By Sharon Radice Moore
Once upon a time in the Coachella Valley, we enjoyed rejuvenating autumns, gentle winters, abundant springs and tolerably scorching summers.
Amid this rich tapestry of weather events, each season (while some insist we have none) arrived at the anticipated interval and lasted for the appropriate period. With this history, results in the rose garden were forever predictable. It was a simple plan.
Then, without invitation, came intolerable endless rouge summers, tardy falls, shy winters and premature springs. This year is an outstanding example of the new “normal.”
This springs offering of erratic temperatures fluctuating between spring and summer highs, produced both an early outrageous initial display of blossoms and blissfully extended the blooming season. Nevertheless, in the euphoria of these early-bird blossoms, one can only wonder if summer is soon upon us.
Alas, the rose garden, not unlike the world around it, has become unpredictable. Observing these changes, which lack the grace of subtlety, is admirable; acting upon them is critical! Staying flexible without regard to former year’s timely tasks and acting instead of reacting to today’s gardening needs will serve both you and your garden.
Therefore, with the threat of a possible untimely summer on the horizon, it is imperative we use our gardening hours wisely and efficiently this April with an eye towards summer preparations as well.
Labors of Love for April:
April in the rose garden concentrates upon keeping all the preparing, pruning, fertilizing, weeding and planting momentum results going by:
- Feeding and Fertilizing – whether you choose to use chemical or organic sources, the best practice is to be consistent with your use. Follow the manufacturer’s directions, adjust for the type, size, and age of the rose and most critical – water before and after applications.
Deadheading, the practice of removing dead or spent blossoms, weeding (yes, you can overcome nut grass, but not in this lifetime), removing twiggy growth and suckers keeps your roses healthy, promotes repeat blooming, and keeps your garden clean.
Adjust watering for warmer temperatures.
Restoring mulch (from two to four inches) will nourish plants, retain moisture, cool the soil, and suppress weed growth; do not forget your potted plants, as they dry out first. With the unanticipated early summer temperatures, I cannot stress mulching enough, especially with sandy soil devoid of organic matter. Try putting your fingers into sandy soil on a sizzling afternoon and consider your roots near the surface.
- Disbudding can produce some impressive results in the size and quality of your blooms. This practice is how you produce those large-flowered thoroughly envied roses.
When disbudding a one bloom to a stem rose, like hybrid teas, you remove the side buds at the leaf axels below the main bloom.
When disbudding roses blooming in clusters, like floribundas, first determine the number of buds with which you are working. If you find a central bud and only one or two side buds, remove the side buds and leave the one in the center. If several buds are present, remove the central bud of the cluster, as it will open and fade before the rest. This will enable all the buds in the cluster to bloom at the same time.
Disbudding is most efficient when growth is young by using your thumb and fingers, gently rub the tiny buds out of position and separate them from the plant at the angle created between the leaf and the stem.
- Removing excess young growth going to the inside of your plants will promote good air circulation and diminish the environment promoting powdery mildew.
- Check for spider mite and aphid (plant lice) activity and remove them by using a strong blast of water from a hose. Early in the morning is the best time to do this and doing it for three consecutive days assures their removal, until more arrive. Do not forget to spray off the underside of your leaves, as they love to hide there. Spider mites ride on the winds to your garden, which explains their numbers.
For spraying off these uninvited pest guests on potted plants, I use a spray bottle filled with water daily until they disappear; yes, this takes forever. Nevertheless, I lost many a beloved mini rose to these demons! Note: with the spray bottle, you must get intimately close to achieve a good spray off, turning the leaves until the little creatures of mass destruction depart.
You can also remove aphid with your hands; however, I go with the hose. With both pests, it is critical you start at the first sight of them. They can take hold in a cardiac second and destroy an entire bush in a blink.
Go after powdery mildew with vigor! In the early stages, you can eliminate it by using a strong blast of water from a hose, also best done in the early morning. Later, either chemical or organic sprays must be used.
- This year’s forceful sand storms and high humidity created an environment unhealthy for roses. While controversy exists between the virtues of overhead watering versus ground watering, roses benefit from clean leaves. They take in moisture, nutriments and synthesize sunlight through their leaves. Therefore, a regular blast of cleansing water, best done early in the morning will promote their good health.
- Continue to plant container roses.
Until next time; from my garden to yours,
Think Rosy Thoughts, Sharon
Lady of the Dawn: Sharon Radice Moore (file)
Gardening Tools: House & Garden
Aphid: Planet Natural
Blue Moon: Rosales Libros Gisela