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Caring for roses ... please help a gardening idiot!

Posted by liacatherine VA (My Page) on
Sat, Oct 14, 06 at 14:13

My husband and I just bought a house in central VA (Richmond area). With it came a beautiful yard with lots of lovely roses. All we had at our last home was some low-maintenance azaleas, so I'm a complete novice.

With fall finally here, please tell me what I should be doing to get the most out of (or at least not destroy!) these flowers. Am I supposed to be pruning them, or does that happen in spring? And how exactly do I prune them?

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RE: Caring for roses ... please help a gardening idiot!

Roses should not be pruned now. Pruning during a moderately warm fall will cause new growth that will freeze over the winter. In our climate, most roses are best pruned in late winter just as the buds begin to swell. You can do selective pruning of dead branches at anytime but the general pruning should wait.

What county are you in or are you in the city? You can call your local extension office for lots of helpful publications on caring for roses in our area. They will cover pruning, spraying, and other basics. (If you're in Chesterfield, the number is 751-4401. The other offices are listed in the blue pages of the phone book.)


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RE: Caring for roses ... please help a gardening idiot!

  • Posted by gelee 8 Tidewater (My Page) on
    Wed, Oct 18, 06 at 16:52

Follow Sandy's advice and wait until late winter to prune the rose bushes down to about 2 feet high.

If you have a cane or two that is unusually tall, tall enough to be damaged in high winds or to damage other canes with thorns or rubbing, trim those back but not the whole bush. You want to cut it/them just back far enough so that they don't blow wildly into each other. Look for a leaf with 5 leaves which faces outward away from the center of the bush and cut there at about a 45 degree angle.

If you can't find a 5 leaf break, settle for a 3.

Your roses have BlackSpot. It is clearly visible in the lower photo on the leaves. Eventually this may kill the bush. You need to spray. Buy a cheap sprayer, say $10, and some Bayer Advanced Disease Control for Roses, Flowers & Shrubs and follow directions. Don't get the Bayer 3 in 1 or anything that has fertilizer or insect protection in it. Clerks may think they are all the same thing but they are not. All you need now is the Disease Control. The reason that your canes in the upper photo don't have leaves towards the the bottom is probably because of the BlackSpot. They drop from the bottom up.

Other good products to control Black Spot are BannerMax, Immunox, and the Fertilome fungicide. It is a good idea to alternate a couple/three of these once warm weather arrives, though the Bayer is perhaps all you really need. My roses do better with a bit of switching fungicides around.

It is best to provide some sort of winter ground cover for the roses out as far as the drip line. Pine Straw or Wheat Straw work fine but are a bit pricy. Distribute the cover to a depth of at least an inch. All sorts of things work besides the Pine/Wheat straw. You just need to protect the feeder roots which are not far below the surface. The various straw products eventually break down and benefit the soil while feeding worms which is all to the good for your soil.

Should we happen to have a drought this winter, don't neglect to give your roses some water. An inch a week should be fine until the warm weather comes back. It is a good idea to shoot for twice that much water once our Virginia summer arrives.

Good luck.


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RE: Caring for roses ... please help a gardening idiot!

The most effective treatment of blackspot is 3 tablespoons of baking soda mixed in 1 gallon water; apply with a sprayer (if the budget is tight, use a windex/glass cleaner sprayer) to both sides of all leaves until the moisture is in rivulets. There have been several studies which show near 100% effectiveness in killing the disease. Also showing good results as a preventive is cornmeal (yeah, from the grocery store) sprinkled on the soil around the base of the plant. A spray made from water which has sat overnight with a cup of cornmeal stirred in (filter, add 5 drops dish soap, and dilute to make one gallon) also seems to act as a preventive, but my experience is that it leaves a faint pale film, which some folks don't like. Remember that no treatment will bleach out the blackspots, you can pick off spotty leaves to improve the appearance.

The rest of gelee's info is good - actually all of the info is good if you don't mind handling dangerous poisons! Personally, I am not only against unnecessary use of poisons in the garden, but I am very much against their eventual ineffectiveness -- consider: if gelee notes that rotation of the types of poison is needed, how was that conclusion reached? Only by seeing blackspot returning in spite of being sprayed. IMO, that's a waste of time and effort.

I have noted my roses much prefer the pine straw or a pine bark mulch to other types. And I'm just that bit farther north of you, to need to protect the bottom couple feet of each plant from freezing and winter wind-burn. I do so by wrappping the bush with three layers of heavy row cover, although there are various cones, baskets, and wraps made commercially which may be easier to use.


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