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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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