My oldest Mme Isaac is looking very bad this year. It's planted in soil that is far from good, and though I work on it, it still dries out way too fast,for example,but up until the past 2 years, the Mme. has almost always been gorgeous in the spring flush (I remember the year before last,I'd just stop and stare at those flowers,sort of stunned, thinking "how beautiful, how beautiful..." in a sort of ecstasy...). Last year,however, Mme did not flower well at all. I decided to rejuvenate the shrub; it had lots of very old,beat-up looking canes on it,and I removed several. Once this was done, the shrub was left with only about half as many canes as before! I also piled new soil around the base; unlike most of my roses, it seemed clear the the Madame had never gone own root. During the autumn and winter, I added various new roses to the bed: a one-year-old Carefree Beauty,a tiny own-root Alexander Girault,a bare-root Fellemberg and Super Fairy and one other bare-root climber (forget which), plus a pathetically wimpy Gertrude Jeckyll,that I wanted to give a last chance. Now,spring is here,(almost) all the roses are growing and flourishing,but not Madame. Only one short cane looks healthy and enthusiastic; all the longer ones look terrible; stunted leaves,no new growth,a couple buds (pinching them off regularly, of course, considering the situation...). I did fertilize and we've had lots of rain thank Heavens. I think that Madame did not appreciate the hard pruning at all, nor the new additions (though I wonder about this latter,since I added so much new soil and organic matter with each new rose, and all of them except perhaps for Carefree B. are so young that I wonder if it's possible that their small root systems could be enough to even be noticed by Mme's large, established root system.
So, what to do? Should I just leave Madame alone for now, and try just watering and fertilizing? Should I cut back those long canes that remain a bit? perhaps the rose is trying to go own root, and this is why the long canes are held in suspended animation? (other roses do this; one of my baby Mme Solvays' old canes are all dying, but healthy, robust new growth is coming up at the base)...bart