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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 March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

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

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* 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 fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* 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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