How much energy you will have to give towards winter rose care will depend on where you garden and what roses you have chosen to grow. If living in a mild climate you probably will have to do very little. However for those of us gardening in the north (zones 5 and lower) we will have to give the subject a little more attention.
I personally grow only roses that are hardy to my zone, and prefer those that are hardy to at least a zone below. I realize this cuts down on my choices but there are still more varieties to choose from than I could ever use. By choosing hardy varieties I know my chances of rose survival is greatly increased, even in the worst of winters.
What you should be doing by late Summer:
As summer progresses you should be preparing your roses by keeping them well watered. The fall can be surprisingly hot and dry in many areas. Do not continue to feed them as this simply encourages new growth that will be too weak to sustain winter temperatures. Also refrain from any pruning or heavy picking.
What to do once frost hits:
After you have had a couple of hard freezes, mound new soil or organic mulch around the base of the rose plants about 8 to 12 inches deep. Do not do this earlier as you might just encourage new growth. This method works well for shorter roses.
For tender climbers you can remove the stems from their support, lay them down on the ground and cover with mulch. In spring when new growth starts to emerge, carefully remove the extra mulch from the base and either remove it or spread around evenly.
Another method is to wrap your tender roses in a protective material. You could use straw, evergreen branches, burlap or horticultural fleece. This makes for a bit of unsightliness over the winter but it does work.
Whether you mulch or cover it takes time, energy and expense to protect the tender roses in winter. All good reasons to choose only hardy roses for your climate. When choosing a rose for winter in very harsh climates, the Explorer Series bred in Canada make a great choice.
Roses winter the best during winters of heavy snowfall. Snow acts as an insulator and protects roses in the winter from the icy temperatures and cold winds. The worst situation is a winter of cold temperatures and little precipitation. Equally harsh is areas that have chinooks, where temperatures warm up then drop down many times throughout the winter season.
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