Saturday, October 6, 2012

Overwintering Potted Roses in the Garage

I contend that, if you want to learn anything about winter-protecting roses anywhere in the world, ask someone in Minnesota.  Historically, Minnesotans have experienced some of the harshest winters in the lower 48 states and that has given rise to the most unique ideas of winter rose protection you will find anywhere (witness the "Minnesota Tip").  I always chuckle when I read nationally published articles about winter protecting roses in zones 6 or 7, earnestly describing their "harsh" winters.  I grew up in zone 6 (Detroit) and all we ever did was rake leaves around our hybrid teas, with never a winter-kill problem.  Obviously not so in Minnesota, despite the fact that our winters have gotten significantly warmer in the last ten years or so. We're feeling a lot more like zone 5 than zone 4 these days.  (See my blog post: Climate Change in the Rose Garden:
 http://jack-rosarian.blogspot.com/2012/06/climate-change-in-rose-garden.html  ).

The members of the Twin Cities Rose Club (TCRC) are a bunch of smart northern gardeners and some of the best rose-growing ideas get published in the TCRC Newsletter, month-to-month.  A recent article by my friend Chris Poppe really caught my eye and I asked her if she would let me pass along her excellent article "Over-wintering Roses in the Garage" to the readers of the Minnesota Rose Gardener blog.  She enthusiastically agreed, so here we go.  Chris is a recently retired teacher from the Minneapolis Public School System; a smart lady with a beautiful rose garden on a small lot in Minneapolis (hey, she even grows broccoli alongside her roses)!  She's also the program chair of the TCRC.

Here's her article, along with some very good "how-to" pictures:


Over-wintering Roses in the Garage
 
by Chris Poppe
 
Every year, as I pile potted rose bushes (sans the pots) into the trench where I bury my tree roses, I wish that I could just leave some of them in their pots for the winter and save myself a lot of work.  But, that would only mean that I’d have a lot of dead, potted roses come Springtime.  So, I dig and bury until they’re all covered. 

Then, last year I went to the open garden offered by John and Char Turek at their farm in Chaska.  John has over 300 rose bushes in his garden - about 90% of them grown in pots.  Every Fall, John gives them all a good watering, cuts them way back and moves them to an insulated, but unheated, part of his barn, where they rest for the winter and emerge to grow and bloom another year.  Some of John’s roses are 5-10 years old and have lived in pots all their lives. 

That got me thinking.  Where and how can I replicate John’s storage area?  Living in the city, I have no barn, but I do have an unheated but sort-of- insulated garage.  Hmmm.   It’s a double garage and I have only one car, but it’s also the winter home of all my outdoor furniture (tables, chairs, glider, settee, etc), garden decorations, potting bench, lawn mower, wheel barrow, bicycle, etc. etc. etc.  Along the East side and into the SE corner, I have an old wooden picnic table which serves as a storage area for a lot of the folding furniture.                                                                             

I decided to build my winter rose shelter in that SE corner, so I shoved the picnic table about 3 feet to the North and lined the back and floor of the space with foil-faced, roll insulation.  I wedged a piece of 1” foam insulation into the space along the back wall of the garage, put another piece of foil insulation on the opposite “wall” and put a second piece of foam on the floor on top of the foil, so the pots would be separated from the floor.

The picture below shows the the start of the enclosure-building, with foil on the back wall and extending across the floor, a piece of foam insulation on the right wall and, although you can't see it, another piece of foam on the floor under the foil insulation.




Below is the enclosure as it was being constructed. The curved piece of foil will become the left side wall of the enclosure.
 
 

After watering the pots and cutting the canes back to about 10 inches, I wrapped  foil around each pot and made a small “hat” to put over the canes. Below is one of the pots ready to be put into the enclosure. The pot itself is wrapped in foil and I made a little cap of taped-together foil to cover the canes themselves.


 I pushed the pots into their insulated box, packing them together as tightly as possible. Then, I put another long piece of foil over the top of the space, tucking and taping it into place.   

                                          
When Spring came, I opened my  storage area to find that all four Hybrid Tea roses were already beginning to leaf out!


I then moved the pots out into the garden. Here is the wintered-over rose bush enjoying its first sunshine in more than five months


My "wintered-over" plants have grown and bloomed all summer.  Below is "Love's Kiss" in full bloom in mid May.


This fall, I’m going to try to winter over several more.  Give it a try in your storage shed or garage. This might lead you to a whole new program for growing roses!   

                                                                                            Chris Poppe

Editor's note:  Chris doesn't mention that one of the important things she is doing by enclosing her potted roses in foil insulation packages is not only to keep them insulated, but also to keep them in complete darkness throughout their dormant period.  Also, she mentions watering them before enclosing them.  I have read that watering the plants, but not soaking them, is the right way, which I'm sure is what she did.  At some point, perhaps half way through the dormant period, you can open them a bit and add a little more moisture, so they don't completely dry out.

I have used a similar, though less sophisticated, method, putting my pots on the wood floor of my trailer (i.e. off the concrete floor of the garage) and covering the whole trailer with a canvas top.  My garage is insulated and heated, so I am able keep them right at, or just above, the freezing point.  Another TCRC member, Millie Hisey, just puts her potted roses in the back of her pickup truck (which has a camper top), puts the truck in the garage, and goes to Arizona for the winter.  So there are several ways of doing this, but I think Chris' method is the slickest I've seen.

I'm sure Chris will be glad to take your questions.  Simply leave a comment/question at the bottom of the blog page, and I will pass it along to Chris.




 







20 comments:

  1. Where did you get the foil-faced, roll insulation and what size roll did you get?

    ~ Steve

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  2. Steve... In Minnesota this insulation is available at Menards. It comes in 4 foot widths.

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  4. Chris and Jack - This is a marvelous idea, but I'm thinking it through, my garage is not insulated, but if I follow your very ingenious steps using the foil-faced insulation, do you think I'd stand a chance? We have poor clay soil, so I'd love to have a rose plant in a pot this summer, with an eye to trying your winter storage idea. Any of your thoughts would be very welcome - thank you!

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    1. In our area, without an insulated garage, I would probably insulate them like Chris does. FYI, that insulating material is available at Menards. If your garage is attached to your house, it probably doesn't get as cold as a free standing garage like Chris' in NE MPLS. You might get by with less insulation in that case. I keep potted roses in my garage in Edina, but it's heated to about 40 degrees and they do very well, kept in the dark with a plastic garbage bag over them.

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  5. Carol... Get in touch with Chris Poppe directly: chpop001@gmail.com. What you have to do depends a lot on where you live, which you didn't mention, so it's hard to comment. Chris will be happy to help, I'm sure.
    jack@falkerinvestments.com

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    1. Thank you, Jack, I will -- very much appreciate your time on this, and connecting me to Chris.
      And, we live in Minnetonka :)

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  6. Carol... If you send me your e-mail address I will put you on my blog distribution list.
    My e-mail is: jack@falkerinvestments.com

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  7. Hi, I live in Anchorage Alaska & new to overwintering roses. Thank you so much for the information that I really needed. I have a question though, can I supplement some new soil before they get cut back & put to bed or should I wait untill spring, and how far can I go up the stem. We do set the heat up to 50 when we work in the garage will it effect the roses

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    1. Enid... If your garage goes up and down in temperature, from below freezing and up to 50, then, yes it will affect the plants. Repeated freezing and thawing is what kills roses in the winter. However, If you keep your garage above freezing (say about 34 as I do) then heating up to 50 won't be a problem, as long as you don't then drop it down below freezing. Chris Poppe, who wrote this article, does not have a heated garage, so her pots will slowly freeze and stay frozen, even though they will not be as cold as outside. It's fine to supplement your soil in the Fall and build up a mound around the base of the plant, although it isn't necessary. However, it won't hurt them to build it up as high as the pot will allow.

      If the garage idea doesn't work for you, simply remove your roses from their pots and put them in a trench that's deep enough to cover the whole root ball. Cover them with dirt and put some leaf mulch or straw over the top as added insulation. Burying that way keeps the roses frozen solid all winter, which is what you want to accomplish, i.e. you don't want them to freeze and thaw repeatedly. Don't forget to mark the spot where you buried them so you can find them when the soil thaws in the spring.

      Send me an e-mail and I will add you to my blog distribution list: jack@falkerinvestments.com , and answer any other questions you may have.

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    2. One additional comment: As I mention in my notes about the article, I keep potted roses, rosemary, and other fairly hardy things in my heated garage without any of the insulation that Chris describes. But my garage stays above freezing, around 34 degrees all winter, so nothing freezes. I just give them a little bit of water (don't soak them) and cover them with a black plastic garbage bag to keep them in the dark. That's all there is to it as long as you don't allow them to freeze and thaw.

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    3. Enid, I should clarify that if you bury your potted roses, as I mention above, you must tip them on their sides so the whole plant is buried.

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  8. Will my roses live without continued watering and such in 60 to 65 degree temps in total darkness?

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  9. My garage is very well vebtilated to keep from getting condensation in fuel tanks. I only heat my garage if it's absolutely necessary and that's if vehicles are moved outside. Cold and warm fuel makes lots of water. Never heat my garage without that thought in mind first. Basement is cool but not too much 60 to 65 degrees during winter months. Is it too warm if kept in total darkness?

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    1. bob joe... Where do you live? If you are in a cold zone and your garage is usually just above or below freezing, but heats up to 60-65 one in a while, then yes you can keep them dark and water very sparingly (a little once or twice during winter). If, however, your plants are going to be consistently at 60-65, then I wouldn't cover them and just let them grow, but also with a just a little bit of water, using your own judgement on when they need watering, i.e. don' t soak them. If you tell me more, I can give you better answers.

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    2. Hi Jack;
      I am near Rochester MN. My garage is unheated and very well ventilated so it's ambient temp. or even colder during the sunny part of the day. It's very seldom above zero in the cold parts of the winter. I don't heat the garage unless it's imperative to do so due to condensation in fuel tanks. I was referring to my basement that is most of the winter months 60 to 65 degrees F. We do store our potatoes and onions down there all winter and by spring we're just getting sprouts in time for planting. We also store our Poinsettias down there and they do well. But now we're talking roses and that's where I need some further advice. I've got no good way to get around the heating and cold in the garage because it's a six car garage and I've got a 500 gallon diesel tank in there. I have a wood burner in there but if I heat I make water and that's the major concern with that issue. Any further help would be great! Have a wonderful day!!!!!

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  10. HELP!!!!! I need a response from Jack or someone that can help soon. We have some beautiful potted roses we're going to lose if we don't get them tucked away for winter soon. It was me that sent the question on October 8th. at 9:06 AM about wintering my roses in 60 -65 degree temps. and I also answered Jack Falkers questions on October 9th at 7:50 AM. I must apologize if I created some confusion but for some unknown reason my initial question came up on my grandsons log in bob joe. It did that only by default. I've got my ID back in check but I don't think Jack seen it or didn't realize I am the same person just a messed up computer. If you have any suggestion or remedies to my dilemma ( in reference to our roses that is) please let me know. The computer issues a good drink of water might straighten out the computer as well. LOL

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    1. I've been away and will respond soon. Winter isn't here yet. There's time for what you need to do.

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    2. Okay... This article is really about overwintering roses in an unheated garage. What the author is doing is insulating the plants so they do not repeatedly thaw and re-freeze all winter, which would be quite likely in an unheated, uninsulated garage. It would be even more likely if you use your stove repeatedly. In other words, the insulation is to keep them frozen, not to keep them from freezing, which would be impossible.
      Roses generally do not do grow well and bloom indoors, but I think you could overwinter them indoors if you don't try to get them to grow and bloom. In other words, keep them moderately dark and water sparsely. I believe it would be better than your garage. You have some time here; roses are not affected by the kind of frost we get this time of year. However, when the temps go below 25 they will freeze and then thaw, when it warms up during the day. So when it gets that cold you should get them protected. Gardening is about experimentation; so try bringing them in with your other plants and see how it works. It won't kill them. Good luck and let me know how you make out this winter. Best to use my e-mail: jack@falkerinvestments.com

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    3. Also read my reply to the lady in Anchorage, above.

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