Q. With the passing of our Dad recently, the decision to sell his home is in the works. On the property there are a couple of rose bushes that we’d like to have, since Dad was a pretty good gardener. Our question is how best do we do this to keep the bushes “in the family” and be successful? – M.F., Albuquerque
A. It’s a nice thing that you want to keep your father close by choosing to keep plants that he tended during his time here on earth.
First, know that now is not the best time of year to transplant, with it being so wicked hot. But, the more prepared you are, the easier the move can be for the roses. Before you go and dig up the roses you need to have the new spot prepared beforehand.
Your goal is to get the roses out of the ground and back into the ground as seamlessly and quickly as possible.
Choose a spot at your home that will mimic the place they are now as best you can. Are they planted in a spot that gets all-day sun? In a spot where they get a fair amount of wind movement? You get my drift.
Next, lay down a tarp in the spot where you’re going to plant and start digging. You’ll want to make a fairly wide, but not too deep hole. Lay all that removed soil on the tarp. You want the receiving hole deep enough to handle the root mass of Dad’s roses, but not so deep that it sinks too far.
For the time being, deeper is a little better since you can always push soil back into the hole once the roses arrive. With that soil out of the hole, go ahead and mix in some compost to energize the soil, which will offer additional nutrition to the incoming roses.
When the time comes to retrieve the roses I’d suggest that you go armed with stout gloves, very sharp bladed shovels and lengths of bed sheets torn into long strips.
At the base of the bush, tie a sheet strip to the trunk below as much of growth as possible and start winding the strip upwards.
Your goal is to contain and convince the bush to become a sort of mummified, cigar-shaped thing. When you are winding the bush, you do want the strips taut but not so tight that there is breakage of limbs and branches.
A good drink of water before you dig up the bushes would be a good thing too and will help keep the root mass insulated.
Now that you’ve gotten the bush under control and it won’t be damaged, it’s time to dig it up. Again, lay a tarp near the rose and dig. Start at least two feet, perhaps three feet, away from the trunk, and depending on the bushes’ size it might be better to move further away from the trunk.
You’ll want to get a “feel” for where the root mass lives below ground and although you won’t get all of it, you do want the bulk of it.
Dig all the way around and aiming under the bush, and don’t freak out if some of the roots are severed from the bush. You might need to take that as a sign that you need to widen the “dig up” space, but having some of the roots severed is inevitable.
Once the rose is “free” of the ground, lay the root mass on the tarp and gather it to keep the mass contained. Then get the bushes to their new homes as quickly as possible. No garage sale or grocery shopping stops along the way.
Untarp the bushes as near to the new hole as possible. Leave the sheet strips in place for the time being. Since you’ve gotten up close and personal with the bushes, you should be able to recognize the exact depth the roses were planted at and you want to mimic that depth as perfectly as humanly possible. Deeper or more shallow is not better. Don’t “settle” thinking “well, that’s good enough.” Be as exacting as possible for the health of the roses.
Once the proper planting depth is acquired, push the balance of the excavated soil, and any soil that came with the bushes into the hole, tamping it down firmly as you go. There should be excess soil and I want you to use that to create a moat wall encircling the bushes.
Next, water. Slowly fill the moat allowing the soil to settle. You’ll probably see air bubbles rise and pop, but as long as the depth of the bush isn’t affected, that’s OK. You will want to slowly water, filling the moat daily for the next ten days to two weeks.
Also, consider an application of liquid “root stimulator,” diluted to the label directions, after you first have planted and watered, and again in two weeks, remembering to water first. You never fertilize a dry root mass, ever.
Gradually, you’ll wean the watering schedule to fit into your world, just never allow the newly replanted rose to dry out too much.
Although it’s hot, with your preparedness in making the move as seamless and quick as you can, I believe you will be successful moving the roses and keeping them thriving as a living reminder of Dad.
Happy Diggin’ In.
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to firstname.lastname@example.org.