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It's no secret that this gardener thinks roses are a bit too much work for the average gardener. The constant sprays and other maintenance make them a big job. Still, it's always interesting to look at what will be new for the coming spring, and there is no doubt that roses continue to mesmerize gardeners.

The newer roses are usually more disease-resistant than their predecessors, and one day we can hope that at least the fungus diseases will be behind us. For now, the new ones are better, but not immune to black spot, mildew and the like.

Among the best of the new roses are the All America winners. This year there are four of them, and gardeners should look for them next spring. All of these are judged on many characteristics, such as color, fragrance, disease resistance, bud and flower form, vigor, hardiness, growth habit and foliage. There is also an added benefit if the plant is a bit unusual for its class.

This year's winners are Fame, Opening Night, Sunset Celebration and First Light. Here's what they look like.

Fame has deep pink blooms (almost red) and has deep green, glossy foliage. The plant habit is upright and spreading with large, pointed buds. The grandiflora blooms measure an impeccable 4 1/2 inches, with 30 to 35 petals.

Opening Night is for the red rose lover. This classy hybrid tea has dark green, semi-glossy foliage to backdrop the large 4 1/2 -inch flowers. Though they have only a slight fragrance, the long-lived blooms will hold their color until the final curtain. Believe it or not, this is the first true red rose to win the All America designation in 14 years.

Another hybrid tea winner is Sunset Celebration. The color of this rose will vary by locale. They can be apricot burnished with cream or amber-orange blushed with pink or a warm rich peach. Buds spiral open to reach 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inches, with a fruity fragrance. Long stems and deep green foliage make this a good one for bouquets.

Last comes a new shrub rose called First Light. Shrub or landscape roses of the past have been a bit big for the typical garden space, but not First Light. It has a compact rounded habit for more restricted spaces. The flowers are single, with five to seven light pink petals with purple stamens and a spicy fragrance.

First Light is the offspring of Ballerina and Bonica, which is one of the original modern shrub roses. Gardeners who like single roses should try this one.

All of these will be readily available next spring. For information, write All-America Rose Selections, Dept. 98, 221 N. LaSalle St., Suite 3500, Chicago, Ill. 60601 and ask for its free brochure on the 1998 winners.

Time to cut?

Q -- When should I cut down the perennials in our garden? There is very little bloom left on any of the plants.
-- T.F., Kenmore
A -- As long as there is still some green left on the plants, they are probably still helping to feed the roots prior to winter. I usually leave the tops on until there has been a hard frost to kill the entire top. Some plants are evergreen or semi-evergreen and will continue to look good until the snow flies.

It is not essential to clean up the perennial garden in the fall. There is little lost by waiting until spring except that the garden will look much better-kept.

Moving perennials

Q -- I would like to move a number of perennials to different locations in my yard. Can it be done now or should I wait until spring? -- K.L., Buffalo
A -- Most perennials will survive if they are thoroughly mulched. Unmulched plants may frost-heave. There are several types of mulch that work well. Bark or wood chips will work and are readily available, but if you can get them, evergreen boughs work great.

Anyone who deals in Christmas greens almost always has some left after the holidays, and you might actually be doing him a favor by hauling them away. Christmas is not too late to mulch them.

Spring is probably the safer season to move most plants if given the choice.

Fall sprays

Q -- Can I still spray the weeds in my vegetable garden with Round-up? All of the vegetables are gone, but there are a number of perennial weeds such as dandelion that have established themselves pretty well.
-- R.E., East Aurora
A -- As long as the weather is reasonably warm and the weeds are actively growing and still green, Round-up should work. By reasonably warm, I'm guessing that anything in the 50s and sunny would be ideal. Fall sprays work very well and will help a good deal next spring. There will be no effects on the vegetables. Soils can be worked and planted as few as 10 days after spraying Round-up.

Filling a gap

Q -- I have a wedding in two weeks, and I need to fill a spot in the front yard that I failed to plant this spring. What would grow fast and fill the spot quickly?

-- P.N., Akron
A -- At this time of year, what to plant is not as critical as finding good-looking plants. There will not be enough time for plants to grow and fill that spot, so I would try several alternatives.

Look for good-looking small plants and pack them in tightly to give the area instant appeal. By the end of summer the area may be a bit overcrowded, but that's the least of your worries now.

Another thought would be to buy bigger plants in four- or six-inch pots. These could be spaced in at their normal distance and still look good.

Remember that any plant planted at this time of year is apt to need more water than normal to get it established. Good luck with the wedding.

For answers to your gardening questions, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Ken Brown, in care of the Features Department, Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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