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The first maxim of winter protection is this: If you select plants that are winter hardy in your area, you won't have to worry much about protecting them.
The first (and important) step: Buy roses that will easily survive your climate – and to plant the bud union, if it has one, at the correct level. (The bud union is the knobby section between the roots and the stem.) As a rule of thumb, plant the bud union 2 to 3 inches below ground in climates where winter lows are -10° F or colder. Plant at ground level where winter lows are between -10° and +10° F. Plant slightly above ground level where winters lows are +10° F or warmer.
It takes 15 to 30 minutes to protect a rose for winter.
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Most roses do well without protection in temperatures down to 15Â° F or 20Â° F. If your winter lows are colder than this, you'll need to mound most roses. If your winters are very cold, dipping to -10Â° or colder, you'll need to cover the rose canes as well, unless the rose is one of the very cold hardy species. Check the plant information that came with the rose or your local nursery if you're unsure or consult your local nursery.
Mound roses after two to three weeks of below-freezing weather. Tie the canes together to prevent them from whipping in the wind and prune off very long or wayward canes. Then toss a spadeful or two of good garden soil or compost on the base of the plant to a height of 8 to 12 inches. Pat the soil with your hand to firm it.
If you need to cover more of the rose, make a collar of chicken wire and fill it with a loose organic mulch, such as chopped autumn leaves, straw, wood chips, or pine needles. The collar should come up about 3 feet.
Another popular method of protecting roses is using white styrofoam cones. Prune the rose back until it's small enough to fit in the cone. Then, fill the cone with one of the mulches listed above and weight it down with one or more stones or bricks. However, since these cones can become too warm during late winter thaws, create ventilation by leaving off any removable top or by cutting several 2-inch holes at the top of the cone.
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