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What makes rose buds turn brown?

This First Prize bud never got to bloom -- it's been infected by botrytis ci nerea. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Rotten roses follow botrytis fungal outbreak

My bushes are full of rotten roses. I know I'm not alone.

Blame botrytis. That fungus put a real damper on my December garden. Warm weather in early November pushed out new growth and a late round of blooms, just in time for Christmas.

That got me excited. I could fill the house with holiday bouquets or bring arrangements to December gatherings. After an often-difficult year, my roses were going to be gorgeous.

Instead, Marilyn Monroe turned to mush. First Prize was a total loss. These beautiful big buds became brown and died before they ever opened. Other roses developed odd discolorations. Irresistible, a cute white mini, looks like it has measles. Bruises cover the petals of Pink Promise.


Marilyn Monroe is no beauty in this case.
Fog creates ideal
conditions for botrytis.
Rain and fog brought on the outbreak, and this fungal infection quickly spread. The opportunistic spores are everywhere. Botrytis cinerea loves high humidity, according to the UC Cooperative Extension master gardeners. Nicknamed gray mold and blossom blight, this fungus can be a real problem for fruit growers in coastal areas. In cherry orchards, it rots blossoms and ruins the crop. Grape growers often have to deal with botrytis.

In Sacramento, it shows up in late fall to attack roses and other flowering shrubs. It forms masses of gray brown spores that can move around by wind or water. The spores linger on dead buds or fallen leaves, waiting for moisture before attacking the plant. During dry falls or winters, it's not an issue. But a blanket of fog creates ideal conditions.

If left to thrive, botrytis can cause twigs to die back and can damage new growth. The best solution? Trim out the problems.

The master gardeners recommend removing and disposing of fallen leaves and debris around plants. (Don't compost it; put it in the trash.) Also, prune out any dying twigs or blooms.

To help stop more fungal outbreaks, avoid overhead watering of roses. Prune to promote good air circulation around bushes. That's next month's job.

For more on botryits: or .


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For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

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

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* 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. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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