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Growin’ in the Gold Country by Don Urbanus (as seen in the Calaveras Lodestar)

Roses – The Queen of Flowers
     There is no bush, flower or tree that will give you a better show for a longer time than a rose. Often starting in late April or early May, roses will keep blooming through fall and sometimes into winter. In fact, I had some roses still blooming when I hard pruned them in January.
     Roses are actually very easy to grow but like a beautiful woman (OK – or a handsome man) they don’t like to be ignored. Whatever trouble they make in fussing and fretting over they give back in an incredible show of non-stop flowers.
     Pruning in January along with removing all the leaves and spraying immediately afterwards with a dormant spray like Volk oil and a copper spray like Liquicop will help to avoid disease and insect problems in the spring on roses.
     The “big three” diseases are black spot, rust and mildew. Whatever fungicides you use to deal with these problems, it should be done preventively in early spring before you see the symptoms. Diseases tend to appear when the weather is cool, unsettled, cloudy, and rainy. Of course plants can be treated after diseases show up but the diseased leaves will still be on your plants unless you take them off. Prevention is key.
     Fortunately, there are lots of products out there to treat roses. My favorites are Bayer Disease Control, a systemic spray, and Bayer All-in-One, which fertilizes, controls insects and disease for six weeks and comes in either a liquid or granular and is put on the roots.
Knockout Roses     There are also some new organic sprays like Serenade that does a good job on mildew and rust. Neem oil also fights disease as well as sucking insects. Any oil should not be sprayed under high temperatures and some tender new leaves may be sensitive to the oil. Knockout and Home Run are landscape varieties of roses that are very disease resistant and need little care. Until more disease resistance comes to Hybrid T’s, the classic cut flowers, sprays will be needed to fight disease.
     Of course no mention of roses would be complete with discussing aphids. Aphids are mostly a spring and fall problem when the weather is cool. Systemic insecticides work great on roses. Unless the rose is covered in aphids, often just a spray here or there will take care of aphids. Safer Soap or even homemade soapy mixtures of a mild soap like Ivory can usually put down any aphid insurrection.
     Nature often takes care of aphids with a cornucopia of beneficial insects. Hover or Syrphid flies (they look like bees and make no sound) lay eggs and the maggots eat the aphids. Everyone knows a ladybug but often don’t recognize the black and orange tank-like “bug” on their rose which is the larval stage. Lacewings are delicate insects that eat aphids that get zapped at night in those dumb bug zappers. There are also little wasps that lay eggs on aphids. If you look closely, there will often be some brown round bodies scattered among your aphids with a tiny hole in them. Those are called aphid mummies.
     So you’ve fought off nature and the bugs and possibly deer (that’s another whole topic). It’s time to pick your roses. Pick them when they are just beginning to open and re-cut the stem just before you put it in water. There is nothing quite as stunning as a bouquet of fragrant roses displayed in your kitchen – unless it was a beautiful woman gazing at the flowers. (OK, OK – or a handsome man).
     Lastly, removing the old flowers or “dead-heading” is important if you want the roses to keep producing flowers. Ideally you prune to a bud with five leaflets but the most important thing is removing the flower. Rose fruit, also known as rose hips, should be removed. This tricks the rose into thinking that it has to flower more.
     One warning. Once you are successful at growing roses it will become addictive. In the meantime, if you have any questions (and there are lots more about roses to talk about) bring a sample down to your local nursery, preferably in a plastic bag. Just like trying to explain a noise to a mechanic, there is no substitute for seeing the problem.

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