Moving My Favorite White Rose

I decided over the winter that I need to move all the plantings out of my current rose border and let it grass over. I have more borders than I can manage, honestly, and that one just doesn’t have the impact that the others do. So, two unidentified white climbing roses and one Dortmund climbing rose need to find new homes, plus a hosta and a smattering of white irises that I only recently divided.

This morning was the perfect day to move a rose: cool and overcast, with the forsythia in bloom, coming off of a few solid days of soaking rain.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t still nervous as hell. I’ve never moved a rose before, and I didn’t want to kill my favorite long-bloomer. But I went for it, anyway.

Before in the Rose Border

She was already starting to put out tiny buds, so I hoped I wasn’t already starting this project too late.

I dug a receiving hole along the front fence — a sunnier spot than she’s currently in — then went back to the current rose border to assess the situation. I knew I needed about as much rose on top as I’d have roots, and I knew I should take this opportunity to cut out some of the oldest canes, so I went to town with the pruners. Then, once I’d taken off enough to get my shovel around it, I tackled the task of levering it up out of the ground.

This girl had been in this spot for years, judging from the long and thick roots she’d grown. I was seriously concerned once I saw them that I was about to kill my favorite rose. But I continued, finally severing some roots that were a good inch or more in diameter. Then I cut out just a few more old, thick canes, and had my five-year-old son “help” me move the rose to its new location.

I was sure I’d killed it.

The rose by its new hole

Not much of it left

The canes and the roots are about proportional, so maybe I didn’t kill it? We’ll see.

I expanded the hole to make room for the giant roots I’d salvaged (I’m really most concerned that there’s not many small roots for taking up water), then put the rose in the hole and made some more minor adjustments to make sure she’d be down deep enough.

The rose in its new hole

Looking good. I put a little dirt back in the bottom of the hole, under the roots, then emptied out my big watering can into it. Despite the recent rains, it appeared to drain just fine — not too fast, not too slow. I think. I’m not terribly experienced with these things.

Finally, I filled the hole back in, making sure to mound the soil up around the uppermost roots. I suspect this is an own-root rose (or it is now if it wasn’t originally), but I buried it up beyond where the soil line had been in its old location, just to be sure.

My favorite white climber in its new home

It looks a little pathetic right now… but it’s still early spring, and she’s got time to fill out a bit. I know she’s not going to bloom like she usually does this year, and I’m going to try not to let that worry me. As long as she’s green and leafy and happy, I’ll be happy.

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