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On Gardening: Landscapes a drift with colorful roses [Tribune News Service :: BC-HOME-ONGARDENING:MCT]

As you drive down our entryway to the Andrews Visitor and Education Center both sides of the drive are lined with large sweeps or drifts, if you will, of hot coral colored roses. It seems every time I look at them they are blooming which can't possibly be true.

The roses I am referring to are Coral Drift roses. If you have love Knock Out roses I promise you will relish the opportunity to grow Drift roses. In fact, they come from Conard-Pyle/Star Roses, the same folks that brought us the Knock Out roses.

The Drift roses come in a variety of colors, Red Drift, Pink Drift (double pink), Apricot Drift, Coral Drift, Peach Drift, White Drift, and Popcorn Drift which is a white/yellow blend. In addition to our entry drive, we use Drift roses in a more formal rose garden where they are combined with Knock Outs and a couple of floribundas, the yellow Julia Childs, and the white-flowered Iceberg.

The Drift rose was chosen as a Louisiana Super Plant, generating about five bloom cycles during the trial, according to LSU horticulturist Allen Owings. These bloom cycles started in April and concluded in October. Here in Savannah our entryway was in full bloom the first week of March and now face a little challenge of a couple of hours below freezing. Regardless, the Drift roses will rebound with next week's warm weather returning.

You will love the low growing spreading habit of Drift roses. They typically reach 2 to 3 feet tall with a spread of 3 to 4 feet. They produce their flowers in dazzling clusters with each blossom about the diameter of a tennis ball, some slightly smaller. You will treasure the fact that these are among the most disease resistant roses for the landscape or mixed containers.

Roses need six to eight hours of direct sun each day. Morning sun is essential, but a little afternoon shade is tolerated. Good air movement helps the dew and rain dry quickly, further enhancing the inherent disease resistance so space 4 to 5 feet apart. Before you plant your roses, get the beds prepared by incorporating three to four inches of organic matter and tilling to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. The ideal soil pH for roses is between 6.0-6.5. Planting on raised beds further maximizes good drainage. By all means, finish your bed or planting with a good layer of mulch.

Feed roses with a slow release or controlled release fertilizer according to formula recommendation. Apply at the start of spring growth and again in mid-summer. Prune your Drift roses in late winter to early spring just before new growth resumes. Typically the roses will triple in size after pruning so plan on cutting back by two-thirds.

In the landscape, your options seem to be endless. We are clustering them around palms, in front of evergreen shrubs like viburnums, and in combination with grasses like bamboo muhly. Be bold, plant enough to make a landscape impact using them with your favorite perennials and a few splashes of annuals. The Drift roses put a whole lot of fun into your spring gardening.

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(Norman Winter is director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him at: @CGBGgardenguru.)

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(c)2017 Norman Winter

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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