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Roses from A to Z Column 10
March 3, 2007

PRISTINE becomes rose on the move

Moving Roses

Rosa Pristine
PRISTINE, in her new home, is now taller than the 6-foot fence.

By Carolyn Parker

SOME PEOPLE get a kick out of changing furniture configurations. At my house, the sofa stays put, but in the garden it’s a different story. So far this year, I only have plans to move three rose bushes. In past years, I’ve moved twenty and more in my feverish quest for the perfect garden picture. I move roses for many different reasons. Aside from the most common reason–growth habit exceeding allotted space­–other motivations are more effective color harmony, graduated size relationships, and a wish to experiment with a new look.  

Supposedly, there’s a correct time to move roses–when they’re dormant and the soil is not too wet. However, that suggestion means nothing to this passionate rose gardener. I’ve moved roses in every season, at all stages of growth, from sopping winter clay, and even during a 95º heat wave.

Because of their size, one rose expert recommends not moving mature roses. He suggests removing and discarding the rose and then planting a new one. Not necessary–unlike people, roses don’t mind being uprooted. As a matter of fact, roses are often ecstatic, if their new home better meets their requirements.

For at least twelve years, the large and remarkably robust rose, PRISTINE, grew outside our living room window. With reverse pruning, her canes avoided bumping into the glass, but the poor darling really wanted to spread out. After we put up our deer fence, and many roses had been moved into new color sections, a perfect spot became available for PRISTINE. She moved in the winter, and come spring, her rapture was evident when I spotted, at her base, above the mulch, eight new basal canes thrusting into life. More water and plenty of elbow- room allowed her to express her true personality. She’s now seven-feet wide!

I’ve also read in several places that roses don’t have taproots. You could have fooled me. Countless times in my rose removal process, I’ve come across solitary roots that go way deeper than their companion roots. No matter how deep I dig, there’s no way the root will loosen.

Advice, I have taken, came from Clair Martin, the curator of the Huntington Rose Garden. During the growing season, he suggests removing all the leaves before digging out the plant. This might sound daunting, but it’s not really that hard, just a little tedious. It saves the plant from expending energy on old growth, when it should be working on fresh new leaf buds. With Clair’s advice in mind, here are a few more tips.

Rose moving tips

However, now is the time to feed your established roses for the first time in the growth cycle.