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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 Nov. 26:

Concentrate on helping your garden stay comfortable during these frosty nights – and clean up all those leaves!

* Irrigate frost-tender plants such as citrus in the late afternoon. That extra soil moisture increases temperatures around the plant a few degrees, just enough to prevent frost damage. The exception are succulents; too much water before frost can cause them to freeze.

* Cover sensitive plants before the sun goes down. Use cloth sheets or frost cloths, not plastic sheeting, to hold in warmth. Make sure to remove covers in the morning.

* Use fall leaves as mulch around shrubs and vegetables. Mulch acts as a blanket and keeps roots warmer.

* Stop dead-heading; let rose hips form on bushes to prompt dormancy.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location – and definitely indoors overnight. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they’ll bloom again next December.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Plant spring bulbs. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Daffodils can be planted without pre-chilling.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers and plant such spring bloomers as sweet peas, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Plant trees and shrubs. They’ll benefit from fall and winter rains while establishing their roots.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins now. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

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