Hot Gardens Newsletter: May and June 2007
List of previous newsletters by
Hot Stuff. By late May TV weathercasters in
the Southwest announced excitedly that the day's temperature
reached 100F for the first time this year. For those of us
who garden in hot, dry climates, the important temperature
is around 90F, the point at which many plants begin to shut
down for summer dormancy. They stop growing. They stop
What these plants and trees need now
through autumn is regularly watering to prevent death by
dehydration. If, however, you had already planted our
'summer reliables', you will enjoy flowers in your
garden through the hot summer months.
Rosey Future. One
of our 'summer reliables' is the rose. We grow them. We love
them. We spray aphids off them in the mornings. We fertilize
them, now and then, and cut the shrubs back in winter. And
we admit that we are not rose experts.
Recently, however, we attended a
lecture by Luke Stimson of
David Austin Roses
and learned -- much to our surprise -- that all David Austin
Roses sold in the United States are grown in Arizona where
the temperature reaches 90F on a daily basis. This makes
these highly fragrant roses ideal for hot weather gardens.
Stimson advocated our favorite
practice: plant roses as part of a traditional border --
not a single, isolated specimen plants, neatly separated
and labeled, as we often see in public rose gardens. One
benefit of planting roses as part of a perennial border
is that the roots are more likely to be shaded most of
the day and the rose leaves offer shade to other
companion plants beside them in the border.
The Austin rose, 'Sir
Edward Elgar', rose grows side by side with a
Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus).
About fertilizer for roses.
He also revealed what fertilizer Austin roses receive in
Arizona: AGED horse manure -- 18 inches of it! He emphasized
the "aged' factor -- fresh manure will burn the plants in a
flash. If odiferous manure is not for you, ask for organic
mulch which combines aged manure with other components at
your local nursery. This should not be as smelly as pure
aged manure and will help bring the soil into balance.
Roses like water -- lots of it. And they need soil that
drains well. Many areas in the Southwest have hard-as-rock
clay soil so we recommend that when you plant, dig a hole at
least twice as wide as the root ball to give the roots space
to grow. Morning watering will help prevent diseases such as
About Pruning roses.
Stimson also suggested a simple, practical pruning
technique. In November or December, he said, cut your roses
back to knee height -- if you want a taller shrub or one to
train over an arbor, cut the roses back to waist height.
Austin roses thrive
against the stone walls
in Paxos, Greece -- definitely
a hot, dry climate environment.
Photo by Nick Pottinger.
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To Be Fair. Other
rose growers have developed roses for hot climates. The
important thing about purchasing roses, or any other plants
for your garden, is to inquire where they were grown
originally. Any plant that spent its early months in a damp,
cold climate will have difficulty adjusting or even
surviving when transplanted into a desert garden. We have
planted lovely specimens from an ocean side nursery only to
see them whither and die within days in the desert.