Now that we are reaching the end of November…and it certainly was a mild one…it is time to prepare the roses for winter. There really isn’t much to do, but it is a must-do chore in Rhode Island and anywhere else where winter temperatures go below 25 degrees F.
Roses can survive winter if they are kept cold and dormant, which means keeping the ground at a fairly constant temperature in order to avoid cycles of freezing and thawing. First, pick up all fallen foliage and other litter since disease agents can winter over on this material. Then water the roses. Now you have to hill up the bottom of the plants with a mound of insulating material. I usually use a combination of manure and mulch but either material can be used alone. Pile up whatever you use into a cone of about 12 to 15 inches. In the spring you will break down each mound and spread the material over the bed for added soil enrichment.
The one other thing I do is to secure tall canes by wrapping them with string and tying them to something secure. Then, if canes are very long, and the plant is not a climber, I trim them down to about 5 to 6 feet. All of this helps prevent canes from whipping in the wind which breaks them, sometimes right down to the ground. Otherwise, don’t cut anything from the plants and pruning will be done in the spring.