13 Feb 2006



           By Gerald Weiner, DDS and Joel Ross MD- ARS Consulting Rosarian


            The brilliant idea for this final article in the series came from my friend, next-door neighbor and fellow Rosarian, Gerald Weiner. We were comparing what growing failure provides either of us sufficient reason to shovel prune (dig up and unceremoniously discard) a rose plant.  Jerry thought it would make a great article. I hope that he proves to be correct.

            Rose Horticulture conventional wisdom suggests you allow a plant 3 years to “settle in and show its stuff”. Rose Mythology instructs: the first growing year the plant produces an abundance of roots, the second canes and the third blooms. Of course roots canes and blooms are produced in all years, but the “guidance offered” is that we are to give a new plant 3 years to properly produce. My wife decided that this was unfair to the plants and instead instituted a 30 years rule. That is, no plant was tossed from my yard until it had failed to properly produce for at least 30 years. I went along with this rule for about 10 years. Finally, I complained to my wife that we were not enjoying the quality or quantity of flowers that we deserved for the time, effort or cost being expended. To my great astonishment, she agreed. And just like that, I became a “certified shovel pruner”.

The following is a list of deficiencies so intolerable that either Jerry or I become willing to abandon a $15 investment. Also included are the definitions for the distinctive terms that Jerry has coined or adopted to describe those undesirable characteristics:


#1 Poor disease resistance: (defined as disease control requires more time, effort or       

     resources than we chose to expend OR control cannot be achieved)

   a) fungus “magnet”

   b) detrimental insects “magnet”

#2 Poor bloom production:

   a) insufficient number of blooms considering plant’s vigor (hence, “stingy”)

   b) bloom’s repeat cycle (time to produce next set of blooms) too long

   c) blooms regularly misshapen (deformed or petals incorrectly folded)

   d) blooms do not last for sufficient time. Includes blooms which appear as buds in

        in the am but are fully open by noon (hence, “blow heads”) OR possess

        insufficient vase life  

   e) blooms easily ruined by dampness  (rain, sprinklers or fog)

   f) bloom form not desirable (hence, “cabbage heads”).  For us, this really means 

       1) not exhibition quality  2) not novelty  3) not rare or unusual

   g) bloom not supported by a sufficiently rigid cane, so bends over (hence, “flimser”)

#3 Poor bloom color /fragrance

   a) not as expected or advertised

   b) fades too quickly

#4 Bloom is quite similar to another that is on a different cultivar AND other cultivar

     is more successful in the garden. (SOLUTION: replace with more of the better  

     performing cultivar. Sadly, it took me a long time to figure this out).

#5 Plant growth insufficient or overabundant for intended use

#6 Plant habit not esthetically pleasing

#7 Too numerous or just plain nasty prickles. Jerry refers to prickles as “stickeries” and if

      a plant causes him sufficient pain, injury or other grief in the garden, it is ejected.



Assuming that your Rose Horticultural Practices are sound, you will quickly learn to identify problem plants, ones that are “bad actors’ rather than “late bloomers” suffering from incorrect care.  As you gain experience with really large numbers of rose plants, it will become clear to you that there SIMILAR OR BETTER plants that can replace a problem cultivar in your garden. Sometimes you just have a sickly plant of good cultivar and a replacement will cure the problem. At other times the plant is healthy but it doesn’t like the spot where it has been located in the garden. Replanting to a different garden location or from a pot to ground (or vice versa) may solve the difficulty. HOWEVER, sometimes you just make an inappropriate purchase. Ivy Bodin has previously described the disappointment of erroneous plant purchases in this now famous quote: “I thought that I couldn’t live without this plant. Then, I bought it and found out I was wrong.” If the plant doesn’t like your garden or if you don’t like the plant then don’t hesitate to get “a divorce”.  If a “proven” cultivar doesn’t appreciate your particular microclimate, offering it for adoption is often the only practical solution to the problem. If you finally decide that a plant is so disappointing that it isn’t even worthy of a “transfer” to another garden, then JUST SHOVEL IT UP AND SEND IT TO THE DUMP. Stop struggling with plants that provide less than adequate pleasure for the effort invested. This simple step will increase both the satisfaction derived from your roses and the esteem for your Rose Horticulture proficiency.

Gerald Weiner, DDS and Joel Ross MD- ARS Consulting Rosarian

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