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Fall rose care after a challenging summer

Tips to help your roses look their loveliest

Red and white rose blossoms
Autumn intensifies the Betty Boop rose's red lipstick edge. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Rose leaf damage
Too much sun and smoke scorched leaves of Queen Elizabeth.

Roses love Sacramento weather in the fall. Except for that first flush of April blooms, local bushes tend to look their loveliest in October. Reds and oranges are more intense; other colors seem brighter, too. If the weather stays mild, they’ll keep pumping out fresh flowers well into November and December.

After a challenging summer, roses could use some TLC right now, so they can look their best during their fall second act. I know my roses need some.

As a master rosarian, I’ve grown roses for decades and seen all sorts of conditions. But I’ve never seen the smoke and sun damage to foliage that I saw this month. The leaves of some varieties -- such as Perfect Moment, Queen Elizabeth and Gemini – looked absolutely scorched, the result of intense 110-degree heat, wildfire ash and smoke-choked skies.Those bushes will eventually drop that damaged foliage and grow new leaves.

Ash continued to sprinkle the petals and leaves of many roses – floating down from the roof or nearby trees.

Still, my roses are pushing out scores of new buds. It’s more proof of the resilience of roses.

Trumpeter rose
This Trumpeter rose is spotted with ash from wildfires.
For fall rose care this season, here’s what to do:

* Give your roses a shower. Wash off all that ash and grit.

* A strong blast from the hose will also wash away aphids, which are feasting on those new buds.

* Water also works against spider mites, which are covering plants with fine webs. Those little suckers love hot, dry, smoky conditions – just like what we've experienced in September. Knock them off while washing the dust from the foliage. Make sure to shoot some spray on the underside of leaves.

* Keep out the hose and deep-water your bushes. During bloom season, full-size roses need about 5 gallons apiece a week.

* After watering, sprinkle ½ cup of bone meal around each bush and gently work it into the soil.

* Trim off spent flowers. Roses will rebloom in six to eight weeks – just in time for Thanksgiving.

* Sun conditions change over the years, especially around large trees. Are some of your bushes getting too much sun? Too little? Bushes need about six hours a day to bloom regularly, but prefer morning sun in Sacramento. Consider moving unhappy bushes when they're dormant in January.

* Clean up fallen foliage around the bushes. It can harbor fungal disease and pests.

* Be on the look out for powdery mildew. It strikes when temperatures cool down into the 70s, which will be soon.
Fragrant Lavender Simplicity
Bees love this Fragrant Lavender Simplicity rose.


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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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