He's Stuck on Roses

A chat with rose expert Lance Walheim about his favorite landscape plant.

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By Dan Vierria
Sacramento Bee

Roses are among Lance Walheim's passions. He grows roses, writes books about roses (Roses for Dummies) and talks about roses on radio and TV gardening programs.

Walheim also is the national garden expert for Bayer Advanced Lawn & Garden Products. Some Bayer products are for - you guessed it - roses.

Walheim, who tends a 17-acre citrus ranch in Exeter, Calif., recently chatted about his favorite landscape plant.

Question: What types of roses seem to be attracting home gardeners?
Answer: The landscape roses are of real interest. They're easy to care for, have long bloom periods and can be worked into more landscape situations. Think of them as flowering shrubs. They give you a whole different show. You get fragrance, color and a long season of bloom all in one. Iceberg is my favorite. The Knockout rose, any of the floribundas and polyanthas. The modern shrubs and the Flower Carpet roses. Betty Prior (floribunda) is one I really like. Fragrant roses are always popular.

Q: Do groundcover roses seem to be getting more attention?
A: Yes, but you really have to use them right. A lot of them are very vigorous roses... I don't recommend tearing out your lawn and putting in a mass of groundcover roses. Start with five or seven of them and plant them through landscape fabric.

Q: What type of fertilizing schedule do you recommend for gardeners?
A: If there's one mistake people make growing roses, it's that they don't fertilize enough. If you stop fertilizing, roses will stop blooming. Fertilize every six weeks. Just scratch in a granular fertilizer.

Q: How do you remember to fertilize on time?
A: I have this little rose clock in my head ... just kidding. Once roses finish a great flush of blooms, it's a good idea to give them a blast of fertilizer. Deadhead them, if you haven't already, at the same time.

Q: What type of rose pests are on the prowl this time of year?
A: Aphids. They're always a problem in spring. Later, hoplia beetles and cane borers, but they're usually not much of a problem. Powdery mildew is probably going to be a problem, but once the weather warms up, it goes away.

Q: How can gardeners ensure roses receive enough water during our hot summers?
A: Drip irrigation is ideal. In our area, you have to water a minimum of once a week, and it has to be a good, deep soaking. Mulch around roses. I use wood chips. A great way to plant roses is to plant them through landscape fabric and then mulch around them with wood chips, ground bark, compost or grass clippings.

Q: How many hours of sun is enough to grow roses?
A: The more sun the better. Six hours of sunlight is the minimum. There are a few roses that do OK in mostly shade. Breeders aren't working on shade-loving roses; they have enough to do with just cranking out new roses every year.

Q: Which roses currently are your favorites?
A: My all-time favorite is Iceberg. It's probably the most popular rose in California. It's hard to beat that rose for blooms. Another I really like is Starry Night. For a climber, Altissimo. Old-timers like Mister Lincoln and Double Delight are just as good today.

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