My Rose Garden Dilemma




My rose garden has been suffering.  When it was originally planted over 100 years ago there was no neighboring property.  It was all orange groves surrounding it.  About 25 years ago the land was subdivided and a large home was built adjacent to my rose garden.  Fences were put up and trees were planted along side them to provide privacy to the new home.  Over time those trees have grown very tall and now during the summer completely cover my roses in shade.  The only decent bloom I get is the first one in spring.  By summertime they only get 3 hours of morning sun resulting in very few and paltry blooms.



When we bought our property the rose garden was just a mess of brambles all connected.  We sorted them out, pruned, fed and watered the daylights out of them.  The garden miraculously came alive and produced blooms like the ones above.  Over the last 10 years that we have lived here the trees have grown and produce even more shade and now I don't know what to do.

There were about 85 when we started and now there are approximately 40.  What to do, what to do? 

There is no way the neighbor will cut the trees down or even cut them back so that is out of the question.  This rose garden was such a showstopper producing the most beautiful blooms and the scent! So do I keep it going just for the spring bloom?

Any suggestions welcome.  xo

36 comments

  1. This is just heartbreaking! If it was me though, I'd keep it going for just the spring bloom. It would be too important to me to keep the history alive. Are there sunny areas you could start adding new roses and transition the shady area to plants better suited as time goes by?

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  2. Roses don't like to be moved, even if you did have a sunny spot for them. Sorry, Janet.

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    1. Not even after they've been hard-pruned? Essentially making them into bare root roses for planting? I moved a Thomas Hardy and so far he's done better in his new larger space. I'd try moving them, maybe three at a time, just to see how it goes? No? Now, I am not an expert rosarian by any means, so maybe there's real knowledge I'm missing and my rose move was just a fluke?

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  3. I feel your pain. My new neighbors made drastic changes to their yard when they moved in exchanging a beautiful border hedge for a chain link fence. I agonized over that for a solid year, lost sleep, cried, you name it. I’ve come to accept that what I had is gone and not coming back and try to be grateful for what I still have in the garden. I feel like I wasted a whole year and am now planning my new border hedge hopefully planted against a more natural wooden fence of my own. Just have to save a bit longer but that gives me more time to plan my new dream garden. I’d keep the roses until they no longer make you happy, thank them for their wonderful show the last 100 years and then let them go and start something else that will make the next owners smile in 2118!

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    1. My neighbors built a two-story house and THEN cut down their privacy hedge. A coast live oak grew on my side, a volunteer, but they don't really appreciate it:(.

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  4. That makes me so sad, I'm sorry you're having to navigate this. Were the neighbors aware of the rose garden? I doesn't matter, really, I'm just curious. Is there another space on your property you could start a significant planting of something you love?

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  5. I love roses, but in our Southern California dry climate I also have had problems keeping my garden looking great. Many of my plants aren't sure what to do and when to bloom. It is hard to tell if you have, but I would suggest underplanting your roses so that you have some different blooms all year long. Take out some of the roses that don't produce very well and replace them with other plants. I use many short varieties of lavender, sage, Dutch Iris, statice, ornamental kale, salvia, and I also use boxwood topiaries. Good luck. I also cut back my roses twice a year in Dec. and late summer. It seems to trick some of my roses to bloom again. Good luck!

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  6. Hi Janet, can you pony up the money to trim the trees? Talk to your neighbor and see if they will let you trim their trees. If not, maybe you can get advice from a rosarian near you, maybe in Carpenteria or Santa Barbara or in the Central Valley near Hanford? Good luck!

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  7. I have moved roses and they have come through well. I would do it in winter when they are pruned back and keep them well watered, Since your roses are older, it may be trickier. Google transplanting roses, there is a lot of good advice. If there is a rose club in your area, they may be able to help. Rosarians are good people with lots of knowledge and experience. Also, if the trees are branching on your side of the property, I believe you can trim them. Find out. Good luck!
    Judith

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  8. Yes definitely check with a rose society. One speaker/writer I heard said roses only need 3 hrs of light and there are some that even grown in the shade. Perhaps the roses need to be really cut back - soil replenished. Nutrients. If the roses are really old perhaps taking cuttings and starting new bushes will give you a fresh healthy crop. I have dug up roses from houses that were going to be demolished and they have done well in their new location. Perhaps you may have to have less bushes but ones that give an abundance of blooms. I can understand being unhappy/disappointed with the neighbours.

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  9. Oh poor Janet, you've given us a different side to the Valentine's roses dream. Given the heritage you've bought into it's one that you'll want to continue. I like all approaches above, like accepting a spring-only show and underplanting to fill the gaps of the 50% loss. But you do need to seek out the experts for advice on exactly why half have gone. This concerns me as you don't want to lose the rest. Is it disease resulting from sun deprivation (disease can be treated). Only then can you understand what you can do to save the remaining half from going the same way. Such a fine heritage. What remains sounds delightful and those roses are just perfect. Hugs and good luck, please update us. X.

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  10. Dear Janet, I feel your pain. I know how much the Roses mean to you, even enduring allergies for them. I suggest surveying your yard, watching the sun's daily movement and moving them to a different location, even if it means creating more sun exposure in your own yard. Maybe there is a spot you haven't considered, where some existing bushes could be removed to make room for them. I have had great success with moving roses and now is the best time of year to transplant. Prayer always helps in situations like this ;) I have faith that you find the perfect spot! xo Deni

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  11. If there's one thing that roses definitely need it is SUN. I'm actually going through this situation but on a much more minor scale. I have a small rose garden that is also planted with medicinal herbs, there are only three rose plants but they are heritage varieties that I planted and that I love. The trees on either side of this garden have grown so large that they now only get about 3 hours of sun, not enough. I'm going to take them out and plant them in sunnier areas of my garden this spring. I'll then just focus on the herbs in the garden, as well as spring greens such as sorrel and lovage.
    The trees are mine so I could trim them but I definitely will not, they are beautiful specimens that provide privacy and noise relief to our terrace. The success of these trees has been the downfall of the roses, but this is how gardens evolve I guess.
    So my only idea is to try to move your roses to sunnier locations. Do you have available spots in your garden? xx

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  12. You are right to not expect the neighbor to cut or trim his trees. That's his property. The only thing you can do to get your roses more light is to move them. This is not what you want to hear, of course, but landscaping must adapt over the years. If your roses have survived this long, they are probably asking you to move them into an area of more sunlight. Then you can plan for a lovely woodland garden in the space they leave behind. Good luck to you, they are beautiful. Judith

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    1. In California you are allowed to cut the tree branches that go into your property, unless they are heritage trees. But good neighbor practices means you should talk to them and let them know you plan to do so, so they can prune to balance on their side.

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  13. Old and antique roses root easily and do fine on their own roots (vs. grafting). You certainly could start rooting babies to ensure your lovely roses continue. Those new ones can be planted in the sun while you determine what to do with the struggling roses. Carolyn

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  14. I have had success with moving roses. Do you have a sunny spot you could experiment with?

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  15. I agree that older roses can be moved--just do as most have suggested and cut them back so the transplanted roots can care for only as many leaves as necessary--not all of them. A rose is not delicate.
    But first--is there actually a sunny spot for them? If the answer is no then enjoy the roses in Spring and think about giving them to people who do have sunny yards as the years and the shade progresses.

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    1. Oh good idea! There will also be a plant sale by a rose group somewhere near you if you want to fund new shade plants! You could replace the roses with hydrangea, fatsia, hellebore, daphne, ferns, coral bells - lots of pretty options (she says as she looks out her window at a shade garden;)). Even the spectacular piers japonica if you have part shade.

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  16. I move roses all the time and they are fine. Some roses do have a life span, so it might be better to replace them rather than moving them. My garden has quite a few trees and don't get the amount of sun that roses like, so I have ordered some new ones that can handle less sun. The David Austin website has a section called "Roses for shade". Good luck! I know how you feel, roses are my absolute favorite and I won't give them up even though it's been a challenge.

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  17. Oh, it's such a shame; almost makes me cry. Neighbors can just wreck your life, it's true. I constantly have to trim a gigantic tree my neighbors planted right up against the divider fence to our properties; it's more on my side than his and it costs a fair amount of money, twice a year, to contain the thing because it's 'way too tall for my husband to whack at, and the tree does nothing for us but get in our way and rub on our roof. Grrrrrrrr...

    I don't think it's possible to transplant antique roses like yours without really endangering them, right? If you have another sunny part of the property, could you have a professional someone come in and take slips off the old roses, to make new ones? My grandpa knew how to do that, and brought starters off the old bushes my mother had been surrounded with at her childhood home. And this was over 60 years ago and they're still going strong, mine to enjoy now, and so meaningful. They're up against the house and face full south with nothing to shade them.

    We planted three bushes against a fence facing east but they're partially blocked by fencing and a rear-yard shed - - and doing poorly. We've replaced two bushes twice, since 2014, and I think I just have to give it up. They're unhappy there.

    Feel for you! I so love roses; they are my fave. I can get so much pleasure from just one stem in a clear-glass vase, watching the bud unfold over days inside the house, but I always try to leave an equal amount on the bush so that the flowers are as pretty outside as indoors.

    Happy Valentine's Day, Janet - - I hope you get a good solution for the rose garden!

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    1. Kimberly Crest Gardens - - what if you contacted their gardeners for advice. I bet they'd help you. If you go to a nursery, they'd probably just want to sell you more roses, although you never know...

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  18. Hi Janet- sorry for this dilemma! I think you have three choices: leave the roses where they are and watch them slowly die off; try moving the roses; trim the part of the trees that hang over into your yard. We had a large tree that hung over into our neighbor's yard and when we were out he trimmed all the branches that hung over into his yard leaving us with a lopsided tree that had no branches on one side! It's a tricky situation and probably one party will end up unhappy. You might want to get advice from the city on this. They probably have had experience with infringement situations and may be able to help or give good advice. Good luck :-) Bridget

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  19. I have never had a problem transplanting a rose bush. In fact they often perform better after the move. Can brush the crown to stimulate growth. Trick is not to move it on a hot day and give it a trim before uprooting.

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  20. adrienne from worcestershireFebruary 14, 2018 at 1:50 PM

    Hi Janet ...
    This is really sad. However if you have a sunny spot I'd see if they can be transplanted. David Austin Roses here in the UK is a Old Rose specialist and Rose Grower. They have contact details on their web site and may be able to offer you some advice. I found an article Myths about transplanting Roses by Joel Mattox ncnhdistrict.org web site which may be helpful.

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  21. Hi Janet, I would suggest digging them up and putting your favorites in pots, and the remainder wherever you have sun, even out on the street as most roses love the air circulation they get in open air areas like that as long as water is sufficient. I have quite a few roses in large pots, and they do very well. I stick to antique varieties, whether bush or climbers (I use large topiary forms for climbers). The main concern is adequate water and you must feed more. If you transplant, do so before it gets too hot or you risk shocking the plants. Good luck!

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  22. Check with your local home extension service or local gardening club and have them put you in touch with a master Gardner. They will help you. I don't believe that some of these rose bushes cannot be moved, you have nothing to lose by trying!

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  23. I am not a good one to comment because I am a tree lover!
    way before it became to hug trees politically I have been hugging them since I was 7 years old!
    I am going to blow everybody's mind here. I don't care for roses. their thorns always manage to find their way into my hands and their scent to me is only fresh for a moment. if in too many numbers it is cloyingly sweet to me and sets off allergies.
    trees on the other hand provide literal life giving oxygen to us! and in my state they are mercilessly cut down for all kinds of silly reasons... too messy. in the way... too shady! ??? in a state where we often reach triple digits in the summer and every creature prays for shade??? I guess we could always put up some plastic trees.
    as a minimalist who values 'just enough' and lives with no other excesses in her life... what to do will surely come to you! I liked Deb's comment. she is making lemonade out of of lemons! or something like that.
    love to you AJJ! ♥

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  24. This has nothing to do with roses but the comments are reminding me of my uncle who loved his vegetable garden. Over the years as the woods grew , he’s a tree lover, and took over more of his property he planted his tomatoes in his wheelbarrow and they followed the sun. He was retired and had the time and the tomatoes were wonderful. 🙂

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    1. I LOVE that! wheelbarrow tomatoes! that's a fantastic idea!
      a wheelbarrow garden. makes me smile even now!

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  25. One more gardener here who has moved roses with no problems in both Southern and Northern Ca. Also have some in containers that are very happy. If you really love them it may be worth the effort. xo

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  26. DO you even have the area to move them?ROses are VERY HARDY They will survive but you should have done this last month...............cut them back to nothing and move if possible otherwise, I think I'm the first to say............LET THEM GO!It will only get worse with the shade from the big trees.You may not even get a SPRING BLOOM ONE YEAR!LOVE YOUR PILLAR AND BASKET!!!!!!!!XX

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  27. I was in the landscape business of years, we had success moving roses, especially if done carefully. I would try moving a few and see how it goes. There are also some roses that are more tolerant of a little less sun. We used to do our homework on roses when a client wanted roses in a garden with less than ideal sun exposure.
    Good luck, I agree, I'd probably keep my favorites for spring-only blooms.
    xo,
    Karen

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  28. I sympathise greatly with your lack of light. We have exactly the same problem. HUGE fir trees in our next door neighbours' garden shade us from the sun on the south side of our house, plunging the house and greenhouse into shade throughout the winter months. We did ask if the trees could at least be thinned a little to let through some light. (I keep wishing that a storm might bring them down!)
    As others have said, roses are tough, some far more than others, so perhaps a little research is in order. The shade could actually be quite beneficial in the warm climate that you enjoy. I would feed, feed, feed and also take cuttings to root. I've done this very successfully many times. It would be very sad not to have a rose garden since that is the history of your home. Hope all goes well!

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  29. If you want some good advice, try talking to the head rosarian at Huntington Library and Botanic Gardens. He takes care of a huge rose garden (some next to some HUGE trees) and will have the experience in roses and climate to fully answer your questions. Any excuse to visit there is a good excuse! Also, Descanso Gardens has a HUGE rose garden and experts that could probably help as well. That one is a lot of fun to visit in winter as their extensive camellia garden is in bloom... I believe there is a commercial rose growing farm in the Upland/Cucamonga area. If you could find it and get access, you might be able to ask them, but I really think the guy at Huntington Gardens is your best bet for good, accurate info about your specific issues.

    Anyway, my experience in moving roses in Southern California have always been successful. I move them in the cool season, cut off all the leaves and for hybrid tea roses, prune out the rest of the plant removing all crossing branches so that the plant is in a "vase" shape (hollow in the center, with all branches pointing outwards). I hold the bare root roses in a bucket of water while I dig a shallow but wide new hole, then make a mound of soil in the center and place the plant on that with the roots spreading out into the well. Do not amend the soil, but you can place a bit of slow release fertilizer in the hole NOT touching the roots. Refill the hole, again not amending the soil. Make sure the soil covers all the roots, but only comes up to where the soil was on the trunk in it's previous location. Water in well and make sure the soil doesn't get washed away from the roots (add more soil) or that soil gets washed in and comes up to far on the trunk (replant!). That's when you spread the compost on top of the soil, then the mulch. Do keep the mulch a couple of inches from the trunk so as not to rot the trunk. It's really not too complicated. I'd move any plant in the late afternoon too, so it has more time to get adjusted and gets less sun stress, though without any leaves, roses can adjust much easier. If you move a plant with leaves on it, try shading it with an umbrella (or something else) for a few days to give it time to acclimatize.

    Now it you want to plant something in the shade instead of roses, you will need to choose wisely. You would be looking for shade loving plants, and there are those that can accommodate low water situations. Lavender needs full sun. Camellias are beautiful and evergreen, but need more water. But the bonus with them is that they bloom in the cool months and you can get early, mid and late season bloomers so you have beautiful blooms all winter--and they make good cut flowers. Personally, I'd look into California natives. Try the Santa Ana Botanic Garden in the Claremont/Montclair area. Experts there can tell you what to plant in dry shade that will do well. As a bonus, you are likely to get some grateful wildlife in your yard. Having some hummingbirds and butterflies might take some of the sting out of losing your precious roses. Just a thought anyway. Best wishes!

    Garden Goddess

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  30. Hydrangea do beautifully in So. California. They would give you a big punch of color for much of the season.

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kindness is never out of style.

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