Rise and shine!

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When the 10-day forecast shows that night-time temperatures are going to be above 34 degrees, it’s time to grab your coffee, go outside and wake up your roses!
English roses, also known as David Austin roses, combine the best qualities of old-fashioned garden and modern roses, and are famous for their repeat blooming ability and incredible fragrance.
If you have covered your roses for the winter, take off the Styrofoam cones, or burlap, etc. Don’t be in a hurry, however, to remove the mulch that is piled up around the canes. Instead, slowly remove it as the temperature warms up.
In early April, when the yellow forsythia bushes are blooming, buds will begin to swell, signifying that tiny new leaves will begin to grow on your roses. This is the time to start your spring care. One of the most important ways to have lots of English roses in the summer is to have healthy canes and leaves on your rose bushes.  The following three steps will get your roses off to a great start!
1. Give them a tidying up
Remove any dried up leaves left over from last year. If you did this back in the fall, give yourself a pat on the back.  Fallen rose leaves can harbor disease that can be transmitted to the soil, and from the soil back to the rose bush. This is the reason that they should be placed in the trash, rather than in your compost pile.
2. Give them a spring haircut
The main objective of spring pruning is to create a balanced framework of healthy canes, and to alert the rose bush that spring is here and that it’s time to start growing.
Sit down on the ground next to your rose bush.  Start your pruning from the bottom of the rose bush and move up. Cut canes that are obviously dead or diseased down to the ground. (If you’re not sure, leave it for a week. If it still doesn’t have any new growth on it when other canes do, it is dead. Cut it down.)
Remove any canes that are crossing, or rubbing against each other. If you aren’t sure which one to cut, favor the cane that will better add to the balanced structure of the rose bush and keep that one. Cut the crossing one back flush with the cane that it comes from so that it is no longer crossing, even if it means cutting it down completely.
When pruning mature David Austin roses that are three years or older, remove all canes at the base that are smaller in diameter than a pencil. New growth that develops off a cane is never thicker than that cane, so a spindly cane generates even weaker new growth that won’t be able to hold up the large blooms for which English roses are famous.
Next, it is time to trim the tops of the canes. English roses should be bushy, well-balanced shrubs. Try to keep the canes about the same length as each other and avoid having one long cane and a bunch of small ones, so that you have a nice, rounded shrub.
Find an outward-facing bud or leaf about a third of the way down the cane. Cut one-quarter inch just above the bud at the same angle and direction of the bud. The outward facing bud will turn into an outward facing cane, encouraging the rose bush to produce new canes that are directed toward the outside of the bush, rather than into the center of the bush. (This will allow more air circulation into the middle of the rose bush, which is desirable, and helpful in preventing disease.)
If you think you made a mistake, don’t worry, English roses are very forgiving, and pruning gets better with practice!
Once you have pruned your rose, clean up any pieces of cane or leftover dried leaves, and grass or weeds on the ground around the rose. Keeping the area under your rose clean from debris will help with the overall health of the plant.
3. Give them a drink, a snack, and tuck them in
Water the soil around your rose thoroughly before feeding. You never want to feed a rose that is thirsty. An easy way to remember this is to compare it with a restaurant. You always get your drinks before you get your food.
Next, it’s time to feed your rose. I use one 1 1/2 cups of Espoma’s Rose Tone plant food per rose, but there are other brands out there, as well. Spread it around the soil at the base of the rose and out to the drip line. Scratch it gently into the soil so it doesn’t clump and you don’t damage the roots. Water your rose again, thoroughly. Repeat this monthly through August and you will be rewarded with happy rose bushes. (If you are so inclined, you can also apply a systemic fungicide to protect your rose at the same time as your initial feeding.)
Although it is often recommended to push the mulch away first so the rose food can be put directly on the soil, I have found that if I wait until I have the time to do that, I never get around to feeding my roses. The rose food will filter down through the mulch with regular weekly waterings and rain, so it is better to feed on top of the mulch rather than to not feed them at all.
Next, take the time to mulch your roses with about three inches of shredded mulch or well composted manure to conserve water and keep the weeds down.
Finally, once the leaves start to develop, it’s time to start a proactive program to minimize disease. I make up a nice “cocktail” of fungicide and Miracle-Gro for Roses and apply it every 10-14 days (or twice a month) throughout the growing season so that I don’t have a problem with fungal diseases. Check the bottles to see how much of each product to use, and be sure to spray the bottoms of the leaves, where they are most absorbent.
They will give you blooms
Providing your roses with a proper clean-up, pruning, water, food, mulch and a preventative spraying program will give them the best start possible. It’s important for strong, healthy bushes.  This time spent with your roses in the spring will really pay off at bloom time. You will be rewarded with satisfying results: Happy bushes produce happy roses which result in happy gardeners!
Joanne Strevy is a speaker, writer, garden designer, master gardener, and the owner of Rosewood Gardens located in Saratoga County. She specializes in David Austin English roses and loves to design English gardens, mixing fragrant roses with cottage perennials. Joanne is passionate about teaching gardeners how easy it is to grow roses and to help them create beautiful, manageable gardens that they can enjoy for years. www.VisitRosewoodGardens.com.

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