At the February meeting of the Morning Glory Circle, we were delighted to have Merna Roberts as our guest speaker.  Merna is president of the Rose Society of Northwest Florida and a local expert on roses. She has a yard full of beautiful roses to prove it.  Roses are a favorite plant to add color into landscapes throughout America and North Santa Rosa County is no exception.  There are a large variety of roses to choose from in an endless variety of colors. Hybrid roses are vine like due to their long gracefully arching canes,they produce one beautiful rose at the end of recently matured branches.  Florists refer to these as long stem roses. Knock Out and Old Roses grow as upright shrubs with clusters of flowers on the end of mature branches. These offer a large display of color.


Merna explained that now is the time to prune your roses. "Rule of thumb is to prune on Valentines Day, she says. With the exceptionally cold weather we've been having, many are waiting until March this year.  Here is how Merna suggests pruning your roses for optimal blooming.  Start by trimming the stems to 24", next cut the stems/branches that cross or rub another branch. You will of course want to trim any dead branches.  Finally strip all leaflets away, making sure that none are dropped and left on the ground around the plant. This will prevent the plant from coming into contact with diseased leaves.  Once the stems are bare and the leaves picked up, spray the plant and surrounding ground with an insecticide. 


For those that are planning on planting a rose, Merna explained that proper soil preparation will make all the difference to the future growth and bounty of your blooms. Start by digging a hole the size recommended on the tag with the rose. Use that dirt to fill in a low spot in your yard. You don't want to reuse it on your rose.  Fill the hole with water and let it drain completely.   In the bottom of the hole add 2 tbs. of Epsom salt. Recommended amounts of RoseTone, Osmacote and lime, add perlite or vedmiculite (avoid peat moss).  Mix these ingredients together.   Merna suggests using mushroom compost as opposed to potting soil. She went on to explain how fortunate we are to have a supplier of high quality mushroom compost right here in North Santa Rosa county; "black gold" is how Merna refers to it.  Now we are ready to set the rose down in the prepared hole making sure to spread the roots.  Start filling the hole making sure not to leave any air pockets.  When firming down the fresh soil, use your hands, using your foot may damage the roots.  Spread mulch around the plant but not directly against the stem.  Roses love to be fed and this includes the ground cover, so don't be afraid to change the type of mulch you put down each year.   You will need to water your plant very well for the first month and then 1/2 to 1 inch of water per week.  The recommended way to water roses is with a drip hose, wetting their leaves promotes disease.  


Merna is a local business owner and an advocate for all locally owned businesses, she pointed out that North Santa Rosa County has several feed and seed stores with knowledgeable staffs. They can give you advice on the right products to use to produce the best results for your lawn and gardens. 


Morning Glory Circleenjoyed the knowledge Merna shared with us, and we took lots of notes.  If you are interested in learning more about gardening, we invite you to join us.  We meet at the Milton Garden Center; our next meeting is March 13 at 9:30.  Our circles annual event, Luck of the Irish, is on Friday March 14, 10 - 12.  It is always a lot of fun with great raffle items including a $100 Hall's Hardware gift card, gardening and household items, plants, books and many nice things fot men and women.  Raffle tickets are 5 for$7.