The Dirt On Roses

 No dirt on 'Snowbird'
A local horticulturalist advocates removing the potting mix from purchased plants.  He believes that the wood-based mix typically used by growers breaks down into an anaerobic sludge--an environment that kills the plant.  In the ground the plant roots are mostly surrounded by the anaerobic sludge within an outer environment of native soil--but the sludge is enough to kill.  Most plant roots need oxygen as much as they need water and nutrients.  

Could be.  Maybe.  I don't know, but it makes sense.  I have pulled plants out of the pots they spent years in, and what was left of the potting mix was indeed sludge-like.  
Future killer?
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The two roses I bought were in a mix that appeared to be mostly chipped composted wood along with a little sand.  I shook off as much of the mix as I could, and washed off the rest.  
Note the black color of the original roots and the white, thready new roots.  Interesting!  
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I planted the bare-rooted roses in unamended soil, and used the potting mix they came in as mulch.  
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Because the roots were disturbed by washing off the potting mix, I put a screen cylinder over each rose as a support for a piece of shade cloth, to protect the rose from direct hot sun for several days, until they recover.  
The pruning bouquets get smaller and smaller as the roses get fewer and fewer.
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Almost finished pruning--a few roses to transplant, some fallen litter to rake up, spray irrigation to convert to drip, ten cubic yards of mulch to spread, and then I can think about other projects.  
Such as this mess:
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Beauty still in the garden.  Mornings have been deliciously misty and chilly, clearing to mild sunny afternoons.   
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Two more Agaves are blooming--mine and a neighbor's--so the  wealth of food for Mrs. Hummer grows even more lavish.
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Besides Agaves and Aloes, Arctotis 'Burgundy' is putting on its winter show:
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I'm still quite enthralled by Magnolia stellata--it is the current favorite plant in the garden.
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Flower buds will surely appear on the Sweet Peas any day now...
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...and the pair of baby hummers grow and are becoming more feathered.  Their bills are lengthening into adult-hummer proportions.
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Mr. Hummer reappeared today, apparently trying to entice Mrs. Hummer into another round of parenthood.  Hummingbirds in our area will sometimes have a second nest and pair of eggs.  You going to help out with the babies this time, Mister?  


  1. I never knew that about roses and potting soil! Your misty morning shot is beautiful! It's looked like that here for the last few days only without the burning off / sunny afternoon part. Just that mist & drizzle or rain... What fun to see the hummers' progress!

    1. This horticulturalist is really critical of wood products for most any plant. Being a 3rd generation nurseryman, he says before about 3 decades ago plants in pots were in sandy loam soil, and did better long term. Something to ponder.

  2. Oh dear, now I'm worried as to whether I knocked off enough of the material surrounding my one and only rose purchase. I'm glad to see that the hummer babies are doing so well, though!

    1. You probably have pretty sharp drainage in your former gravel pit, so...wait, only one rose?!? Awww...

  3. I hear this on a certain nursery's soil mix from Phoenix. Apparently, only in their extreme hot soils can this die off on new plants; here, many wash their mix off and almost bare-root their plants. May need to specify that...

    The hummer shots are even better than the surreal morning mists...

    1. The stuff plants are grown in nowadays is pretty unnatural. I can see his point. I read your posts about the wrong plants gettting planted, then they plant them too high, plus you have to worry about what they were potted in--and the irrigation you specify is not done correctly--then I suppose the property owner blames you for the problems you have no control over--frustrating business!

  4. Loving that misty shot of your garden with the silhouette of the palm on the background. Potting mix that comes with purchased plants often seems to be good for short term purpose only although we rarely change them ourselves. We've had a couple of palms before that rotted only to find out they were in solid sticky clay.

    1. Believe it or not Southern California used to be pretty misty in the winter, when there was still lots of open land, before it got covered over with houses and streets and concrete. I miss that.

      Palms in clay--not good!

  5. Your baby hummers are so cute. We always plant bare rooted roses in winter. In summer it´s better to plant potted roses here. When I see the work you have already done, my hands are itching to start spring cleaning in the garden.

    1. Up until just a few years ago, bare root roses were what was available; leftovers were potted up and sold as potted. Now most every seller pots them up and sells them like that. The winters here have been so warm and dry, the bare roots dry out too fast.

  6. Contemplating adding the rose 'Dark Knight' to this decidedly roseless garden. Your little tutorial arrived just in time.


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