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DIG IT! Spa for the Roses photos and text by Michelle Riley

My grandmother kept a beautiful, yet simple, floribunda rose garden.

As a child, I regularly enjoyed playing in the lush green grass surrounding her prized roses.

The roses themselves tickled my imagination with names such as Shirley Temple, Pinocchio, Peppermint, and Peace.

Full of blooms throughout the summer, they filled the air with such sweet perfume that one could not help but draw near. I also recall every fall, after all of the leaves had fallen from the trees, my grandfather would carefully cut each rose bush back to 10 to 12 inches from the soil line and proceed to bury them deeply with leaves.

Over the years, I have learned that if you want to forgo the burying of the roses, there is an alternative way to protect them.

Around March 15, if the temperatures are above freezing, you can give your roses a spa treatment.

Before starting, make sure to put on thick gloves and arm protection because most roses are inherently mean, and they will “bite” you if given the opportunity.

Remove and discard any remaining leaves so you can clearly see the plant structure. Next, remove any dead wood using bypass shears, not anvil shears, as the anvil shears may crush the stem.. When in doubt whether a stem is dead, try the thumbnail test and scrape a small piece of the stem to see if it is green (alive) or not. Remove any stems smaller than a pencil as they are weak and thin.

Last, prune remaining stems 10 to 12 inches from the soil line at a 45-degree angle. Make sure to prune the stems a quarter inch above an outward facing bud or bud eye (small bump where the leaf will grow from the stem). This is called directional pruning and will encourage outward growth.

Once trimming is finished, clean up and discard any debris and trimmings from around the roses. Give them a good feeding around April 1.

Even though my grandparents are long gone, the fragrance steers my mind back to long summer days where life was endless as roses bloomed eternal.

Michelle Riley is a local horticulturist, landscape designer, and consultant. She is founder ofMichelleRileyHorticulturist.com and NeOhioGarden.com and is the president of All About You Signature Landscape Design, Inc. She can be contacted at Info@MichelleRileyHorticulturist.com or by calling 234-678- 8266.