, and climbers. I started out 18 years ago by planting about 70 different fragrant roses that I was going to cook and craft with so I chose highly fragrant varieties to plant. I have lost a few plants over the years, as well as, I have planted more along the way. Notably I lost an Abraham Lincoln rose to a wily gopher that I named John Wilkes Booth only to rename the dastardly critter a few weeks later to Lee Harvey Oswald after it killed another rose – you guessed it! John F. Kennedy.
My husband went to an elderly friend of his, a man who was a gopher exterminating legend supposedly, for advice on how to get rid of gophers when none of his gopher trapping efforts worked. The man said “never touch a Macabee Gopher Trap with your hands, use gloves, keep human scent off them and they will work great.” Although I thought this was ridiculous advice, my husband did not. It proved to be difficult advice for him to follow in many ways because sales people kept trying to touch the traps as they sold them to my husband who was meticulous about not getting any human oils on the traps after he was told this trick by his friend. It paid off though and Booth/Oswald the gopher was promptly dispatched and we never lost another rose to gophers – knock on rose-wood.
That said, gophers are not the only hardship faced by my roses as they grow. I am a horrible rose gardener by even the laxest of rose grower standards. I don’t fertilize my roses at all, never have. When most of them were planted originally in 2001, they received water only to become established. And because they were strategically planted along laundry leach lines they haven’t been watered since. I, and my garden help, prune them some after heavy blooms and that’s it! That’s all I do and I manage to have fragrant roses throughout the year with heavy bloom in Spring and Fall, including into December.