Christmas Roses Gardeners

By Thomas Fryd

When the Christmas roses come to you for fall planting the flower bud is already formed deep down among the black roots. To enjoy blossoms that winter, the plant must be set in a hole much deeper and wider than the roots, generally' inches deep and a foot wide. At the bottom, place five inches of crushed rock plus a little rotted manure and compost.

After spreading the roots on top of a small pyramid of earth, additional rotted manure and compost and good soil, mixed with a teacup of bonemeal, is pressed around the roots until the hole is full. Water the plant well and add buckwheat hulls for a mulch.

The location for Christmas roses should be east to north so that the handsome evergreen foliage will flourish the year round without burning. Sun or a late spring freezes and lack of quantities of fertilizer and water will cause injury. The best plants I have seen in a Louisville garden were on the northeast side of the house between the base of a picture window and a small fish pool' inches away. Here dozens of blooms enliven the winter scene two to three months each year.

My plants are against the brick edging of the northeast side of a small rose plot, just outside my study window, where the lovely design of the foliage all year-round and the blooms in winter are a constant source of pleasure.

Success in Michigan

When my mother sent me several small plants of Christmas roses a number of years ago, I knew nothing about them and was frankly unaware of any plant that would flower through the winter months, with the snow on the ground.

To try them out, I selected a moist site in the partial shade where the drainage was good and placed some well rotted manure in the soil which was alkaline. They were planted in early spring, but I have since learned that the fall is a better planting time. When winter came, each plant produced two or three flowers, but the following year they bloomed profusely.

When cut for use in the house, I select any type of evergreen foliage like golden pothos plant, since the plant needs its own leaves for proper development. Blooms may be cut when frozen, then thawed out in the basement. I personally prefer to leave the blooms outside and buy flowers for the house, as the real thrill of a Christmas rose is to admire it in bloom in the snow. The plants actually need little care and no cultivating is necessary, though watering in summer is required.

I have tried dividing my plants, but they resent disturbance, which sets them back several years. I move them only when they are not doing well, being careful to take a large ball of soil. The late summer or fall is best.

The Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) has greenish white or purplish flowers, which hold very little thrill for me, as they appear in the spring with crocus and other early flowers. - 29857

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