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Friday, July 12, 2024
Growing Together: Summer roses deserve the best care
Joanne Young says roses should be watered deeply once a week and monitored for signs of mildew.

Can you believe that it is already the middle of June? 

All the spring beauties have finished showing off and it is time for the summer blooming plants to display their beautiful flowers. 

Mid-June is the time for the roses to strut their stuff. It is hard for anyone to see a rose bush in full bloom and not stop to take in their beauty and perfume.

Many people shy away from growing roses because of the work that is required to keep them blooming and free from insect and disease problems.

William Shakespeare may have coined the phrase, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but the gardener’s version of that quote would read, “A rose by any other name … still requires some maintenance to keep it blooming and looking good.”

Once you understand what a rose requires, though, they really are not as difficult as you think.

Let’s start by looking at what to do when your rose has finished blooming.

Deadheading your spent flowers will help to keep your rose blooming on and off for the remainder of the summer and into the fall.

Deadheading is, basically, removing the flowers that have finished blooming and are fading or dead.

Even though we plant roses in our gardens solely for the purpose of enjoying its flowers, the purpose of flowering, for the plant, is to produce seed to reproduce itself. 

If the spent flower remains on the plant (producing its seed from the centre of the remaining part of the flower), it signals to the plant that it has accomplished its goal and doesn’t need to keep blooming. 

By removing the spent flower immediately after the petals start browning and dropping, you have robbed the plant of its seed. Therefore, the plant will have to produce more flowers to produce seed — hence, repeat blooms. 

Knowing this bit of information helps us to know what the best way to remove the finished bloom. 

If you just pull the browning petals off and leave the centre of the flower (seed head) on the end of the stem, it will still go to seed and not produce more flowers. 

When you are cutting off the old flower, follow the flower stem down to the first set of five leaflets and prune just above that leaf.

You will usually find that the first leaf or two down from the flower only have three leaflets. 

From the axil of that leaf and stem, will emerge new growth and from that new growth, new flower buds will be produced.

Many of the newer rose varieties out on the market today are more disease resistant — note that I said disease-resistant and not disease-free. 

The two main diseases that you will see on roses are powdery mildew and black spot.

Both fungal diseases are brought on by a combination of poor air circulation around and through the plants, irregular and improper watering practices and humidity.  

To address the issue of air circulation, make sure when you are pruning back the roses in spring that you prune out any canes crossing through the centre of the plant. 

Make sure that you are not planting the roses too close together and keep other plants around the roses trimmed back. If planting new roses, make sure they are not placed in a tight corner.  

When watering roses, make sure you are watering at the base of the plants. Watering the leaves really doesn’t do the plant much good. 

Water in the mornings: if the leaves go through the night hours wet, it increases the chance of fungal problems. 

Do not let your rose bushes go dry for too long — it is after a drought period that you will see more mildew. Best to water them deeply once a week.

Monitor your plants regularly for signs of disease. The quickest way to nip a problem in the bud is to pinch off any leaves that have a powdery white coating or black spots on the leaves. 

If the disease is further advanced, you may want to consider an organic fungicide to treat it with.

After the first flush of flowers has finished, it is a great time to feed your roses.

Choose an organic fertilizer that is high in phosphorus (the middle number) such as bonemeal.

Organic fertilizers are slower release and feed for a longer period of time. This should keep your roses happy all season long.

Don’t forget to take time to smell the roses!

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca

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