Taking Root at The Grotto

Gardening Tips with Mark Combelic, The Grotto’s Director of Facilities and Master Gardener

April 2019

The roses have been pruned and lime has been applied, as has the first application of rose fertilizer. Now we wait for the arrival of warmer, sunny days to see what beautiful display our rose garden gives us this year. Here at The Grotto our roses usually go into their first bloom cycle in early July, depending, of course, on weather conditions.

Currently the camellias are in full bloom along with a few early varieties of rhododendrons. The new daffodil (narcissus) garden we installed (over 1000 bulbs) last October at the entry to the Peace Garden is also in bloom. We used a naturalizing mix with a wide range of bloom times; this will give us more color for a longer period of time, and the plants will propagate and spread.

Lawn mowing has begun, and although we have had to mow in between heavy rain showers, our turf is looking better than it did at this time last year. It pays to make sure your mower has a sharp blade. This will give the grass a clean cut, where as a dull blade will tear, causing the top of the grass to turn brown.

We have increased our applications of lime over past years; soil testing indicated it was needed. We will be applying an organic turf fertilizer this month. All of the rain we usually get in April will help move the fertilizer to the roots for the first feeding of the year.

I am often asked what is the best time of the year to visit the Grotto. I always reply that The Grotto offers something new and different with each season. But, for color, April and May are when the gardens really put on a show.- Mark

March 2019

This is the traditional time of year for starting Spring maintenance on our rose garden. As the roses begin to come out of quiescence (modern roses do not go into dormancy), new growth is beginning to appear. We traditionally prune back to a height of 18 inches and any dead canes are removed at the crown of the shrub.

This is also the time we apply lime to the soil in our rose garden. A PH level of 5.8 to 6.8 is preferable.

And be on the lookout for bare root roses arriving at retail garden centers. Bare root roses are usually less expensive than potted (which arrive later in the Spring) and it’s a chance to check out the latest varieties.