Preparing Roses for Winter

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Rosa Mundi is covered by netting and is ready for winter snow

Judith Cox.   Rosa Mundi is ready for snow.

Judith’s advice on preparing roses for winter includes netting, breaking off weak branches, mulching, and how to use snow as an insulator.

This is such a busy time of year for me. I am preparing for the Annual General Meeting of our horticultural society and trying to make sure I have written nice things about all of the wonderful volunteers. Volunteering is what makes all horticultural societies function, and we would be lost without them. This is a busy time for my business and there are Christmas Craft shows to prepare for and inventory that needs a constant update. I now have a part-time job for the next two months and that adds to the mixture of mayhem. So, as I rush out the door to do my chores, my garden quietly washes over me. Slow down. Look at the beauty. Stop stressing. As usual my garden gives me back my focus, and for that I will always be grateful.

Giving Roses Extra Protection for Winter

I have put extra driveway markers in and as I was doing so, I noticed that several of my roses are still blooming. I find that many of my hardy roses will bloom right up until a hard frost. The roses reminded me that I need to do their winter preparation. While my roses do fine over the winter, I find that giving them some extra protection makes them even better. 

Fairy Rose at the end of season, wilting.
The Fairy. This little rose is such a treat and blooms up until frost.

Use Snow as an Insulator

Don’t cover your roses with boxes and heavy fabric and things that can’t breathe. If we get more warm weather in November this will only serve to cook your roses! I just use a light bird-netting around my rose bushes to help trap the snow. Snow is the very best insulator for roses as well as tender perennials. The worst problem your roses will face is the freeze-thaw cycle that happens in January or February. If there is extra snow to protect them, they will get through the cycle without a worry. 

Yellowish cream colored Bill Reid rose from the Canadian Artist Series
Bill Reid rose from the Canadian Artist Series

Breaking Off Weak Branches

As I do my winter protection, I approach each rose looking for canes that might break from snow load. If a rose cane is broken in the winter, it can invite disease or other problems. I don’t prune my roses in the fall, but I will take off a branch that looks like it will break. I look all around the rose and then carefully remove any weeds or debris.  At this point I might add a mulch of leaves to add a bit more protection. I prefer maple leaves as they break down quickly. I place the bird-netting around the plant loosely as it is easily supported by the rose branches. Those little thorns act just like Velcro. 

Netting Roses

I have a large number of roses, so I don’t cover all of them with netting. The roses I have that are against fences or in more sheltered spots don’t need anything extra. The ones I watch out for are in my front garden and they are exposed to the harshness of the weather, in particular the blowing wind.

The weather is getting cooler, and the too-many cats are watching the chickadees who are continuing to store seeds for the winter. Soon I will be making fires in my woodstove and adding more blankets to the couch. Enjoy your week. Judith. (Email:  Veggie Bites are available at or

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