Am I being naive?

hortusladyNWOctober 24, 2004

Hi there. My husband and I have spent the last month of weekends preparing what was a landfill into a raised-bed rose garden to host over 50 roses. While the landfill wasn't "clean" we have seen no evidence of toxicity there (just junk including rebar, bricks, plastic and more rocks than I could count - all now removed - and enough sand for a private beach). On advice of the rose nursery there's been appropriate use of lime, peat moss, steer manure and top grade topsoil.

We picked up 17 own-root roses yesterday from this local rose nursery designated as fall-planting preferred, and spent today planting them. We consulted with this well-respected owner of a local rose nursery and author of a book who directed our choices to hardy and as disease resistant as possible. He advocates use of non-chemical insecticides and fungicides. He has provided "recipes" and is at the other end of an email when we need help.

As we were out there on a beautiful fall day today planting these lovelies, some neighbours stopped to chat as they walked their dog and proceeded to tell me how hard it is to grow roses and how I would inevitably "give in" and use commercial pesticides. I have to admit she kind of deflated my hopes. It's my feeling that if the roses we've chosen can't thrive on the love and attention we will be giving them, they don't belong in our garden.

We planted today:

Berries 'n Cream (2)


Benjamin Britten

Crocus Rose


Crown Princess Margareta

Brother Cadfael


Ferdinand Pichard


Seafoam (2)


Mme Alfred le Carriere (3)

Any words of encouragement?

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kaye(7a AR)

When we first started planting our roses, a neighbor stopped by to offer a word of encouragement, "The deer will eat those before they get a chance to grow". Didn't happen. Don't be discouraged. We started with organics, growing many Austins, and maintained a good level of control with natural remedies. I still don't use insecticides and have gotten a balance in the garden that allows for beautiful roses. I'm not familiar with growing roses in your zone but it sounds like you have help on hand.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 3:37PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Local knowledge is invaluable. What does the display garden of this local rosarian look like? How much damage does he tolerate? How much damage are you willing to tolerate? Because you're not going to be able to grow spotless roses without spraying. The big culprit is more disease than it is insects. Modern roses are incredibly prone to blackspot, and you live in a climate where it's a prime offendor.

I personally wouldn't attempt to grow any modern HT, or most modern shrubs without spraying fungicides preventively. I've been there and done that, and learned the life lesson that goes with it. They just get too defoliated here. I haven't yet grown an Austin rose that could stand itself after a summer of not spraying. They just get too bare, and then they struggle to make it though even a mild winter. So, of the roses on your list, I could only recommend Seafoam, Kathleen, and Madame Alfred Carriere to be grown without spraying. And you'd still have to tolerate some spots. I'm not talking about insecticides, which are a whole nother level of toxicity and which I don't hardly ever use unless there's a plague of locusts or something. For insects, nothing beats interplanting the roses with other plants. But, you have to have enough space to do that and still keep the air circulation for the roses. A roses only garden is too much of a monoculture and allows easy spread of both insects and disease.

So, only you can answer what your goals are by growing roses, and how much effort you're willing to put into it, and how much damage you're willing to tolerate. The other corrolation is how much damage the roses are willing to tolerate before kicking the bucket. Roses are pretty tough, but constant defoliation will eventually kill them. Now, you really don't have hardly any of the true disease resistant antiques on your list. If you don't experience the success you think you should achieve growing the cultivars you've chosen, then it's time to rethink the cultivars. There are roses out there that can stand up to a no spray lifestyle. (Think chinas, teas, noisettes) But, from my perspective, you've not chosen too many of those. But, climate is everything, and they may be fine in your area. Only time will tell.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 5:50PM
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I know a lot of people that try to grow roses and are convinced that they are very difficult to grow. They spend a lot of money at the local garden shoppe, ask questions, and have constant problems with pests and diseases, and it never occurs to them that what they are doing is wrong and they need to change what they are doing.
In my Master Gardener class was a rose grower, 150 plants, who told the rest of us roses are not a problem to grow IF you started with the soil and kept the soil well maintained and then the roses would grow up healthy and strong and shrug off any disease and pest that might appear.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 8:40AM
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I grow about 1000 roses in a no spray zone 5 northern Ohio garden. I started growing roses seriously in the early 70s and have never used a classical chemical spray routine for blackspot. I cannot determine from your description what your local garden conditions are, but I would think that they are not like those found in Mississippi. Of your list I grow Seafoam and Heritage. I agree that Seafoam should not be a problem. In my zone Heritage is definitely not a problem. Some of the others that you named may be virused and may decline over a period of 4 to 5 years due to no fault of your making.

If you have a science background, you may be interested in reading the subthread about roses in no spray gardens and blackspot and about the long term behavior of monocultural plantings that is in the following thread:

Here is a link that might be useful: link for above

    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 11:14AM
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Thanks, all, for your comments. I would guess that the Pacific Northwest zone 8 is not the same as the Mississippi zone 8. This is a very temperate coastal climate, sandy soil, rainy winters and the summers dry enough to create water shortages. Any snow we get is rained away in days and the ground does not freeze. I've seen roses blooming on Christmas Day during some of our more mild winters.

I am confident the supplier of the roses I've purchased has advised me well, if his display garden is anything to go by. It is magnificent and his reputation is excellent. He's received awards from rose-growing societies here and while not taking a pollyana approach about it, basically says what Kimmsr has said. While my rose-growing experience so far is very limited, I watched my Dad grow beautiful roses (same zone) and he refused commercial chemical sprays. I'm not fanatical about this, just prefer to avoid exposure to these known poisons.

This project is a joint one my husband and I decided to try and we are prepared to put in time and effort to see how it all goes. I've gardened all my life from a very young age (thanks to my Dad) and accept even with the best of care some plants won't make it. I don't see that as any reason to adopt a defeatist approach before we even begin! The neighbour who advised I would not last as a rose gardener no longer has one.

Great link, Henry, and thank you for it! Kaye, I'm growing Mme A up and along a 7'high deer fence and don't actually mind if they keep it pruned from the OTHER side!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 12:05PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

If you find that some of your roses like Peace and Heirloom don't do well, you can eventually replace them with roses that do. Sounds like you've done a good job of informing yourselves. You'll love growing roses. Best wishes.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2004 at 3:50PM
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Thanks for the encouraging words, Michael! Watch this space. I have a new digital camera and will record successes (and, yes, not-successes, I really will admit to them) for posterity in the hopes others can learn from what we've done/not done/are about to do!

Now here's a question (maybe I should start a new thread?) oh well, here goes.

Someone I know who is qualified to express an informed opinion told me today that each rose requires l cup of lime, preferably in the next month or so (to water it in with our rainforest winters here).

Comments about lime?

And thanks to all. Hollysprings I didn't mean to omit you in my gratitude for information and experience you've provided me. It is all so very much appreciated.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2004 at 8:58PM
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Sophie Wheeler

You're welcome to the advice anytime. It's worth what you pay for it. ;~) LOL!

Lime is for acid soils. What does your soil test tell you about your pH, among other things? What your pH is will determine how much, if any, lime your soil needs. Roses prefer a pH of about 6.0-6.7 and can be OK up to 7.2 or .3. Anything beyond that range needs to be adjusted. To get a soil test done, contact your local agricultural extension service. It's well worth the money.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2004 at 10:25PM
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kaye(7a AR)

I noticed in your original post that you added lime to the mix when you were preparing the bed. I'd hold off adding any more until you do what HollySprings suggested. We continue to test our existing beds each year before we determine what to add.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2004 at 12:01PM
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Thanks Holly and Kaye. I must admit even with my limited experience I questioned the wisdom of that much lime in raised and purpose-built beds. I will get the soil tested to see what kind of baseline I'm working from.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2004 at 4:53PM
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I am up with the soil thing here ...see, I put about 4 or 5 inches of finished compost on and have added yearly I work the litter into the soil as well as any of my dead headings or trim up during the season (the fall cut I compost in the pile) I water with a sprinkler and just get the canes and all of the surrounding soil (not just a drip line set up) my plants (70) are five feet apart and I have a path and I stay off most of the area around each plant as not to compact the soil, I have let the pest decide what to do with each other and for the most part I can keep up with hand clearing of pest that get in the way of a flower,

My first year off chems I only used compost they did ok the next year I started with an Alfalfa/worm casting/+ tea they looked better the third year is when I stopped everything, even Cornel formula and BT or Ultra fine, I just started mixing the litter in around each plant with the compost and the BS and rust seemed down (I live off the coast of California, mildews are a different ballpark, but, mostly the sun, when it comes out cleans up most mildews) )
It was the next year I would see a big difference and I just liken it to this, if the plant is healthy it can out grow anything (excluding automobiles, Goats, Gophers, and PM)

The above posting is just one persons experience my roses look fake now that they are this healthy, I had one get worked over by gophers and I caught it in time, I have one that got it bad so it don't make it. For the gophers, I use castor oil; I sometimes forget where each plant is in the rotation the ones that got hit were low on oil, as I like to say....

Funny I wonder how many of us have roses on a filled area that was used for debris previously

    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 3:38AM
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Just to be contrary...The most blackspot resistant of all of my roses is also in the worst soil (with no water or fertilizer). I don't do much of anything to it except prune it once in a while. Cultivar genetics play a much larger role in disease resistance than anything a gardener does to the soil.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 8:46PM
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madspinner(z7 WA skagit)

I don't add lime to my soil. In fact, Ive been meaning to test, as I am begining to think I have slightly alkaline soil in my garden area.

I have only been spraying with Safer Sulfer spray. Next year I intend to use dormant Sulfer/lime spray.

Of your roses I found Peace to have HORRIBLE blackspot, and have heard that most of them have Mosaic virus. Mine did and it was a terrible, stingy bloomer that lost most of it's leaves to blackspot. But the flowers are pretty. I wouldn't grow it again.

I have Heritage. I've only had it for One year so far, but id did pretty well with the blackspot. I was impressed. And it was just a cheap old potted rose (one that did not sell in season and was donated to the local Rose Society for their sale) from Weeks Roses. Seems fairly vigourous too. We will see what it is like this year.

Heirloom is one of the few Hybrid Teas that I started with that I would grow again. It didn't get much blackspot and I loved the flowers. I only had it a couple of years and I left it when I moved. I kind of wish I'd kept it though.

I think I have Seafoam. It does very well for me. It does have some blackspot, but it isn't really very noticable and it blooms A LOT.

Mme Alfred le Carriere - A friend of mine has this one. I don't remember how the blackspot is, but she sprays with sulfer and she has it... so it must not be too bad. A really beautiful rose. I seem to remember it getting blackspot though.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2005 at 12:29AM
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smunroe(z8 WSeattleWa)

Not sure if you have made any decisions yet but I grow quite a few roses in the PNW (about 30). I would ditto what was previously said about Peace but you will have to make that decision yourself. I do also have Mme Alfred Carriere, I have it planted in the shade, climbing a tree and it is quite beautiful. I use alfalfa meal, a heavy dose in both spring and fall (about 3-4 cups per plant) along with epsom salts and a bit of fish fertilizer. I do one dormant spray around presidents day, and that is primarily it, for all of my roses. I do also pick off any leaves that get a touch of blackspot, and plants that get heavily affected I replace. There are many beautiful roses out there,you will only find the ones that like your yard through a bit of trial and error. I have had to pull out ones that are supposedly "disease resistant" in our area, and have had ones that are not, do beautifully in my yard. I think you will find your own favorites. I have also found that ones that are mediocrily prone to black spot can fight it fairly well with a spray of 1/3 milk to 2/3 water done on a dry day, this also seems to combat powdery mildew in my garden.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2005 at 6:04PM
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Don't be discouraged by anything "well-meaning" neighbors and passers-by tell you about growing roses. I agree with madspinner above, a lot depends on the cultivar, and individual plants can be as distinct as people are in overall health.

You can do everything right to the soil and to the plant, but a weak plant will still sometimes fail. Give them 3-4 years in the ground, and if they don't "take" after that time, SP and try something else in it's place.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 2:38PM
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If understand you correctly, you didn't say you wouldn't spray, just that you didn't want to spray conventional chemical sprays. There are a number of reasonably effective organic fungicides that you can use, among them sulfur, copper soap (less copper than older kinds of copper sprays), and Cornell forumla. There is also Bordeaux mixture for winter dormant spraying. None of these are nontoxic, but they have the advantage of not introducing new substances into the environment. You certainly can have an attractive garden by using these as needed. No, not spotless, but even gardens that are heavily sprayed with conventional fungicides often have spots.

It would be difficult to have a healthy rose garden in a humid climate if you took a laissez-faire approach and just let nature have its way without any input from you.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 11:37PM
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mystmaiden(texas zone 8)

I have grown roses for years..most of them chemical free years. The old varieties definitely do better, but I do fall prey to the seduction of the hybrid tea and cart one home occassionally. My roses look great most of the time. Black spot has always been the biggest problem and it is short lived. In the wet springs, those that get black spot drop the leaves and replace them with new ones. I clean the infected leaves up and go on. The hybrid teas don't fare so well but when and if they succumb. I simply replace them.
I always try to keep a Mirandy in the garden; fickle, finicky hybrid that it deep breath of its fragrance on a warm morning makes it worthwhile. One bloom will scent the whole garden. I do interplant annuals and herbs in the rose beds and feed with compost and manure heavily.
The few rose varieties that I have are Pauls Himalayan Musk rambler ( a serious climber) Mme Alfred Carriere which has has given me less problem with black spot than most, Old Gay Hill China, Belinda's Dream, Baty's Pink Pillar, Eglantine, Mutabalis, Frau Karl D, Mother's Day, Sombriel,
Don Jaun, Laughter (can't remember a thing about this rose but its bloomin its socks off right now) Paul Neyron, Mrs. R M Finch, Russelianna, Green Ice, Red Cascade to name just a few.
Chemical free rose growing can be done, and done well. You may have to replace a few on the way but the rewards of knowing you haven't added more chemicals to a chemical laden earth are well worth it.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 12:55PM
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diospyros4luna(SC zone 7b)

I'm growing in the hot and humid south and the majority of my roses are David Austins. I think the trick is to get the right Austin roses. Some of them do very well, some of them don't. I learned to read "organic" lists to see what other people were growing and pick the roses mentioned by more than one person growing in my area as disease-resistant. The best Austin I have right now is 'The Generous Gardener', but all of them are doing very well. That one didn't seem to even miss a beat, though. Even though I got it bareroot! Granted this is the second year I'm growing it, but it bloomed and performed disease-free all last season and has started off with a bang this year. Usually the bareroot ones pout for a year before perking up and looking glossy. Some of my other "best" roses that give me no trouble are 'Aloha' which is a hybrid tea that was here when I moved in... it looks amazing every year and 'Pacific Beauty' which is a fragrant yellow miniature rose... never seen any disease on it. The others get a little disease throughout the season but not too bad. I will say 'The Windflower' was an Austin I bought before I knew to look up disease resistant stuff for my area, and it was just pitiful. I don't think it lasted a full season, it was a total crash and burn. So, you are doing the right thing checking around before you buy. Neighbors with horror stories probably picked up the newest Jackson Perkins hybrid tea at Walmart and assume everything is that hard to grow. There's a list of my roses on my GardenWeb trade list if you want to see what else I am growing. They aren't for trade right now, though. I just moved around some plants and I'm waiting for them to settle back in.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 11:17AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

What ever happened to HortusladyNW and her roses? [g]

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 6:06AM
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I'm a NW gardener for 17 years and I would hate to admit how many roses I've lost due to lots of ignorance and lots of damp weather. This year I've been doing research like crazy so I'm not treating my 12 roses with a willy-nilly abandon attitude. (I had 40 rose bushes at one time, which was a lot for my garden)Hence organic gardening. I have two beautiful compost piles; coffee grouds, egg shells, lettuce, the works! (Do not add black spot leaves to a compost pile.) My friends think I'm bonkers and gross when I brag about my big worms, then they ask if they can have some for fishing...

2007 has been one of the worst years for roses (black spots) in the PNW. You'd think it was winter by the naked stems. Finally sprayed a few days ago with a vinegar/dishsoap/veggie oil/water recipe. Hope it works! Also, this is the year I FINALLY took a soil PH test and to my horror, the poor rose soil was 5.0 or less, if that's possible! Potash was high, phosphorous was high--which explains the thick canes, but nitrogen was med-low which surprised me since I use alfalfa meal around the roses. Gave the darlings a dose of Lime today to bump up the ph level.

Am I the only rose lover out there that feels like a slave (a happy one) to the garden?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 12:31AM
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brandyray(Coastal NC/8a)

No, you're not being naive, just keep your mind focused on what you want- easy to care for roses and keep doing the needed research and soil prep. I am aiming for the same thing- though on a much smaller scale. It is tough here on the hot and humid coast and I have been following several threads on resistant roses and compiling a list of possibles for fall. So far the two rugosas I have are doing very well- both shiny and glossy. I have 5 babies- 2 for me and 3 for neighbors (well, assuming that one laggard Altissimo finally puts out some leaves), that are still in pots. I think I will check out diospyros list as her climate is likely close to mine. Good luck, keep the faith, and only listen to words that make sense to you. (My first and disastrous experience w/ roses was over 10 yrs ago and I have just started trying again- those were all hybrid teas bought locally that no doubt had been sprayed regularly and I knew nothing, absolutely nothing! And it completely turned me off of roses.) Brandy

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 10:33PM
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