Lessons from the Rose: This is Not the Time to Fade Out

What do roses know? About the weather? About the change of seasons? Probably more than we know!

These yellow Knockout Roses®, Rosa 'Radsunny' are blooming as though it is still high summer. But we've had some heavy frost already and by the end of the week, there will be a hard freeze or two.

Perhaps these roses know this but instead of just fading away, they've decided to bloom as much as possible, to not give in until they are iced over, snowed under... Brrrr... I don't want to think about it.

We can learn from the roses as we wind up this gardening season.


Now is not the time to fade out. There are bulbs to plant.

I was planting bulbs today and remembered that I had this trowel, a rockery trowel. It's good for digging in tight spaces with a fairly sharp blade. I don't have a rock garden, but I bought this tool because it was a fun looking trowel.

I used it to plant smaller bulbs, and it worked quite well for that purpose. I pushed the trowel into the ground, pulled out a plug of dirt, dropped in the bulb and then covered it up. All without disturbing the other plants in the area.

I also discovered that it was easier to plant bulbs where I had been watering all summer. Where I haven't been watering, the ground is rock solid. As always, I am watering the bulbs after I plant them.


Now is not the time to fade out. There is still time to plant trees and shrubs.

The garden designer and her digging helper came last week and planted several more shrubs, including three Oakleaf hydrangeas, Hydrangea quercifolia 'Sikes Dwarf', some grasses, and a tree.

The fall color on these hydrangeas is stunning.

The advantage of planting trees and shrubs in the fall is that their energy is spent on root growth, not on top growth and blooming. By the time summer arrives, the fall planted plants will be fairly well established and better able to survive hot, dry summer conditions.

Fall planting has more to do with soil temperature than air temperature, so even if we think it is cold outside, conditions may still be good for the plants. Root growth takes place in soils as cold as 45F (roughly, thereabouts, depending on which source you consult).

Unfortunately, fall planting also has a lot to do with finding good plants still in the garden centers. Not as many people think about doing much in the garden in fall, except for leaf raking, so selections in some garden centers can be rather limited. After all, the garden center owners don't want to get a bunch of new trees and shrubs in for fall and get stuck with over-wintering them.

That's too bad because fall is not the time to fade out in the garden.

It's the time to get going, to plant bulbs, trees, and shrubs, to prepare new planting beds for spring.

Learn from the rose...keep going strong right up until the very end.

Rosa 'Radsunny'


  1. Good reminders...and I love that trowel!

  2. The rose knows. Also, even though the selection is not the best, the prices usually are.

  3. Lesson learned! Such a beautiful teacher too.

  4. I'm glad to be of help in advising you on what can still be done this fall, Carol. Oh, wait a minute, you weren't talking about me in your title, were you. . . um, never mind:)

    That rockery trowel looks like just what I need right now! I've already partially bent one trowel trying to dig in this hard ground.

  5. Lovely message. The oakleaf hydrangea is one of my favourite plants, although mine is currently still defiantly green.

  6. Excellent lessons here, Carol! Your yellow rose is lovely. The roses here are looking their best right now after months of inadequate water. Your oakleaf hydrangeas are a delight. I want a digger like that, it would be perfect for the small bulbs.
    ps, Rose has lots of lesssons for us too!

  7. Carol, Please thank Rose, I mean your lovely rose for the great advice. I prefer planting in the fall and it makes absolute sense in the Middle South. Now if more nurseries would stock plants I could plant almost all winter! gail

  8. I just have not had as good experience (zone 5 CT) with Fall planting as I do in Spring... you outline all the good reasons to put trees and shrubs in now, including the energy going to the roots, but it hasn't worked as well for me. I have a better success rate in early Spring! Woody plant choices in early Spring and late Fall are both sketchy--- nurseries want to sell you stuff in leaf in summer when it's never the best time to plant. Love that hydrangea!!

  9. Wonderful post, Carol. My knockout roses laugh in the face of the killing frost we had a couple of days ago, and continue on, growing and inspiring me.

    I've been transplanting things this week, following your excellent advice.

  10. excellent advice. as always. Those Knockout roses are amazing the way they keep blooming after frosts. Even here in Heath. I have never seen a trowel like that, but I am going to have to keep my eyes open. I did plant some snowdrop bulbs using my Cobrahead.

  11. Yes, now is not the time to fade out...I was thinking how much nicer it is to plant in the fall the other day as I was transplanting. In the spring I never know when the 90+ degree days will set in and my plants really suffer. This way I know they will have nice cool days to settle in before next summer!

    Beautiful shots of the knockout roses!

  12. You know you are a gardening geek if you buy a trowel just because it is fun looking.

  13. I have been trying to see my garden in this new light focusing less on what is dying and and more on what is surviving. Thanks for the reminder. Wonderful Post! My rosa rugosa is saying to me everyday "Look at me, I am still here!"

  14. Here in Boise, Idaho,most of our annuals are still blooming. My impatiens are are fully a deep pink and I hace snapdragons about to bloom. No hard frost quite in sight yet.


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