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March 10, 2014
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DESERT BLOOM: Lady Banks

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Angela

Lady BanksI love roses. In my little garden, I’ve been growing several – one of the few plants I’ll maintain, even if I can’t eat it.

One of my favorites is Banks rose. Lady Banks’ rose, or to use the proper name, Rosa banksiae, is one of those plants that can make even the most jaded urban dweller brighten right up. Although they are relatively numerous in Southern Nevada landscapes, they’re unique as roses go.  Is there anyone who couldn’t enjoy a big plant that bursts into bloom, covering an entire thornless bush with glorious double flowers? All the blossoms appear at once, which makes for a spectacular display. Most of the time they’re growing as shrubs, but with some attention and care they can be trained to grow up a trellis, even though they don’t have any clasping parts.

Most of us are familiar with the cream-colored variety, although they can also have yellow or white flowers. For a while, there was some talk about a new red cultivar, but apparently, it’s not a true Banks rose. Like virtually all other members of the family, it’d certainly be pretty, but not a Banks rose, just a red-flowered climbing shrub.

[Learn More: Looking for more gardening tips?  Gardening expert Norm Schilling will be at Plant World on March 22 with Desert Companion on Tour.]

Lady Banks has several characteristics make it such a favorite. For one thing, the flowers are lovely, and they all appear at about the same time. In fact, it’s one of the earliest flowering shrubs in many local gardens. Sadly, it only flowers for about a month, but what a month!

Since it has a sprawling habit, it can cover most of a wall (or a yard) in blossoms if given the chance. An important attractive feature is – it’s almost completely free of thorns (“prickles” is the technical term), which are standard defenses for most roses.

Some of the white varieties do have thorns on the larger branches, however.

It keeps its leaves year-round in this climate, so it does not leave dead-looking branches through winter, when many landscapes are unattractively barren.

It tolerates our wild weather conditions! Summer heat does not kill it, nor does the winter generally cause much harm. As long as they receive some fertilizer after the blooming period, it’ll continue to grow merrily.

[Hear More: What's the best food and fauna to plant in March and April?  Find out on KNPR's State of Nevada.]

The plant itself does not require pruning, but it will elbow its way to become a 20-foot wide shrub if permitted. Few people have unlimited land to dedicate to a single rose bush, so while it may not need to be pruned back, most gardeners need to keep it in check.

Like many, perhaps most, early flowering landscape plants, Banks’ yield their blooms on what we call “old wood.” This is wood that it produced last year, or even the previous year. It makes sense, since there wouldn’t have been enough time to develop new woody tissue before the flowering period.

Since they do bloom on old wood, it’s critically important to avoid pruning severely during the winter, the time when most other landscape plants receive their grooming. Cutting back branches in January would be removing the very wood that bears the spring flowers! Badly timed pruning is a sure way to diminish the spring floral display.

[Hear More: Roses are a beautiful addition to any landscape, but learn how they are tough enough to survive the desert heat on Desert Bloom.]

The way to maintain them is to do all serious pruning right after the flowers have passed – usually mid spring.  This holds true for the other early spring flowering plants as well. Give the bush enough time to grow flowering wood in year one, and it will burst into bloom in the spring of year two.

This advice is only for the early spring flowering shrubs. Something that flowers later, like lantana, honeysuckle or Texas ranger, is different.  As a rule, if a plant produces blossoms from summer to fall, then its flowers appear on branches it grew this year. Pruning their old woody growth should happen in the winter.

With pruning, timing can make a great difference in floral display; and our desert landscapes can bloom much of the year.

For KNPR’s Desert Bloom, this is Dr. Angela O’Callaghan of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

See discussion rules.

Archives

AngelaDec 13, 2014 | To Prune or Not to Prune
As winter draws near, leaves begin to fall. And the bare view may prompt some excessive pruning. It's tempting, but your plants may appreciate a little restraint. Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

NormDec 6, 2014 | Prepare Your Plants for Cold Weather
It's not cold . . . yet, but Norm says be ready and your yard will appreciate it. Don't let a cold snap cost you your investment in plants in your yard. Norm Schilling has some ideas to get ready.

AngelaNov 25, 2014 | Evergreens
As we head into the holiday season, more attention is given to 'evergreens.' Too many cones on a pine tree might be a sign of weakness. Angela O'Callaghan tells us all about evergreens on Desert Bloom.

NormNov 14, 2014 | Fall Colors
Even in the desert, Fall colors can brighten your landscape. Here's Norm Schilling with Desert Bloom.

NormOct 28, 2014 | Fall Colors - Web Only Edition
With glorious weather for our yards to fall back into bloom, Norm has some additional suggestions for color to add to the profusion of blooms for this time of year. (Web-only content)

NormOct 7, 2014 | Second Spring
The call it a "second spring" Norm Schilling has some plan ideas to make Fall colorful in your yard. He has a checklist of plants looking their best, because now is the time to plant in Southern Nevada.

AngelaSep 30, 2014 | Fountain Grass
A weed by any other name is still a weed even if it doesn't look like one. If only everything in our gardens thrived as well as weeds. Here is Angela O'Callaghan.

NormSep 15, 2014 | Desert Heat
Norm describes a significant casualty of the desert heat. There's going to be a big gap in Norm's Yard and a lesson on the reality of our desert landscape.

AngelaAug 12, 2014 | Organic Pesticides
Choosing a method for ridding your garden of an unwanted guest, be it bug or weed, is not always a simple choice. But the more you know, the better it goes. Here's Angela O'Callaghan

NormJul 28, 2014 | Lose that Lawn
We know, it's a desert out there including every place there's a lawn. Norm Schilling reminds us all the ways he wants you to consider losing the lawn... permanently.

AngelaJul 14, 2014 | Protect Fruit Trees from Birds
If you put a good deal of care into growing fruit trees, there are likely some birds who will take advantage of your effort. Here's Angela O'Callaghan.

NormJul 10, 2014 | Palm Care, Part 2
To keep, or not to keep. Norm Schilling ponders his palm trees, on this edition of Desert Bloom.

NormJun 10, 2014 | Palm Care
Norm Schilling has mixed feelings about how we use Palms in our yards. Full grown palm trees transplanted into the entry way of a mall is a common sight that tells Southern Nevadan's "something" is nearly open for business. He reminds us that those palms come with challenges.

AngelaJun 3, 2014 | Hot Weather Plants
As temperatures across the Valley begin to climb, you might be wondering what will survive in your garden in the months ahead and what probably won't. There are some 'sweet' options. Here's Angela O'Callaghan

NormMay 20, 2014 | Desert Color
Norm Schilling just got back from Belize and has some ideas for lush leaves in your desert yard. He reflects on some well suited plants to provide color and variety in this edition of Desert Bloom.

AngelaMay 6, 2014 | Emerald Ash Borer
Raising a healthy shade tree in the Mojave is not always easy. And if one particular insect makes its way here, it could get even harder. Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

NormApr 22, 2014 | The Right Plants
Our current warm spell gives the impression that some plants can thrive when they aren't really suited to our desert. Norm Schilling has some examples.

NormMar 24, 2014 | Spring Garden Party
Spring is here and the garden is blooming . . . so invite some friends to enjoy the rewards of gardening!

AngelaMar 10, 2014 | Lady Banks
If you love roses, but don't care for thorns, you may want to call on 'Lady Banks.' Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

NormFeb 26, 2014 | Signs of Spring
It may be February, but if you are paying attention, signs of Spring are visible. Dwarf peach and Mexican plum trees are in bloom. Vibrant Red Spraxis can be seen among the falling Almond blossom. Watch gardening expert Norm Schilling transplant an offshoot. Check out the slide show of photos taken from his backyard.

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