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Everything is Rosy

Posted October 17, 2012 in Community Featured, Winterset

If Marilyn Spencer isn’t out in her own rose beds, you might find her up on the square pruning and caring for the roses on the courthouse grounds.

If a vehicle does happen to make it into the Spencer’s garage, it will likely be transporting some new tool or piece of equipment relating to that sweet scent of nearby roses.

In fact, according to Master Gardener Marilyn Spencer, what will be parked in there soon will be the annual truckload of farm-composted material.

“The roses will have to be heavily mulched soon,” says Marilyn. “The Iowa winters can be so unpredictable that you have to prepare for everything.” As a certified consulting rosarian, she suggests late October or first of November to have your roses covered two feet above ground by compost.

“We usually even cover the compost then with leaves and in the spring, mid-April to the first of May, the leaves are removed and the composted material is worked into the soil,” she says.

Marilyn and her husband, Wendell, have been raising prize roses since 1979, but then it was just three small bushes. Decades later there are now approximately 125 stunning rose varieties in multiple colors and shades.

“The blends are beautiful, but I think I will always favor the solid colors,” she says, but then laughs as she scans the hundreds of blooming bushes. “But I guess I just like them all.” And so do the neighbors — many spring and summer evening walks are purposely diverted to lead by the Spencers’ spectacular landscaped yard and the featured rose gardens of teas, floribundas, grandifloras, shrubs and even the delightful tiny, miniature rose collections.

As a repeat winner at state and district levels, including multiple awards of ‘“Queen of the Show” and “Best of Show,” Marilyn now teaches the art and shares how exciting it is to exhibit and have your one-stem beauty be recognized as the best of all others. “It’s a little addicting”, she smiles.

Spring begins with amending the soil, trimming after all danger of frost has passed and fertilizing. Throughout the summershe deadheads daily and waters — a lot.

“They need at least one inch of rain a week; two inches if it’s hot like it was this year,” she says. And when gathering a bouquet for the dining room table, she advises to cut back to a quarter inch above a five leaflet, at a slant, and on an outside bud.

“This helps to shape the bush, and keeps the center from getting cluttered up. You want air to circulate. That will help with insect control and fungus control, which are very important,” she says. “There is a lot of work to roses, but they are worth it.” And her final piece of advice is, anytime you are working in soil you should keep your tetanus shot updated — it’s another “just do it” when working with roses.

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