Winter Protection for Roses - Mounding Biosolids on Crowns - December 2023

Every Fall, I've gone about protecting our Disneyland Roses (Floribunda Roses) from Winter using an insulation method of laying Fall leaves around the bush.  Typically, I take a small ring of chicken wire and create a ring.  Anchored by a bamboo pole, I erect the chicken wire ring around the rose and fill the center with leaves that I pick up off the lawn.  Some of those leaves are chopped up with the mower, some are just raked up and piled in there.

This post from November 2022 shows how I set up that Winter Protection for roses last year.  

Here's another post showing Fall 2020 that shows similar chicken wire rings and leaves that I used to overwinter the crowns of our Disneyland Roses.

That system seemed to work just fine.  It wasn't elegant, but (*knock on wood*) I haven't lost a Disneyland Rose yet.  But, my roses are starting to get large and unwieldy.  That has made the chicken wire rings more challenging every year. 

So, I went off on the Web to see if there was (as Frank Costanza said about Christmas shopping for dolls) "another way".  I quickly found 'hilling'.   Jung Seeds calls it the 'most traditional way' of protecting your roses.  And it is easy:  

The most traditional way to protect rose crowns is in winter is “hilling up.” This is done by mounding six to ten inches of soil or compost over the crowns of plants. The soil or compost should not be taken from around the bases of the plants but from another location.

Piling up soil around the crowns of the roses to be sure that the graft is properly buried and insulated from the cold.  

But, when I was looking around, I also learned that it is important to NOT COVER YOUR ROSES TOO EARLY.   I'm pretty sure that I've done that exact thing:  mulching them in too early.   Just look at last year.  I mulched them in with blooms still on the stems.    The University of Illinois Extension office has an explainer up that talks about the timing:

The whole idea of winter protection is to keep the plant uniformly cold and frozen all winter and prevent the damaging effects of alternate freezing and thawing. Whatever method is chosen, don't begin covering plants too early. Wait until a hard killing frost has caused most of the leaves to fall. You may also want to wait until the temperature has dropped into the teens for several nights.

That's what I did this year.  We had an early frost in October, but the temperatures have moderated since then.  However, after Thanksgiving, we had a number of 20-degree overnights.   That's why I sprung into action this past weekend.  

I went over to the mulch pit and picked up a load of municipal biosolids.  I hauled the buckets over to my six Disneyland Roses (3 on side of house, 3 in front) and hill'd-up a pile about 10-12" tall.  See below for the mounds of biosolids used to overwinter Disneyland Roses:




My plan is to get a second load this week.  When I bring it home, my plan is to take a couple handfuls of leaves (you can see in the photos above that I have plenty of leaves around) and add a couple of inches on top of the current 'hill' of soil.  Then, I'll dump the remaining biosolids on top to create a sort-of layered insulation projection for the floribunda roses in Zone 5b/6a. 

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