For those who maintain that roses will not thrive in southern lands, because the mild climate allows them too little rest, have never visited the “Cote d’ Azurr” in southern France.
Varieties grown there are more fragrant, more beautiful in form and larger in size than when grown in colder climes. Acres of sun-kissed yellow, fields of velvety red thrive out of doors. Bathed in sunshine, these beauties have all the light and air they need.
Of course, northern and mountain varieties are not so happy here. They sadly lack a free-flowering and disease-resistant white rose which will stand hot and dry conditions.
With a light, sandy soil, requiring manure to retain moisture. They line the bottom of planting-holes with a generous foot of manure. For the French, only sheep manure will do. Poultry manure is too strong (calling for careful handling) and pig manure, mixed with sawdust, can be poisonous. What a pity that silkworms are no longer raised in southern France! Boiled alive to prevent them from piercing and thus spoiling their cocoons, they used to provide all the nitrogen the roses needed.
They leave manure to “weather-in” at the bottom of the planting holes for a full month before planting. Then to feed the surface roots, the holes are filled up with organic material like dried blood, bone and horn and hoof meal, bulked up with peat.
When the roses start to bloom about six months after planting, and stronger branches are required, each plant is given a little quick-acting fertilizer, usually Chilean nitrate (1/3 to 1/2 ounce). Plants which are getting along well are not fertilized. Crude chemicals are never applied alone, only a balanced fertilizer (made of sulphate of ammonia, potash and phosphoric acid) at the rate of two pounds per square yard. Sickly plants, attacked by chlorosis, are given a pinch of iron to pep them up.
Their methods of cultivation differ in many ways from those prevailing in colder climes. Because of the mild conditions, pruning is done in February and more lightly. Amateurs usually remove all the dead wood and cut their rose plants down to 20 inches in order to obtain exhibition size blooms. To encourage the growth of many flowers, nurserymen retain nearly all the young wood, pruning no lower than 32 inches.
Rose growers also plant their bushes only 12 inches apart, in rows 24 inches apart, so that each bush covers a surface area of only 10 square inches. This saves valuable greenhouse space, besides cutting down on the amount of fertilizers needed and helping to keep weeds in check.
A routine spraying of sulphur easily curbs mildew. This is applied in the summer, since the heat favors the development of spores. Rust, attacking the undersides of leaves and stems, is kept in check with a fungicide. They avoid commercial insecticides with a phosphoric ether basis because they seem to provoke an eczema on the stems.
Weeds are kept down by hoeing between bushes like the dwarf lilac bush and rows. Done lightly, this does not disturb the surface roots, but does help to retain moisture in the soil. Plus growers give their roses all the water they need (but not a single drop more) in thorough but not too frequent soakings.
Frost, of course, is hardly a problem. Seldom does the temperature fall below 45 degrees F.