Q: We planted six rose bushes last spring and they did beautifully during the summer! What do we need to do to help them through the winter?
A: Many gardeners prune their roses in the fall soon after the first killing frost. Although it is much better to wait and do the pruning in late winter or early spring, dead branches and canes should be removed as soon as discovered.
Roses need very little winter protection except in the north where temperatures go well below zero for long periods of time. The best that can be done for them is to provide a mulch to keep the soil from freezing too deeply. Piling up soil around them is likely to do more harm than good.
However, this does not apply to newly (fall) planted bushes. Roses that have not had time to develop a good root system need soil around their stems to keep them from drying out during the winter months.
Long rose canes which might be whipped around by winter winds should be shortened to keep the plant's roots from being loosened in the soil.
Q: I collect pine cones for decorations but they last only a very short time. What is the secret of taking care of them?
A: First of all, the cones should be in very good condition when you collect them. Collect mature cones while they are in the green or light-brown color stages and allow them to ripen or dry out in full sunshine. They will also open fully if placed in a warm oven for several minutes.
Cones so collected and dried will remain light-brown in color and can be preserved with clear shellac, lacquer or clear varnish. For high-quality workmanship, weathered cones on the ground should not be used.
Q: I had geraniums in pots outdoors and brought them into the house. Is there any hope they may bloom during the winter?
A: They should bloom if given proper care. To bloom freely they require at least 4 hours of sunlight a day and more is better. Keeping them at night in a room where the temperature is about 50 degrees will help also. Water only when the soil becomes rather dry and then do a thorough job.
Q: We are going to plant two red maple trees on our front lawn during November. Is it a good idea to mulch them immediately or wait until the soil cools off?
A: Mulching immediately will keep the soil in the root zone warm much longer and permit a lot of new root growth before freezing weather. It will also conserve moisture and prevent the soil surface from crusting (crusting makes water percolation into the soil more difficult).
A four- or five-inch mulch is recommended. Sawdust, pine tree bark, wood chips or something similar can be used.
Protection of trunks and larger branches by wrapping them with tree-wrap paper (available at large garden centers) is also recommended. The wrap prevents sunscald and is a partial protection against borers. The wrapping can be left on for two years unless it rots and becomes unsightly.