Test roses survive raccoon trails and tribulations


"How’s your rose garden coming?" called out Maude Ogle as I passed by the coffee area at Randall’s, "You know we’re keeping track of you."

I stopped on my way our the door, rushing home to get supper on the table.

I replied, "It’s doing fine now, but sometime I’d relate the saga of the Jackson & Perkins test roses." Then I went on about my way.

You know, some things just never go the expected way. The outcome of any given situation can often follow a very twisted path. Such was the case of the test roses.

The four test roses arrived in great condition. The top canes were green and healthy looking. The root structure was fabulous, lots of good strong light-colored fibers that fanned out from central stems were nice and moist. They hadn’t dried out one bit during their voyage from Ohio to Texas.

The 20-inch diameter pots were ready for them. The roots were soaking in a mild fish emulsion while the pots were placed on the wooden dollies with rollers that were constructed to make turning and moving the pots easier. They were then filled with 2 inches of plastic packing peanuts in each bottom for drainage and a good rose soil mix sold at GardenVille, the rest of the way to the top.

To start them off with a good growing boost, bone meal, blood meal and some great organic fertilizer and seaweed, etc. was added to the mix. A layer of compost topped off each pot and they were rolled to the central part of the deck around the pool and staged for proper effect.

Soon the bright colors would dominate the area, softening the hard, horizontal lines of the pool decking. The soft summer breezes would waft their fragrance through the air, perfuming it with a delightful tea scent.

I congratulated my self for being so clever. It was going to be beautiful with all those pots of roses around the pool. Yes, indeed.

It had been a busy week getting every thing ready. It took about three days. Working off and on to collect the wood and cut it to the proper lengths, buy the 90-pound swivel rollers and power screw the plant dollies all together.

The dollies were constructed by trimming each 2x4 inch scrape lumber piece to about 12 inches long, butting the ends together at a 90-degree angle and then over lapping the horizontal ends with the vertical ends, four screws affixed each roller to each corner, connecting the rollers and the wooden ends at the same time. They would be sturdy enough to hold the weight of the containers without any problem.

A trip was scheduled to GardenVille to buy the rose soil in the cool of the morning. As my luck would have it, there wasn’t any that had been pre-bagged so, taking the shovel and bucket provided by the garden center, out I went to the "back" where all the soil and compost is kept in piles to "do my own" . It can either be self-serve or prepackaged, which is a little more expensive.

Feeling very self-satisfied that I had worked up a sweat making sure that these roses got off to a great start, I filed the car trunk with the plastic bags of soil and drove home.

It took the better part of a day to fill the pots, trim up some of the roots, work all the good B. S. and other fertilizer in and roll the pots into their positions on the deck. Watering them down with the garden hose, I thought to myself, "A good soaking and these roses are going to grow out of their socks!"

You see, the newer, more modern hybrid roses can take strong fertilization better that the older ones can. Depending on the rose, some can really resent a fertilizer that is too strong, making the organic fertilizer the food of choice.

Congratulating myself on a job, very well done. I packed up my shovels and stuff, cleaned up the area and lolled on the swing for a while with a fresh cup of coffee.

The next morning, I could hardly wait to get down to the pool to see if any buds had grown overnight. As I descended the stairs to the deck, I almost dropped my morning cup of coffee! I couldn’t believe the sight that awaited me.

The pots had all been turned over off their dollies. The soil had been scattered form one end of the pool deck to another and the roses had been tossed about with wild abandon. Two of the plants were floating in the pool.

What the heck? Who? Better yet, WHY?

Walking up to the shallow end of the pool, I could see the muddy footprints and hand prints of the culprits, still visible on the steps leading down into the water in the shallow end.

Those masked bandits of the night were responsible. The partying pair of raccoons that reside in the neighborhood and visit the four pools on our cul-de-sac on a rotational basis had played havoc with my roses.

Tempted by the fresh scents of the organic fertilizer, they had thorn through the pots looking for the beef. A two year old could not have done a better job of destruction. They had not chewed on any of the roots, but had taken several bites out of the shocking pink expanded foam "noodles" that were floating in the pool.

I was incense! No, I was very, very angry. Had they been in my sights at that very moment, I would have rendered mayhem and destruction on them! I couldn’t believe the mess!

It must have taken them all night to do this, but maybe not. This, I’m sure, was the same pair that, working together, one on one side and one on the other, unscrewed the lid to the bucket that contained all the birdseed and had a feast on that one night!

Leaving the roses to float in the pool, I swept up and gathered up what I could. Of course a light wind prevailed that day, out to the north, blowing all of the plastic peanuts into the pool as well. I hadn’t super chlorinated that pool yet for the season so the plants were reasonably safe for a while, floating while I worked to refill the pots.

Using the pool skimmer to retrieve the peanuts to refill the pots. Finally, I was able to pack the roses back into the pots. The deck was slowly getting clean. There had been quite a bit of soil lost in the battle, so each pot was now topped off with a couple inches of neutral potting soil. The decking was swept clean and the pool cleaned of the telltale party prints.

A super chlorinating would clean the water of any organic residue in case they were upset with me because there was not food, and peed in the pool. I wouldn’t put anything past these two.

Now what was I going to feed these roses? Certainly no more of the organic fertilizer! Shopping around that day, I found Osmocote®, an extended time release fertilizer formed in to granules, coated with a resin that is easy to use and doesn’t smell, and answer to my prayers. I do love to use B.S., but it does have a certain fragrance that wafts our in the night, acting as an invitation, calling all creatures to the buffet.

The Osmocote® has 18 percent nitrogen, 6 percent soluble potash making is a good all-purpose plant food, indoors or out. The granules continuously release nutrients for approximately 9 months.

Instructions on the box panel suggested that bare root roses required 1 to 1.5 tablespoon per each foot of height expected at peak season incorporated in the soil. Hoping for the best, I worked about 4 tablespoons into the soil of each pot, and top-dressed with more compost.

It’s been about 3 weeks now since the "party," and the roses have prospered in spite of their rough treatment. So from now on, the pot feeding will be coated granules, and I’ll leave the B.S. for the beds and the compost pile, which the pesky pair seem to leave alone.


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