Regardless of what the tag says, plant the bump on the stem of rose bushes at least 5 cm below the soil surface! 

MissCanadarose.jpg (25764 bytes)
"The 'Miss Canada' rose adopted by the Canadian Nursery Trades Association to celebrate Canada's Centennial in 1967. Controversy surrounded the entire topic." 
Author photo.

1pt.gif (86 bytes)Please remember the first section of this was written in October, 1999!
1pt.gif (86 bytes)For almost a decade now many of the thousands of rose bushes sold not only in major home and garden store outlets, but also in retail nurseries and garden centres, have featured a colourful printed tag. That tag is often very controversial! Its purpose is to identify the cultivar with a colour photo, and on the reverse, advise the purchaser on just how to plant the bush.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Regardless of the origin of the bush or bushes, the tags for virtually all rose bushes sold in Canada (the only exception would be lower mainland British Columbia and the Gulf and Vancouver Islands) should advise planting the bud union--the traditional “bump on the stem”--at least 5 cm (2 inches) below ground. In the coldest parts of the country, on the Prairies for example, it is often recommended to plant rose bushes with the bud union 13 cm (5”) below the ground level.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)But that’s not what one reads on many of the rose bush labels--and not just labels on bushes coming here from the U.S. In fact, I regret to tell you that even after years of harping about this, I am still finding Canadian wholesale nurseries (the growing nursery that actually buys and attaches the tags to the bushes) that use tags with instructions not at all suitable to the Canadian climate. One example is from Enderlein in south-western Ontario, that shows in two places “Enderlein Canadian Grown”, and makes still a third “Grown in Canada” statement on their tags. And yet, on the back it says (and shows) “Set top of rootball so that bud union is above ground level.” Another grower in the St. Catharines area, who is known for good quality stock, has their tags with a similar miss-statement, but has already taken steps to correct the error.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)I’m referring here to tags that are supposed to help novice growers. They are produced and printed in Canada, used on Canadian-grown rose bushes, grown for Canadians, and yet they have instructions that are dead wrong.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)This is inexcusable!
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Even the care tags that come on rose bushes grown in the U.S. by large growers such as Weeks, have the correct information for the Canadian (and northern U.S.) climate. Why then are Canadian growers short-changing their own Canadian customers?
1pt.gif (86 bytes)I asked this question of Andy Enderlein and his response was that they as rose growers believe that rose bushes will produce more and better “shoots” or canes, if the bud union is NOT planted below ground. Of course, it goes without saying, the more canes, the more flowers. And, he says, that all hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora bushes should be hilled up in most of the country anyway, so that mound will cover the bud union for the winter. He also added that the reason they got into growing bushes near Creemore, Ontario in the first place was to produce hardy, Canadian-grown bushes.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Well, I told Andy that I had to take the side of the members of the Canadian Rose Society (CRS). My only compromise would be this. They say on their tags to plant the bushes with the bud union 5 cm below the soil surface. They could then add that superior performance may be achieved if the union is planted just above ground, but in that case, the bushes absolutely must be hilled up each winter--no exceptions. 
1pt.gif (86 bytes)I didn’t get a positive response to this latter suggestion from CRS members. They still strongly support the planting of the bud unions below ground level, and point out the successes of their members all across the country. Paul Graber of the CRS does suggest each spring it is easy to develop a concave around the stem of each bush simply using pressure from the water hose. In this way it is possible to expose (partially) the buried bud union for the encouragement of new shoots.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Andy Enderlein agreed that new and novice growers having repeated failures, whether due to inferior (for our climate) U.S.-produced bushes, or following controversial and incorrect information on the accompany tag, does a disservice to the nursery industry. That’s not the way for them to sell more rose bushes to my way of thinking!

(May 2000)
1pt.gif (86 bytes)The response to this was a letter from Enderlein, which included the following comments:
“We are outraged with the opinions expressed by Art Drysdale in his column “Last Word” in the October edition of Plant & Garden. This column addressed the issue of garden rose picture tags for Canada…..
1pt.gif (86 bytes)“It is very unfortunate that the views of Mr. Drysdale and others have forced Enderlein Nurseries and some other Canadian growers to change the planting instructions on their picture tags. In 2000, the tag will advise gardeners to plant the bud union below ground level.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)“We want to assure your readership that Enderlein Nurseries has not misinformed them in any way. Our rose planting and care instructions are correct and have proven to be successful for nearly 20 years, both at our rose nursery and in our gardens at home. As a progressive and ethical company, we take every measure to ensure that our customers are completely satisfied with our product and service. In future articles, Mr. Drysdale should exercise better judgement and refrain from such harsh, unwarranted criticisms.

Arnd and Jorg Enderlein
Owner/Operators, Enderlein Nurseries

1pt.gif (86 bytes)And finally, my “last word on the topic” from the same issue:
Harsh yes, but not unwarranted. Methinks Messrs. Enderlein doth protest because they have finally been “forced” to do something with which they disagree, but which is widely acknowledged will help average Canadian gardeners replace fewer rose bushes each year.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)The “others” mentioned are astute members of the Canadian Rose Society who, since 1913 have been promoting the proper planting procedure for budded roses to be placing the bud union at 5 cm below ground level.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Major international and world-renowned rose hybridizers and growers such as Harkness in Britain, Meilland in France and Kordes in Germany, and now even the Royal National Rose Society in Britain, ALL recommend planting the bud union below ground level.

Art C. Drysdale
6 Nesbitt Drive
Toronto, ON M4W 2G3
Phone: 416-968-5910