Valentine’s Day and love is in the air! The florists are all sold out of roses and we can have a guilt-free chocolate or two . . . or more.

I’m also reminded that Valentine’s Day is a reliable time to prune the roses. There are videos galore on YouTube about just how to do this accurately, but it’s not rocket science. Failure to do this simple but necessary chore will result in thin and wispy canes that will run all over the place.

Just select the three strongest canes to survive, cutting the rest of them off. Prune those three down to about 18 inches or so, and as soon as those begin to show new growth, you can fertilize them with a good all-purpose fertilizer. Ideally, you should get a soil analysis and follow the recommendation on the results. My favorite garden guru was the late Margot Rochester, who recommended a cup of granulated garden lime annually for each shrub. Roses prefer an alkaline soil.

Hybrid tea roses do pretty well down here, but they don’t like our humidity. Be sure to give them ample space for air circulation. In fact, don’t crowd any of your roses.

By mid-summer, it’s a good idea to give them a haircut – hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas. All except climbers and those you want to “peg.”

Roses typically produce blossoms near the end of canes and these blossoms produce a hormone that inhibits competing buds from forming lower on the cane. That’s why roses tend to get leggy as the season progresses.

Pegging is a way to subvert this growth pattern by arching the canes and securing the ends to the earth with landscape pins. This lets gravity trap those hormones and encourages blossoms to form at nodes all along the canes. This naturally works best on roses that climb or have longer canes. Pegging will reward you with more and bigger blossoms and produce a beautifully shaped mound of flowers.

Most roses in the past few decades have been grafted onto hardy rootstock and have needed careful monitoring to prevent the hardy rootstock from taking over the plant and killing the graft. In our climate with its usually mild winters, “own root”  plants have begun to be popular.

Roses are easy plants to propagate, although it is illegal to propagate patented plants. It’s unlikely that the Plant Police will show up at your door if you do, but make sure they are for your own use. Don’t try to sell them. You can be prosecuted.

My mother-in-law had her very long driveway edged with propagated roses. She would cut a four or five inch stem, dip it rooting hormone and plant it covered with a clear glass mason jar; the bigger the better. She always planted more than she wanted, but most rooted. Believe me, if my mother-in-law could do it, anyone could. It’s the only thing she ever grew.

If you’re not growing roses because of the dreaded black spot disease, take heart.

Because I’m a Master Gardener, I can’t really endorse a brand name product, but there are several products on the market that address this issue. My personal favorite is a systemic granular one that is a fungicide, insecticide and a 9-14-9 fertilizer. I water it in the soil twice a year. When weighing the attributes of organic gardening vs. a minimal use of chemicals, I’m afraid that organic loses. Even Clemson’s HGIC website expounds on the proper use of chemicals. That being said, this is one of the very few in my arsenal.

It’s not the home gardener who is responsible for widespread contamination of soil, air, and water and the decline of the pollinating bees. It is the hundreds of thousands of acres of monocultures and agribusinesses that permeate our land. This does not mean that we should ignore our duty to garden responsibly. But at my age, I appreciate a helping hand now and then. Even if it does have a brand name.