Roses can bloom in Park City
Despite the short growing season, high altitude and heavy snow pack in Park City, roses can flourish in this ski town that is if the gardener’s last name is Kimball.
Long-time residents Kevin and Valerie Kimball have successfully grown over 122 hybrid "tea" roses to bloom in their garden this summer, a feat they say many locals claim is nigh impossible.
The secret, according to the Kimball’s, is timing, a lot of work and plenty of pampering.
"They are sort of like children, you got to pay attention to them," Valerie said.
The work put into the roses is worth it however.
"There’s something about getting on your knees and touching the dirt," Valerie said. "It’s like going to an art museum, only this is nature’s art."
"It’s truly altruistic for us," Kevin said. "The beauty is very peaceful. I just like looking at them. I spend at least three hours a day in our garden. It’s so rewarding. You can’t get them to do anything; you just have to help them exhibit their beauty. When thy bloom it just means they’re happy, I feel extremely lucky to have them all bloom."
The Kimball’s also enjoy surprising neighbors with an arrangement of roses. Valerie grew up in Chicago where her mother always grew roses. She started growing roses 10 years ago and introduced Kevin to the art.
"Kevin got hooked, now he’s the mastermind," Valerie said.
The Salt Lake valley is an ideal location to grow these plants, according to the Kimball’s. Their growing season starts in March and the valley does not get as much snow. In Park City, the growing season starts in May. If a rose is not planted by June 15 then the roots likely won’t have an adequate foundation from which to bloom and survive the winter.
Aside from the climate, bugs may be the leading threat to a successful rose garden.
"I come out and wage war upon them," Kevin said.
Kevin used to spend a small fortune on chemicals to kill aphids and spider mites, which destroy the plants. Shortly after killing the first group of bugs, the next brood would return with twice the numbers and twice the ferocity.
"After I’d kill them, their eggs would hatch and they would be used to the chemicals," Kevin said. "They would actually feed off the chemicals. I would continue to spray but it just got worse. I was feeding them."
The Kimball’s turned to home remedies to regain control of their garden. They used a mixture of kitchen detergent soap, ammonia and water from books by author Jerry Baker.
"It works better than the chemicals, and it’s a lot cheaper," Kevin said. "I spray about every three days, if you see bugs, you’re already infested."
The Kimball’s rose growing advice:
*Start off with new, enriched soil. Use equal mixtures of peat moss, garden soil and manure. Build a big well for the foundation as you would a tree. Put in egg shells, Epson salt and banana peels. Wait until after the latest big frost in May. The frost in May won’t kill them but it could stunt their growth. Install a drip system. Plant by May to make sure the roses will survive the following winter.
*When planted, keep moist so the roots will take hold. Use regular plant miracle grow for growth at first and then use "Rose and Flower" miracle grow to make the plant bloom. Stop fertilizing at the end of July.
*Make sure the plant is trimmed thin so leaves don’t touch each other and the garden floor is cleared of dead leaves, weeds and debris. If not kept clear, this will create an ideal area for mildew and bugs to make homes.
*Use home remedies from Jerry Baker’s books on killing bugs and other plant care.
*When cutting off stems trim at a 33 degree angle away from the leaf.
*Roses will often get diseases. If a plant disease is suspected, never cut stems with the same pair of scissors unless first cleaned with rubbing alcohol.
*Stop watering in the middle of September. If there is water in the stems when the frost comes it will freeze and crack open the plant. In October, cut the roses back to eight to 10 inches above the ground to save the plant from the weight of the heavy snow, and then cover the stalks with Styrofoam or plastic. If covered too early, mice and other rodents will build their winter homes under the shelter and kill the rose. The Kimball’s suggest leaving uncovered until the first light frost.
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Daniel Lewis, an Old Town resident who unsuccessfully sought a spot on the Park City Council in 2019, said this week he will mount another campaign this year.