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Three tips for growing great roses from Ciscoe Morris

From horse food to cutting back, how to keep the blooms coming. #k5evening

SEATTLE — "I love the livin' tweedle outta roses!" says Ciscoe Morris, the Northwest's favorite gardening guru.

"If you take care of 'em right, they put out a show like you can't believe. But the key is, you do have to take care of them right."

Here are Ciscoe's three tips for getting the most from your roses.

Tip #1: Prune, then prune again

The first pruning is drastic, and done while your rose is dormant, but Ciscoe says it's important: "Okay, so the first thing you do is you're gonna cut these things down by two thirds, usually around March 1, to an outward facing bud. And then they grow back much bushier and they flower way better. But there's pruning you have to do in the summer too," Ciscoe says.

"If you let them go to rose hips, which is their seeds, that's how they know they've reproduced, so they say  'Okay, I'm gonna kick back, take the rest of the summer off, get a good tan, and do nothin!' " In order to keep your rose from relaxing all summer, prune those spent blooms before they turn into rose hips.

Tip #2: Feed 'em fertilizer - and horse food

"I give a mix of these to my roses every six weeks and they bloom like crazy," said Ciscoe, holding up a bag of organic bud and bloom fertilizer with a NPK (nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium) ratio of 3-7-4, and a box of alfalfa meal designed for gardens. The kind that horses eat would work equally well. Ciscoe warns that if you're working with this, you may want to consider wearing a dust mask.

"So I've made a mix here of the organic fertilizer and the alfalfa meal and you use two cups for the average size tea rose. And you wanna put this around the entire rose and work it in," says Ciscoe. The reason you want to work it in is that if you leave it on the soil's surface, it could attract rodents. Also, working it in helps get the nutrients to the roots, where they can begin to feed the plant. 

Tip #3: Battle black spot

If your roses have black spots on the leaves, you have to do a couple of things. First remove and destroy all effected leaves. Then spray the rest of the plant with neem oil, making sure to get underneath the leaves, because the fungal spores that cause black spot come up from the soil. If all leaves have the spots, your rose is probably a goner - pull it up and replace it with a disease resistant variety. Ciscoe recommends the book 'Growing Roses in the Pacific Northwest' by Nita-Jo Rountree for a list of varieties that work well here.

Oh, and Ciscoe had one more rose tip - don't forget to pick rose bouquets for your sweetie. You might get a brussels sprout casserole in return!

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