Cape Diamond, purchased from Der Rosenmeister in Ithaca, NY last year
Today I put alfalfa pellets around my roses and scratched it into the soil. The odd thing was, I couldn’t remember why I was doing it. I knew I had read, or had been told, that it was good to give roses some alfalfa as they’re just leafing out. But I couldn’t remember where I had read it, or who had told me, or how, exactly, alfalfa would help my roses.
If you’ve been gardening for any length of time, a multitude of these routines accumulate after a while. Often they are based on research, or on the little booklet that came with the plant, or because your dad always did it that way. Follow the same maintenance care for a plant–or a garden–for a decade or so, and I guarantee the “why” of what you are doing, at least for some things, will fade into oblivion.
That’s why we have books like The Truth About Garden Remedies and The Informed Gardener. That’s also why we have search engines on the internet.
According to Rayford Reddell, as alfalfa decomposes it yields triacontanol, which acts as a growth stimulant, encouraging basal breaks. Basal breaks is rosarian-speak for “increased vigor and flower production.” Now, I know I didn’t know that before, but I’m glad I found out.
Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.
in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013