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Warm weather speeds up need for rose pruning

Spring growth is already coming out; act before fungi strike

Peachy rose bloom  with a bee
This bee appreciates a Marilyn Monroe rose
blooming in mid-January. However, roses need to be
stripped of all foliage now to prevent fungal
infections in the spring. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Nature is putting pressure on plants -- and us gardeners.

All this unusually warm weather is prompting rose bushes and other deciduous shrubs to force out new growth.

When it comes to roses, many of us are still pruning our bushes -- or just started.

What happens when new leaves come out while the bush is still clinging to its old foliage? That new growth is super-prone to fungal infection.

Spores of powdery mildew, rust, black spot and other fungal disease are hiding on those old leaves -- on and off the bush.

Record warm days are likely in the next week. That will speed up rose growth even more.

Rose leaves with black spots

These old leaves above must go!
Below, lots of new growth already
on this Pink Promise rose, which
still has healthy mature leaves.

With that in mind, here are a few timely reminders for rose pruning:

* Prune tall. Even if pruning the bush down to just waist high, that's something. Otherwise, new blooms may open far above your head. It's hard to smell roses when your nose can't reach them.

* Make your cut about 1/2 inch above a bud or node (where a leaf was attached) facing away from the center of the bush. That encourages outward growth and better air circulation, another way to cut down on fungal disease.

* Strip off ALL the old leaves. They carry problems and the bush needs room for new foliage.

* Pick up the old leaves and debris on the ground under and around the bush. That fallen foliage harbors more fungal disease.

* Change your mulch. This is important particularly if you had a bad outbreak of fungal disease or spider mites. Discard the old wood chips, etc., and replace with fresh mulch (such as wood chips, leaves or compost).

* Hold off on feeding your roses until February. It's warm now, but that could change. If we suddenly plunge back into cold days and frosty nights, all that tender new growth can be at risk.

Note for newsletter readers: Kathy in her shrub pruning post on Thursday mis-typed one of the common names of Podocarpus. It is fern pine, not fern palm, corrected on the blog but not in time for the newsletter.  (Bad finger memory to blame!)

Funny thing is, that plant is not a pine, either, and even has been reclassified recently from Podocarpus gracilior to Afrocarpus gracilior, a new genus. So goes botanical naming!


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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