Very pathetic rose bush

MojaveLove(5 - IL)April 7, 2012

My parents recently separated and my mom is renting a friend's great-grandmothers house who passed years ago (I believe in the 90s). She held onto it but never did much to it. The outside of it is appalling but the inside is fine. There is a small "garden" that hasn't been tended to, at least properly, in YEARS. I was there the other day and noticed one of them is a rose bush (new leaves popping up). I don't have a picture but I will be there today for Easter and will get one then. Basically, it looks like about 10 years ago someone cut it back and since then it has quadrupled in size with that shape. Just a few haphazard thorny branches.

Anyway, it's all scraggly looking, some branches do not have new leaf growth on them. Others only have them in sporadic places. It's pretty sad to say the least. But, it apparently is pretty hardy too as we're in Northern Illinois and it was never covered for winter or taken care of in the last decade.

I'd love to nurse this thing at least well enough to get it to bloom, it's probably a 40 or 50 year old plant and it would be fun to see what it is.

What would you do if you found a wild, paltry looking rose? Fertilize it? Trim it up a bit? It needs it desperately. It is so leggy. Let it run wild and see what happens? I feel like I need to do SOMETHING to it. I would also like to somehow propagate it and keep one for myself, I have a big ol pot on my porch that needs filling. But I'm not even a Rose novice so that may be way over my head, and I may need to know what it is first.

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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

Also, I know it is old because it is VERY woody. The base stem is pretty thick.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 1:03PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Pruning--If possible, go to Photobucket and post here a sharp picture of the whole plant. Then maybe people can give you better advice as to whether you should be trimming back stems or cutting out stems at the base. You should also post pictures when it is blooming.

Fertilizing--yes, as soon as some leaves have expanded.

Generally it's not a good sign when an old rose plant has only one basal cane or trunk, but you never know whether a decrepit plant can be rehabilitated.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 1:42PM
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If I were trying to save this, here's what I would do:

1) Water it, if it is dry there.
2) Feed it as soon as some leaves have expanded, as Michael says. At this point anything labeled rose food will do, just follow the instructions (including water after feeding).
3) Weed around it, trying to remove any weeds or other plants within, say, 12 inches of its base.
4) DO NOT trim or prune it right now - wait until it has completely leafed out, so that you will be able to tell the live canes from the dead ones. Frequently live canes look dead this early in the season.
5) Take several pictures of it - now, and when it has open flowers. Put them on photobucket, and then you can post them here and get good advice, and maybe even an ID.

Good Luck - looking forward to pictures!


    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 1:55PM
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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

Thanks so much, this is easy enough for me to handle. It's pretty wide from what I remember so there may be more trunks than the one. I'll put some of these tips to use today.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 2:28PM
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rosetom(7 Atl)

I would add one thing that I do to roses to nurse them back - and it's always worked in my area. The first thing is to clear out a 3-foot diameter circle around the rose and pile on the pine bark mulch. Use the pine bark mulch to build up a ring 3-feet in diameter, then build up the center a bit around the cane with a pile of mulch. The mulch should fashion a "drip ring" at a 3-foot diameter, then a bit more mulch should be used to mound up the center at the canes - not too much, or you will impede new basals.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 9:23PM
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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

I'll post pics tomorrow but there appears to be an old main stem that was cut many years ago and it is about 3 or 4 inches across. There are now three main stems of the plant, with growth, each main stem about a foot or two away from the main one in the middle.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 11:15PM
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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

Here you can see the two canes. Pretty sad looking. What do you think?

Below is a link to more pictures.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photobucket album of mystery rose bush

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 11:35PM
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I think it looks pretty good for this time of year in your area. Is it maybe two different roses planted close together? Seems like most the the canes are growing out of the base on the right side and the cane on the left is growing from somewhere else. It may just be how it looks in this photo.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 7:35AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

At this stage of growing-out you can identify and remove dead cane segments. Later, when it starts to bloom, you can identify and remove cane segments that support only weak or blind (non-flowering) growth.

At least it doesn't look like 'Dr. Huey,' the dark red rose that commonly grows out of rootstock when roses decline from neglect or freeze damage. When it blooms, post closeups of flower, buds, & canes with thorns and leaves visible.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 10:09AM
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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

Thanks everyone :)

It is possible there is more than one bush. It's hard to tell, as you can see the garden is more of a jungle than anything lol.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 11:21AM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Boy -- I think it looks GREAT, all things considered. Gosh, you should see some of the things we see in old cemeteries! These roses (yeah, it does look like two, doesn't it?) look pretty redeemable. And what lovely foliage!


    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 4:13PM
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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

I find it fascinating that people go out to find old rose bushes. That would be SO much fun. I was so excited to find this possibly oldie, I imagine that would be a fun hobby.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 8:37PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Oh Mojave -- and a USEFUL hobby!

Such seekers have given us back rose which were thought to be extinct. HOW COOL IS THAT?


    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 9:42PM
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JessicaBe(5-6 Central Ohio)

I agree with mojave! That would be awesome!!! Its like treasure hunting :D

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 11:12AM
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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

Yes, I looked into it yesterday. There's some that have been found from old 18th century plantations. Crazy!

I looked into found roses in Illinois but people don't seem to hunt for them here. Found people that do in Cali and Texas though. Really cool stuff.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 8:45PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

But for all of you who live where there are older homes -- particularly in areas where people haven't been wealthy enough to "upgrade" their plantings, you may find older things that are real treasures. Not JUST roses, of course. But here, those are our chief concern.

Two books I'd recommend to you:
In Search Of Lost Roses -- by Thomas Christopher
and my REAL fave:
Old Roses -- by Ethelyn Emory Keays

Mrs. Keays was the first really famous "Rose Rustler," and my Lord, THAT WOMAN COULD WRITE. Her book was written in 1925, and I could weep sometimes, thinking of the things that we have lost SINCE Mrs. Keays did her work.

You can find both books "used" and Christopher at least in reprint. GREAT READING!


    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 9:02PM
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I don't think they look too bad, the leaves are green. I would prune to thin out the center and the tips. Then nourish the soil with organic matter that roses love, i.e., banana peels, alfalfa, coffee grounds, fish emulsion. Keep watering well and mulch with natural pine straw or cyrpess mulch. I wouldn't give it conventional rose food until I nourished the soil. Chemical rose food will give it a spurt of energy whereby the organic food stuff will cause worms to start activity, thus improving drainage and the roses ability to take up nutrients.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 10:20PM
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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

Hello everyone. The mystery rose bush has started to bloom. I am working on getting better pics but I am far from the plant so we need to work with what we have for now :) Please help me identify!!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 5:43PM
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AnneCecilia z5 MI

I'd say it's Alba Semi-plena. Good find!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 7:11PM
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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

Wow - yep I think you're right. Thanks!! I'm a little disappointed it only blooms once a year. Now that we know what this is, what do I do about pruning it? As you can see it has leafed out a little bit but it's very overgrown (see how some of the branches in the first pic are completely horizontal) and spindly.

Also, would like to propagate it throughout the yard maybe. Fix up the garden without spending any money.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 7:26PM
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musaboru(Inland Calif.)

What a gorgeous flower and those leaves are nice. I don't normally like single flowers, but this looks more charming than an Iceberg and those Knockout roses. :)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 7:54PM
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AnneCecilia z5 MI

MojaveLove, albas are tall and often vase shaped roses. My Alba Semi-plena is about 6ft. tall and perhaps that wide. The only pruning necessary is to remove dead canes and after it is a mature plant, to take out one or two old canes (4 years old or more) to keep the plant rejuvenated. Perhaps someone has been pruning it like an HT and the poor thing hasn't been able to achieve its mature form. I would not prune this one. Let it show you what it can do with just a bit of care. BTW, it also sets nice hips so do not deadhead.
Of course you can take cuttings to propagate. (There are lots of sites to tell you how.) It probably won't sucker much, even own root so watch for a new cane you might be able to separate and move, but don't count on it throwing any very far away from the base of the original plant.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 7:01AM
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