How To Make a Rose Bed in Your Garden
For All Those Roses You Gotta Have

By Steve Jones
Master Rosarian

You have the fever, you need more roses! Let's see, where can I place them? Hmm, I have way too much grass, and that long stretch of grass next to my neighbor would be perfect, plus it will keep their kids out of my yard. How about one of those rose islands in the middle of the lawn? 

It is fun to plan new rose growing areas. Once you decide where to place the new rose garden bed, it will take some work to create it. Grass is one of the main problems of new rose beds. You need to get rid of the grass; otherwise it will grow up through your bed making it unsightly. The Bermuda and nutgrasses we have here are difficult if not impossible to remove. Maybe you are lucky and the new area is already void of grass and weeds. There are two main ways of creating a new rose bed: place it in the existing ground, or build a raised rose bed. Both have their advantages.

The most common method of creating new rose beds is to dig a hole and plant the rose. Often you will cut out a section of the lawn, amend the soil, and plant your roses. Getting rid of the grass is the most difficult part. Herbicides like Round-up and Finale work well, but in the case of Bermuda, you have to make sure you spray for some time to remove all the pieces of the grass. Gasoline and diesel work exceptionally well, but there are hazardous waste laws against dumping these materials on the ground, let alone flammability concerns. Make sure you get rid of all the grass before you plant your new raised rose bed. In one area, I had the gardeners dig out all the Bermuda infested soil down 12 inches, then sprayed with a herbicide for about 2-3 weeks. Then I filled this area with a good topsoil mix for roses. The roses in that bed have never looked better. 

Shrub irrigation sprayers were installed which helps reduce spider mites by washing the rose foliage. I may get some water spot damage on my roses, but this is far better than coming home after a vacation and finding rose bushes with no foliage because the mites have defoliated them. Since we have low humidity in our area, blackspot and rust are not a problem. 

When creating a rose bed, the soil is your best asset for great roses. Drainage is also a major concern. We have clay soil which gets hard. You may have to dig a bigger hole to remove the clay or in some areas, dig deep enough to break through the hardpan so water can drain. The hardpan is about 2-3 feet down at my place so I have to dig a deeper hole. You can buy good topsoil or create your own. You can mix the existing soil with fertilizer, sand, and organics like Kellogg's Gromulch. I am also a firm believer that you should place super-phosphate or bone meal at the bottom of each hole, or mix in with your soil. 

You can create a rose island in the middle of your lawn. The rose bed can "grow" from the lawn or be a raised bed. Either way, you need to control the grass in the rose bed. One method is to spray with a herbicide, then place down a weed block screen. This will stop most weeds and grass from growing through the screen. Edging material will help control the size of the rose bed, plus make it easier to trim the grass around the perimeter. These islands make great places to grow roses with companion plants.

Probably the best of all worlds are the raised rose beds. First, you have complete control over the soil that goes into the garden bed. Second, the initial planting of roses in the raised bed is much easier than trying to chip through cement-like hardpan. Third, the raised rose bed can easily be placed anywhere. And fourth, and probably the best reason, the roses are at a higher level and require less stooping. This is a sure back saver! 

Raised rose beds are generally made of redwood planks fastened together. Redwood or cedar helps resist decaying of the wood and doesn't need to be treated with chemicals that may harm the rose plant. The beds can be built to any shape, and are easy to assemble and place over sections of the lawn. Like before, I prefer to kill off all of the weeds and grass with a herbicide first, build the box to fit the area, place down a weed-blocking screen at the bottom, and fill with good topsoil. For rose beds I would suggest using 2" by 12" redwood. I built several raised beds in my veggie garden and used 2" by 6" redwood boards. 

I had a severe drainage problem and bad leveling by the landscaper when I moved into my home. The rose garden ended up as a swimming pool during the winter, and drains that I installed later plugged more than drained. Since the land was sloped, I used old railroad ties and terraced the rose beds. I filled these new beds with good topsoil and replanted the roses. Be careful with railroad ties, they are coated with creosote, which will damage rose plants if the roots come in close contact with the tie.

To control weeds in these rose beds, always use a heavy layer of mulch or compost. I have used redwood compost in the past, but love the mushroom compost that I currently have. Mushroom compost is mostly aged horse manure. 

© Copyright Steve Jones. All rights reserved.

This article is an ARS Award of Merit Winner, originally published in "Rose Ecstasy," bulletin of Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez

For questions about Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, contact:
Kitty Belendez

Updated January 7, 2016

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