Gazette Gardener: Rose expert offers advice for growing healthy blooms

Gazette Gardener columnist Natalie Walsh invites a friend over to help maintain her roses.

I am delighted to report that as of April 15, every last bit of snow was gone from my garden, and the Star Magnolia tree outside the kitchen window bloomed. These were two high points of the week.

The third was a visit by Rosarian Lillian Walsh. We are not related but kindred spirits who both enjoy beautiful, fragrant flowers.

I asked Lillian to come by my home for lunch and to meet some new friends that were looking a little bedraggled and worse for wear after spending much of the winter under a pile of snow. Branches were broken, there was evidence of cane borer, and some bushes still had last year’s leaves dangling from the stem. This is not good practice but things got away from me last fall.

Lillian agreed to bring along pruners and garden gloves and joked that I didn’t need to serve her lunch to have her come by to help with my roses.

International judge

I was delighted. Lillian serves as a regional director for the American Rose Society and has judged roses all over the world. In her Schenectady garden, she grows approximately 200 different roses.

To visit her garden in June is splendid. You walk along narrow pathways from one rose to the next enjoying fragrances from spicy to sweet and blooms in a wide palette of colors. It is lovely.

My roses are new. I planted them in full sun last spring with the graft union below ground, which is the way to do it in our area, and watered them regularly. I didn’t spray regularly with an arsenal of fungicides or pesticides. I did spray after I noticed an invasion of Japanese beetles during the second week of July.

Last year, I wanted to see what would happen if I did minimal care, which was fertilize, water and spray only when absolutely necessary. Though some roses do just fine with minimal care — think rugosa roses or Carefree roses — these grandiflora, floribunda and hybrid tea ladies growing in my side yard clearly needed more maintenance. If I want healthy plants this year, I need to treat them better. They are, after all, the Queen of flowers.

Tips for gardeners

Here are the key pointers for healthy roses and things you can do in your garden now to get lovely blooms later in the season.

— If you didn’t clean up around the plants last fall, do so immediately. Remove any dead leaves and mulch. If you had rose spot last season, this is especially important as the fungal spores can survive the winter and re-infect the plant this spring.

— Prune out all dead wood. After the dead wood is removed, look for defects such as two canes that are rubbing; remove one.

— If you spot a hole in the end of a cane, this could be cane borer. Cut back to green wood. Lillian said that when you pick rose blooms during the summer, seal the cut with a drop of Elmer’s glue to keep cane borers out. Good advice.

— Make any cuts on an angle about a quarter inch above a bud. Make note of which way the bud is growing to determine where to cut. For example, an inward-growing branch will decrease air circulation and probably bump up against another stem.

— Fertilize with Rose Tone now and start a regimen of spraying with Immunox Plus during the season, following label instructions.

— Remove dead branches from around the base of Austin roses.

Happy gardening.

Categories: Life and Arts

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