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Ask the Master Gardener: A Mother’s Day gift that can last for years

Hardy roses do not typically need any extra winter protection since they will regrow from the roots if the canes are damaged.

A rose bush.
Hardy roses, such as this Foxi Pavement rose bush, can last for years. <br/>
Contributed / Jennifer Knutson
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Dear Master Gardener: This year for Mother’s Day instead of buying my wife roses, which don’t last very long, I thought I would buy a hardy rose bush that can be enjoyed for years. Are there roses that grow in our area and can withstand our cold winters without much fuss?

Answer: Yes, there are some excellent roses from which to choose that are hardy to zone 3b (temperatures to 35 degrees below zero). It is important to check the plant label to make sure it is hardy to zone 3. Here are a few excellent choices by color:

  • White: Marie Bugnet and Morden Blush
  • Pink: Suddenly Summer, Morden Belle, William Baffin, Foxi, and Prairie Joy
  • Red: Hope for Humanity, Winnipeg Parks, and Champlain

Canadian Artist roses are hardy to zone 2: Emily Carr (dark red), Felix LeClerc (deep pink), Bill Reid (yellow), Campfire (tri-color) and Oscar Peterson (white). Although Easy Elegance roses are listed as hardy to zone 4, many do fine in 3b and carry a two-year guarantee.
Plant your rose in a sunny location that receives at least five to six hours of sunlight each day; morning sun is preferred. Roses need protection from strong, drying winds but require lots of air circulation to reduce the chance of disease. Hardy roses do not typically need any extra winter protection since they will regrow from the roots if the canes are damaged.

Dear Master Gardener: When is it safe to plant annuals?

Answer: The last frost date for the Brainerd lakes area is approximately May 27 (there will only be a 10% chance of frost occurring after that date). Begonia, coleus, impatiens, salvia, zinnia, and vinca need warm soil and air temperatures to grow well and will not tolerate any frost. These plants will grow much better when put out at least one or two weeks after the last frost-free date. On June 1, 1964 in Itasca County the temperature dipped to 15 degrees, so with the way our spring has been going you may not want to take any chances! Ageratum, geranium, dianthus, lobelia, petunia and gazania can tolerate cool air temperatures and soil, but cannot take a light frost without being damaged, so plant them close to the last frost-free date. Annuals that can tolerate cool soils and air temperatures and even light frost are pansies, calendula, dusty miller, snapdragons, and sweet alyssum. They can be planted a few weeks before the last frost date.

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Dear Master Gardener: I started pumpkin, watermelon and cantaloupe plants for my new raised bed vegetable garden. When should I transplant them into larger pots?

Answer: To transplant your seedlings into larger pots, the seedlings should have two or more sets of leaves. Moisten the new potting soil with water so it’s as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Fill the pots (with drainage holes) about half full. Carefully remove the seedlings from cells without damaging the roots. Place each seedling in its larger pot and add more potting soil, pressing gently around the plant. Place them in a sunny window or under a grow light. Water the plants with a liquid fertilizer at half-strength. Over-watering a seedling is more detrimental than under-watering it. Be sure not to oversaturate the soil. Running a fan on low over your plants when they get bigger will help prevent disease and make the stems stronger and better prepared for life outdoors. Keep them in these pots until it is time to plant them outside in your new raised bed garden. Be sure to harden them off by acclimating them to the outdoor environment. At least one week before planting, place them outside in a protected area, out of direct sunlight. Then, each day set them in the sun and wind a little longer until you plant them in the garden. If possible, try to plant your seedlings on a cloudy day when there is a chance of rain.

May Gardening Tips

  • Start the gardening season with a healthy garden. Rake and compost old leaves and fallen fruit. Cut back perennials and ornamental grasses. Wash and sanitize tools, pots, cages, and stakes. Top off containers with fresh potting soil. Add mulch as needed to garden beds and paths.
  • Start a compost pile or bin. Not only does finished compost add nutrients and texture to garden beds, but the pile or bin becomes a convenient place to throw leaves, small twigs, weeds, and kitchen fruit and vegetable waste.
  • If you happen to be in the Twin Cities in May, visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to see hundreds of flowering crabapples in full bloom. Typically, they are in bloom for Mother’s Day, but this has been an atypical spring so the spectacular show of flowers may be delayed. In addition, 10,000 early spring bulbs were planted last fall and 30,000 tulips in red, yellow, blue and orange will be on display. Check out their website at www.arboretum.umn.edu/ to find out what’s in bloom.
  • Peas, leaf lettuce, spinach and radish seeds can be sown directly into the garden the second or third week in May. Transplant onions and members of the cabbage family (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) while soils are still cool. Wait until the beginning of June when both air and soil temperatures are warm before planting tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
  • May is a good time to plant grass seed. For good results, rough up the soil first. 
  • Attract butterflies to your yard by planting nectar-producing flowers such as Asclepias (butterfly weed), Monarda (beebalm), Nepeta (catmint), Echinacea (coneflowers), Liatris, Russian sage and zinnias. Protect bees and butterflies by avoiding the use of pesticides in the garden. Don’t bother putting up a butterfly house because butterflies will never inhabit them. They sleep high up in trees, nestled in the safety of leaves. 

You may get your garden questions answered by calling the new Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A Master Gardener will return your call. Or, emailing me at umnmastergardener@gmail.com and I will answer you in the column if space allows.

University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. Information given in this column is based on university research.

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