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
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.
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
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
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.