Every year I am lucky to be able to visit many different rose gardens both public and private. One thing that many of them have in common is that the rose beds are often bordered by lawns. Rose and lawn maintenance also have a few things in common, so I have called upon my friend, Paul Grace, a turfgass specialist and rose enthusiast from Greenfield, Indiana to give you his insights and his top turf tips below and I hope you find it as fascinating as I did.  Paul has also sent me these photos of his roses.

Over to you, Paul!

Turfgrass is the name we give to grasses commonly found in home lawns, playgrounds and athletic fields. One of the many benefits of turfgrass is the aesthetic value it adds to our rose and ornamental gardens — our turf makes an outstanding canvas.

The practice of maintaining the lawn requires occasionally fertilizing, irrigating during prolonged dry spells and of course mowing. Although it seems mundane, mowing is the single most important thing that you do to your lawn. Properly mowing your lawn can produce improved results in just a season.

To enhance your lawn or play area, here are a few important tips:

  1. Always mow your grass to the top end of the cutting range for your particular species (See the mowing guidelines below for your turfgrass). Tufgrass is a photosynthesis factory. The more leaf material you have, the more energy is produced by the turfgrass. Taller grass shoots also shade out weeds, cool the soil and produce deeper roots. 
  2. Always mow with a sharpened blade. A sharp blade results in a clean cut and a faster recovery for the grass plant. Sharp blades also reduce stress on the grass. Sometimes I ask people, “If you required a cosmetic procedure, would you prefer your surgeon to use a sharp or a dull blade?” 
  3. Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at any one mowing. Removing more than 1/3 of the blade is called “scalping” and it requires additional plant energy to recover. Your grass needs to conserve energy for the most stressful time of the year. 
  4. Always return the clippings to your lawn. Grass clippings contain nutrients that your lawn requires to grow. Over time, grass clippings increase the soil organic matter, an effective supplement to your regular fertilizer program. 
  5. When your tree leaves fall to the ground, mow them up as well. You can continue mowing the leaves until roughly 50% of the turfgrass is covered. Leaves not only fertilize, they also amend (improve) the soil structure while encouraging better drainage and oxygen uptake for the roots. 

These tips will not only improve your lawn, they will also enhance your overall landscape, including your roses. This year, I planted three varieties of roses from Will Radler’s “Knockout” collection. They include, “Red Double,” “Pink Double,” and “Blushing,” a pale pink rose. Knockout roses work well in the Midwest United States because we deal with a wide variety of rose diseases. As with turfgrass varieties we have to promote the right plant for the right place (and acceptable maintenance level). Our customers may not be willing to devote the time and care that Michelle Endersby and her readers provide to their roses.

Having said that, we have brought in several varieties in the last few years to give to our customers in exchange for their feedback. Because I really enjoy fragrance, we have acquired, Kordes’ “Fiji,” O.L. Weeks’ “Koko Loko,” David Austin’s “Heritage Rose” (this has worked very well in a pot), “Darcey Bussell,” “The Ambridge Rose,” “Jude the Obscure,” “Queen of Sweden” and “Charles Darwin” among a few others. We soon learned that just because a rose is hardy with respect to temperature, that does not mean it can stand up to the native diseases and insect pests. However, some roses provide so much value and uniqueness that like other treasured possessions, the additional care required is far outweighed by the benefits. Apart from rosarians, few people in the U.S. have ever experienced the beauty and fragrance of David Austin’s “Evelyn.” We want to change that.

Going forward I plan to accent our lower maintenance Knockout roses with some fragrant and more showy varieties. I am partial to light pink roses, especially of the old school variety that demonstrate multiple iterations when in bloom. However, since I believe that at least some of the flowers should be given away, I plan to also raise some hybrid tea roses. Finally, all of our roses will be mulched in a cocoa bean shell mulch to further enhance the sensory experience.

Mowing ranges for various turfgrass species:

Kikuya Grass* (Native to AU): 13mm – 64mm / .50 in. – 2.50 in.

Couch Grass* (aka. Bermuda Grass, common): 13mm – 51mm / .50 in. – 2.00 in.

Bermuda Grass, hybrid*: 6.4mm – 32mm/ .25 in. – 1.25 in.

Buffalo Grass*: 25 mm to unmown / 1.00 in. to unmown

Zoysiagrass* (Zoysia Matrella): 6.4mm – 51mm / .25 in. – 2.00 in.

Zoysiagrass* (Zoysia Japonica): 13mm – 64mm / .50 in. – 2.50 in.

Carpetgrass*: 25mm – 89mm / 1.00 in. – 3.50 in.

Centipedegrass*: 25mm – 64mm / 1.00 in. – 2.50 in.

Seashore Paspalum*: 3.0mm – 51mm / .12 in – 2.00 in.

St. Augustinegrass*: 51mm – 102mm / 2.00 in. – 4.00 in.

*Denotes Warm Season Grasses

Tall Fescue^: 38mm – 102mm / 1.50 in. – 4.00 in.

Perennial Ryegrass^: 13mm – 76mm / .50 in. – 3.00 in.

Kentucky Bluegrass^: 25mm -76mm / 1.00 in. – 3.00 in.

Fine Fescues^: 6.4mm – 76mm / .25 in. – 3.00 in.

^ Denotes Cool Season Grasses