Success, Guaranteed!


‘Cinco de Mayo’ roses, seen here in the Rose Garden earlier this year, will be among the varieties available during a sale of bare-root plants on Thursday, following a talk by Tom Carruth. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Winter would never be considered rose season, even in sunny Southern California. But if you’re a rose lover who is already dreaming of a backyard bower of fragrant blooms, now’s the time to get busy. Put some bare-root roses in the ground and give them a bit of TLC, and you’ll be well rewarded come spring.

“January is the perfect time to plant bare-root roses in our region,” says Tom Carruth, the E. L. and Ruth B. Shannon Curator of the Rose Collection at The Huntington. The reasons are practical as well as horticultural, he explains: Bare-root plants are widely available from nurseries at this time of year, and they’re less expensive than potted roses. They’re easier to handle, having no long, thorny canes to grapple with. With no initial leaf growth to support, the plants can focus their energies on developing strong roots. And the cooler winter climate allows plants to become well established, so that when springtime arrives they’re ready to put on a spectacular show. Getting a strong start will serve them well during the hot summer months, too.

Yet despite all these advantages, bare-root roses can be a hard sell, says Carruth. “Many gardeners are either intimidated or just plain uninspired by these ugly ducklings.”


Bare-root roses don’t look like much before planting, but they have many advantages over roses in pots. Photo courtesy of Weeks Roses.

Carruth hopes to change all that and will attempt to demystify those “ugly ducklings” in a free talk titled “Guaranteed Success with Bare-Root Roses” on Thursday, Jan. 9, at 2:30 p.m. in the Ahmanson Room. And if anyone can demystify roses, it’s Carruth. His long and successful career as a rosarian has included 36 years as a hybridizer with Weeks Roses, one of the leading growers in the country. Among his award-winning introductions are such favorites as ‘Scentimental’, ‘Julia Child’, and ‘Betty Boop’. Drawing on that depth of professional experience, he’ll share some basic tips for the home gardener, such as what to look for when selecting bare-root roses, how to plant them, when to feed, how much to water, and how to do the first pruning.

In anticipation of inspiring some new converts, a plant sale will follow the program.

The presentation will also include an extra bonus for rose fanciers: Carruth will talk about recent developments in the three-acre Rose Garden since he joined the Huntington staff in 2012. Among recent projects was the replacement of aging wood trellises, the repair of a small fountain, and conservation of the 19th-century statue that is one of the focal points of the garden. Many new plantings have been added to further enhance the landscape.


Tom Carruth at work in the Rose Garden. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

You can read more about Carruth and his vision for the Rose Garden in the spring/summer 2013 issue of Huntington Frontiers. “Guaranteed Success with Bare-Root Roses” is part of The Huntington’s monthly Second Thursday Garden Talk & Plant Sale series. Coming Feb. 13: “Growing Pacific Coast Irises” with Bob Sussman of Matilija Nursery.

Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator at The Huntington. 

3 thoughts on “Success, Guaranteed!

  1. What a thrill to have such an expert rosarian in charge of the Huntington Rose Garden! Roses are really easy to grow when you know what they love – sun and the right amount of water and tlc.

    • Maria, we agree! Tom Carruth is a real treasure. We feel very fortunate to have him on our staff. And he’s doing wonderful things in the garden.

  2. Pingback: » Tough Love for Roses

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