Productive life span of HTs

betsyw(NSW Aust)May 8, 2012

I've noticed that several of my best producers and strongest plants, notably Valencia and Parole, start out gangbusters at 1 1/2 -2 years old, peak at around four years old, then start to level off and then decline in production and vigor. No change in fertilising schedule. By the time they're 8 years old, they seem to be pretty much spent. Is this the norm for modern HTS, or is it a question of varieties?

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Have you been removing the oldest large canes occasionally? Do you get new basil canes that turn into new large canes? I'm sure it has something to do with the variety, but I have HTs in my garden that are over 50 years old, and I have been able to get them to "revive" themselves by encouraging new canes.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 5:26PM
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That's a combination of variety; pruning techniques; climate and culture. The "average" budded HT should remain productive in most situations for about thirty years. Some much more, some much less. In more benign climates and with appropriate culture, you'll find them significantly older and still vigorous, vital and productive. In harsher ones and/or with harsher culture and pruning, they'll poop out much sooner. Some are just dogs and won't ever be great as it's just not in their genes. Some seem almost universally great nearly everywhere and appear almost immortal. The same holds true for most roses of most classes. Some OGRs appear immortal and always great. Some, not so much. Fortunately, the worst of the worst have died off as they should. Kim

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 5:33PM
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seil zone 6b MI

It also may depend on if they were own root or grafted and whether or not they're virused. RMV can shorten the life span of a rose particularly in colder climates.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 5:42PM
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I have yet to see a decline due to age--but I routinely remove old canes at the end of winter when it is still too cold to do much else in the way of gardening. Our oldest HTs date back to 2001--11 years. Most of our HTs are grafted, though we do have a few on their own roots. Our climate gets down to -6 Fahrenheit and often has freeze/thaw issues that kill weak roses.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 6:50PM
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A grafted rose can run into problems over time due to what is known as graft incompatability.

Quote from David Zlesak: "Compatibility is one issue especially that we don't really know until we try. A lot of the swollen overgrown bud unions we see on varieties on Dr. Huey that eventually flake off and die in areas is a sign of incompatibility and poor carbohydrate transfer across the graft union. Dr. Huey can grow fast at first and nurseries get their #1 grades readily, but in the long term problems arrise for the gardener- more or less so depending on what is grafted onto it and the specific compatibility issues. It seems like the seedling rootstock of primarily R. multiflors used by Pickering doesn't do that as readily over the long run which is nice and more basal breaks tend to occur. "


Here is a link that might be useful: Russian review

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 8:53PM
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rosetom(7 Atl)

I have grafted, non-grafted, RMV-infected, non-RMV-invected HT's. Most are over 10 years old, a few are 8. There's no indication of lack of vigor. I would agree with some of the statements about proper pruning. I always bury the bud union, too, so the graft has no effect within a couple of years. Although, the occasional Dr. Huey shoot has to be ripped out. ;-)

You might check the surrounding area around your rose. Are there trees or bushes that have grown a lot during the last few years and provided more shade than previously? It may not seem like much, because the change is so gradual - but a loss of a couple of hours of sun per day can make a huge difference in the rose's vigor.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 9:01PM
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betsyw(NSW Aust)

Thank you everyone. Yeah, I think now that the problem is me. My pruning technique is clearly tragic. I don't cut out all of the old canes, and basal breaks are so uncommon that I thrill to see one. So that's the answer, I think.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 9:17PM
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I cut away the old wood and it gets replaced by big new canes! A Felco pruning saw works great on old woody canes. If you have issues with damaging other canes, I'd suggest wrapping them with cloth or burlap for protection.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:32AM
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Campanula UK Z8

ah, maybe Betsyw - my old horticulture tutor used to make us repeat 'growth follows the knife' - attributed to Fred Loads, an english gardener of some repute. Always seems a bit counter-intuitive but no worry, such roses can easily be revived into a more productive growth mode. You might try a bit more severity - Hybrid Teas tend to be pruned to extraordinary lengths in the UK - not unheard of to cut off half the entire growth - but I would suggest a bit less and some definate cutting out of anything which is gnarly as well as twiggy little canes. Sharpen your secateurs (and your resolve).

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 3:08PM
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How often should an old cane be removed from a HT? I didn't realize this should be done!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 3:23PM
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Glenburn(z8/z9 Mudgee, NSW Aust)

Betsyw's rootstock is not the problem as 'most roses' here in OZ are on one form or other of "multiflora". the answer lies in the pruning,IMO. Normally basals will come from the outside of the crown. If the plant "needs" to push a basal out to saty alive it will from the centre of the crown. As for cleaning the crown of old wood I do it only when there are bad crosses in it or in the third year. The 2 you mention betsyw are not 'overly' figourous, how is the soil ?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 4:25PM
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betsyw(NSW Aust)

Campanula, on your (always) good advice, I will screw my courage/sharpen my secateurs to the sticking point!

Glenburn - interesting about the multiflora stock. For some reason I thought we had mostly Fortuniana stock in Oz,at least from Treloars and Swanes, so now I know better, and thank you for that info.

You mention the third year as your starting point for cleaning oiut the old wood from the crown, and I've never really cleaned my crowns very well even on much older plants. I really think that's the big issue for me, because I'm not getting basal breaks in the quantities I often read mentioned here.

Soil is good, very slightly acidic and slightly sandy which requires more water, top dressed twice a year with blood/bone/potash Yates combo, with intermittent soluble fertiliser lunches. Epsom salts once a season. Gave up on Seasol, because I could never see much joy in the roses with that addition. Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 5:49PM
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I have some HT's that are 26+ years old. I live in Central Coast CA. I don't do heavy pruning but do cut out big canes. I fertilize with Bayer All in One rose care and chicken poo compost. They were declining awhile back, but found out it was because of competition with Monterey Cypress roots. DH cut them down and the roses have really bounced back and are doing great.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 12:39PM
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Glenburn(z8/z9 Mudgee, NSW Aust)

Betsy, as you live on sandy type soils, the addition of EX living material will also help with the pH and the retention of water. Have you tried 'sudden impact' for roses, some people swear by it.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 5:32PM
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Here's a long answer, but it addresses the question about the productive life span of HTs. One of my most exuberant roses is my bush-form (i.e., not the climbing sport) 'Snowbird', one of my earliest rose acquisitions, which I must have obtained and planted no later than about 1968 (and, I think, a little bit earlier). A few years after that, I realized it was planted in a bad place, and so exercised my usual wisdom by then moving it to an even worse place, "worse" because a neighboring tree-like holly grew even more tree-like as the years went on. The way 'Snowbird' was shaded by the holly was such that it grew up and up to catch what sunlight it could; and so it is that I now have a bush-form 'Snowbird' which is probably taller than most 'Climbing Snowbird' plants. It's thus nearly a half-century old, and, as it grows merrily along the eaves of my garage, it is still giving me bushels of creamy fragrant blossoms every year. Though I'm a strong partisan of own-root plants, I'm obliged to specify that this old and productive rose plant is a graft, and that it is indeed still growing on the original stock (rather than having rooted out from the scion), because in those days I planted the bud-union well above the ground level. I see no decline in the plant, and fully expect it to go on and on until in some eon it is bull's-eyed by a flaming meteor. And I have to add that its old rival, the holly, began to decline some time back, and was finally removed just about exactly a year ago. I think of it standing by, looking on the holly being removed, and, just like Ramon Novarro after the chariot race in the old silent Ben-Hur, crying a triumphant "Victory!" (the scene was handled differently in the 1950s version of the story). Such is the drama which unfolds in one's own garden!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 7:17PM
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