You don’t get a rose garden like the one in Schenectady’s Central Park without a serious green thumb.
The person behind the garden is David Gade, who has been working on the garden for over 20 years — since the park was turned over to a rose garden restoration committee in 1994.
The Daily Gazette interviewed Gade for his tips on how to grow a rose garden to be the envy of the neighborhood.
1. Sun, water, soil
In the decades that he’s been at the helm of each pruning, Gade has developed three go-to rules — sun, water and soil.
“Take the sun. First you want to have six hours of sun,” he said.
“You don’t want to be planting them under a tree,” he warned.
The type of sun is also important, the rose veteran said — “preferably the morning sun so it can dry them off if they got dew. It prevents the disease.”
Roses also tend be thirsty flowers, Gade said.
They should get two inches of rain a week, according to Gade. That equates to three watering cans per week. He advises watering every other day to get the best results.
The third steadfast rule is soil. “A lot of soil around here is sandy and really you want a soil that’s got what I call sand — clay and organic and that combination gives you a well-drained soil,” he said.
The organic material Gade refers to is a mixture of compost, manure and mulch. He advises placing mulch around the base of each rose bush and once the soil mixture is complete adding more organic materials.
2. Nursery, not ‘big-box’
While sun, water, and soil is a good rule to follow to nurture healthy roses, Gade said, that will all be in vain if you don’t start with quality roses.
“I always recommend a good nursery rather than a box store,” he said. “I’ve seen box stores where they’ve got [the roses] inside and they’re not getting any water or sun. That’s a [recipe] for disaster.”
The nursery can help point neophyte gardeners in the right direction for the roses that perform best in the area.
“You want to buy roses that are hearty, disease-resistant and have a good habit,” Gade said.
The “habit” is the shape in which they grow — you don’t want them too flat or low.
3. Three-gallon is best
Even at a nursery, though, there are two different options to buy the roses and one is better than the other, according to Gade.
“The three-gallon pot is a much better rose to buy,” he said. “The reason being is that a three-gallon pot has 50 percent more soil than the two-gallon pot so you’re buying a healthier, more established plant.”
The extra soil allows for better rooting once the plant is in the ground, he said.
4. Plant from April to June
If you’re planning to add roses to a garden this season, Gade recommends planting after the first week in May, although any time between April and June is typically a safe bet
If starting a rose garden for the first time, three to four rose bushes is optimal, according to Gade.
“If you have good results or get some help, maybe you want to expand that to more,” he said. “Sometimes the bug bites you.”
The gardening bug bit Gade in the 1970s while he was still working at General Electric in Schenectady.
“I was a supervisor at GE in the drafting department and I was growing roses then, and you know every year when the roses started coming out in June I’d get up early and cut 25 roses and bring them in and put them on the secretaries’ desks, and I didn’t have any trouble getting my typing done,” he joked.