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Tips for summer rose care

Bushes need water and a little attention to look their best

Apricot rose in bloom
About Face, a very tall grandiflora, was a 2005 All-America Rose Selection. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Bush full of apricot colored roses
The Daybreaker rose, a floribunda, loves the heat. The foliage
is shiny and clean, too.
Summer is rose season in Sacramento. Public displays such as the state Capitol’s World Peace Rose Garden and McKinley Park’s Memorial Rose Garden overflow with colorful blooms.

How do they keep looking so good when temperatures are soaring? Water and TLC.

* Roses are naturally drought tolerant, but they need consistent moisture to look their best. When they’re struggling to survive, it’s hard to bloom, too.

Deep water bushes once a week. If using drip irrigation, make sure each mature full-size bush receives at least 5 gallons a week.

* To retain that moisture and keep roots cooler, mulch bushes with organic mulch such as wood chips or leaves – not rocks or stones. (Rocks retain heat and dramatically raise soil temperature; those conditions cook rose roots.) Also mulch cuts down on weeds, competition for water and nutrients.

Betty Boop rose
Betty Boop, a floribunda, tends to get redder in the heat.

* Trim off spent blooms; do this regularly. This cues the bush to keep blooming. When “deadheading,” trim the stem back to at least the first five-leaf leaflets, cutting about ¼ inch above the node (where the leaf attaches to the stem).

* For bouquets (or just a single rose), cut roses in the early morning; they’ll last longer in the vase. Re-cut the end of the stem under water to get rid of any air bubbles. That helps the stem suck up moisture in the vase and also extends the bloom’s vitality.

* Want long straight stems for cut roses? Trim farther down the stem when deadheading. Roses tend to regrow to the same height. Instead of clipping 4 inches below the spent bloom, trim down 12 inches (or more) to another five-leaf leaflet, preferably pointing away from the bush’s center. That helps air circulation, which cuts down on fungal disease, and makes for a straighter stem.

* Time your summer pruning for the greatest impact. Roses tend to bloom six to eight weeks after pruning. Bushes pruned now will have full blooms in late September. If you want all your roses to be in bloom at once (such as for a special occasion), give every bush a trim.

Mardi Gras roses
Also a floribunda rose, Mardi Gras enjoys a summer shower.

* Feed roses with fertilizer designed for roses; do this once a month during summer. Always water deeply before applying fertilizer. Roses need more phosphorus (the second number listed on the fertilizer package) than nitrogen (the first number).

* Fungal disease tends to disappear with high heat. But pick up fallen petals and foliage from the ground around your roses. Those discards may harbor fungal disease such as powdery mildew or rust;
those fungi will get active again when cooler temperatures arrive in fall and can infect the bush’s healthy foliage.

* Dusty and dry conditions invite trouble – especially spider mites. If you’ve noticed little webs all over a bush, spider mites have likely moved in. In the early morning, give your roses a bath. Spray their foliage and rinse off accumulated dust along with any spider mites.

* Showering your roses also can blast aphids off stems and buds. Besides looking good, clean leaves work better for the plant; they’re more efficient in photosynthesis. Clean foliage leads to a stronger, healthier bush.

* Be on the lookout for pests. Aphids in particular seem to come out of nowhere. Watch out for ants; they like to carry aphids onto juicy plants. Thrips – very tiny critters, smaller than a pinpoint – gravitate to light-colored roses and create brown tunnels on petals. By being observant, you can stop pest problems before they become serious.

And while you’re looking for bugs, remember to stop and enjoy your roses, too. That’s why you grow them.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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