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In Central North Carolina we mound our rose bushes in early December. This is a common practice among rose growers and varies greatly depending on how cold it gets in your area. In this area we place a mound of pine mini-nuggets at least 6 inches over the graft. This is important winter protection.
1. The mound of mini-nuggets is important because it protects the graft from cold temperatures. Roses in this area do not spend most of the winter covered in snow and therefore are subject to temperatures well below freezing.
2. Mounding the bushes is even more important because it protects the graft from dry winter wind. A dry graft will not only do great damage to the plant, but if it survives the winter the plant will have a difficult time pushing out new growth from the graft. The new growth from the graft or the "basal breaks" are the life of the plant.
Notice in the picture below that the mulch is well over the graft of the bush. It is important to use mulch rather than pine straw or dirt. Heavy soil can keep the graft from breathing and is difficult to remove in the spring. Pine straw quickly compacts and loses its insulating ability. The quick and simple act of mounding your rose bushes can significantly improve your rose garden's health in the spring.