What’s Wrong with My Rose Leaves Now?!

Earlier this month I did a post on the rose sawfly larva chomping on the backs of my rose leaves (and this year they were so bad they were chomping on the tops of the leaves, and the stems and even the buds–but I digress!).

I had photos of the leaves looking a little like stained glass windows–without the pretty colors.  If you think that sounds more like the problem you’re having with your leaves, you can jump over to that post here: http://wp.me/pOm4T-1gV

Now there’s this: this is a whole separate problem.  Usually most of my roses don’t have this problem, and so far this year, only my yellow rose,’ Charlotte’ is showing signs of this fungus called black spot.

What am I going to do?  Nothing. Remember my Black-eyed Susan post where I said that fungicides only control a problem they don’t cure it?  So what’s the point? These leaves will drop off.  I will clean them up.  That’s the extent of my intervention.

I also won’t water overhead, keeping water off the leaves–but I can’t give that advice to nature, who is causing this problem to begin with. Once we get into our hot dry days of July, this problem will self-correct.

By the way, most folks do seem to love yellow roses and I’m included in that “most folks” category.  However, yellow roses are genetically the weakest rose.  The bloom the least and are the most prone to every pest and disease out there.  Therefore, if you truly want to have an easy care rose garden, select your yellow roses very carefully.  This rose is a David Austin™ rose.  And while they are very hardy for me, they are not generally known for their disease or insect resistance.

The other thing that I obviously haven’t done is given my roses enough space.  Roses are supposed to have 2′ around them for good are circulation.  My poor roses are lucky if they have 2″ around them in spots.  For the roses with “good genes,” this doesn’t matter.  For those with less robust genes like poor ‘Charlotte” here, she’s going to catch every fungal spore that blows by.

And then, because she’s already weakened, the few Japanese beetles that I do have seem to find her the tastiest too.  Isn’t it interesting that the insects know the plant that’s already in a weakened condition?

There are “easy care” yellow roses but unless ‘Charlotte’ gets plowed under in a snowstorm or something, I won’t pull her out.  She has sentimental value for me, even though she might be the wrong plant in the wrong place at this point.  The original 4 David Austins in this garden were the last things I planted with my dad before he passed away in 1999.

So unless something happens to one of them, they will stay there, even though they are not native, and even though insects seem to like them more than they should and they require more work than most other parts of my yard at this point.  Because gardening connections to people you love who are no longer with you can’t be explained–and sometimes they are worth all the work.  After all, they are beautiful too!

What’s Wrong With My Roses?!

Do your rose leaves look like this?  It’s been a bad year for this pest in my corner of the world–and I had such a busy, complicated spring that I did not take time to notice until they really got out of hand!

This is where my neighbors realize that yes, I truly am an organic gardener because no one else would put up with such ugly plants!  What I’ll do is hose the little buggers off on a hot sunny day so the foliage has time to dry and I won’t be causing disease.  Then a week or so later I’ll feed my plants with some Rose Buddy–a nice organic rose food that I get from Washington State.

But even if I ignored everything completely, in another week to 10 days, all of this would be over because this pest has a specific life cycle and then it’s done.

The roses will make new leaves.  It will take them some time, and yes, it will be a while before they reflower because of it.  Had I not been so pre-occupied earlier this spring, I could have realized what was happening and caught it sooner.

What is happening?  A caterpillar look-a-like known as the rose sawfly, or rose slug, is feasting its little heart out.  There are two of them on the lowest set of leaves in the next photo.

It’s most important not to confuse these guys with caterpillars though because they are not.  BT won’t work.  They are the larvae of a non-stinging wasp.

Many non-organic folks just use systemic insecticides on their roses to avoid such an ugly mess  But the chemicals in some rose systemics have been implicated in colony collapse disorder in honeybees–so please try to find another way to manage these little guys.  Washing them off with a hose is a really easy–and effective– way to manage them.

When I’ve needed something stronger than a hose and water, I’ve had great results with the Pharm Solution Rose Pharm spray–but I suspect insecticidal soap would also work because they are soft-bodied.  The tricky thing is getting under the leaves.

The real lesson here is just to pay attention–as I had little time to do early during my growing season.  My roses will be fine–it’s just my eyes that will be offended for a while!

It’s Spring in New England

It’s been almost all birds all the time on the blog lately, and if you don’t live in the Northeast, (or just about anywhere else in the country, really), you don’t know that we’ve had freakishly warm temperatures here lately.  And when I say freakish, I mean temperatures that are 6 weeks ahead of where they should be. That will jump-start spring in a hurry.  High temperature records are falling faster than prices at the box stores.

So this week I awoke to so much bird song that it was almost deafening.  The first bird of the morning this week was the robin–that normally doesn’t happen until late May or June.  Just wild–but very pretty nevertheless.

And in the gardens, (since this blog is called Gardendaze) this is what’s happening:

This is a little hard to see, but these are moths on my front doorway.  There are three.  There have been as many as 10 at a time first thing, before the sun comes in.  And at night it’s a moth bonanza.  We have a CFL lamp on either side of the door and the moths are attracted to the light.  They stay there all night, until the sun hits the door in the morning.  Spiders build webs too to catch the incoming bugs.  By mid-summer, it’s a little freaky.

The rather interesting flower form of petasites japonica, which comes up before the plant leafs out.  Once the plant leafs out, it’s just variegated leaves about the size of a dinner plate.  Because mine is in a relatively dry area, it hasn’t become too much of a pest.  But if you have a wet area that you’d like filled,put this plant there and it will take over–it’s quite aggressive.  It has not been called invasive because it doesn’t have seeds for the birds to take out to wild areas–but it will take over in wetter areas,  so consider yourself warned.

One of my favorite early spring shrubs, pieris andromeda.  The hanging flower clusters are just opening.  Because this shrub is so common in New England, most people are not fond of it.  But because it is one of the earliest blooming and the bees find it, and it’s fragrant, I love it.  

It does have a drawback: it will get a lacebug in later summer.  I just ignore that.  I don’t need perfect leaves, and the new growth easily covers the lacebug damage from the previous season, which is only visible close up anyway.

The roses are leafing out much too soon–this is one of my dwarf shrub roses.  This will be damaged by a hard freeze–which is still possible.  It’s only mid-March, after all.

My bulbs are actually pretty far behind a lot of others in the area.  I blame it on the heavy, wet clay soil that I have.  But that’s fine–it’s still just mid-March!  Unless this opens fully, it will survive whatever the weather throw at it–but they are predicting possible upper 70s to 80 degrees next week–so perhaps not!

This is very bad news–this is the Nikko Blue hydrangea starting to leaf out.  They are terribly sensitive to frost.  And there will be more frost (even if we do get 80 degrees)!

And finally, since the plants are so far ahead of schedule, so are the weeds!  They love the warmer weather (as do we).  It’s just that no one (I don’t think) is quite ready to weed yet!

Fall Gardening Chores

Since for most of us across North America this is a long weekend, I thought it might be a good time to talk about fall garden chores (of course that doesn’t mean that all of us are getting fall–some have already had an early taste of winter and some are still hanging on to summer.)  But  a strange list that was “tweeted” by the Farmers Almanac earlier this week got me thinking about the concept of fall chores and even the different philosophies of fall clean-ups.

I believe I did a post about this last year so I’m not going to get into it in detail again but I’ve always been a “more is less” sort of fall  clean-up person.  I follow the Native American principles in gardening where I can about respecting the Earth–although this year with all the molds and mildews in the garden I am going to have to do a lot of cutting back and carting off because I won’t want that stuff overwintering in the garden.

Normally I leave almost everything perennial to winter in place.  I believe it better protects the crowns of the perennials, it might leave some interesting seeds for winter birds, and it definitely leaves some winter interest.

With annuals, rather than “pulling them out” as is suggested in the article, I cut them off at the surface and leave the roots to decay in the soil to enrich it.  It’s sort of the same principle as “no-till” gardening.  The less I disturb the soil, the better off the soil food web will be.  I’m  not pulling out all those beneficial microbes that I’ve worked hard to build up.

The article also suggests mulching with peat.  Now to my mind, that’s another no-no and it was a non-sustainable practice in 2009 when the article was written.  But we all have different ideas about sustainability of course.  The better practice would be to mulch with leaves or pine straw–and since I have a border of white pines I never lack for pine straw.

She also suggests fall pruning.  Lots of folks in my area do this but I am not one of them.  With the wild swings of temperatures we have in the fall–and even into January in some years–I’m not one to prune roses, trees or shrubs. Pruning is likely to stimulate new growth if we get a warm enough spell and of course any new growth will just be killed of by the eventual winter.  Why set yourself up for that heartbreak?  Prune in the spring when you can also prune off any winterkill.

Finally the oddest thing she says is that the heat in the house is going to spark new growth on the house plants so you should begin to feed them.  That is the surest prescription for insects and disease that I’ve ever heard.  This is why greenhouses are always battling bugs and fungi–because they are overheated.  Houseplants normally go into a dormant state in the winter because of the lack of light and unless you are supplementing that light with grow lights I would not feed them.

Another place where conventional gardening wisdom has changed: newly planted trees do not need to be staked–in fact they should not be.

So it’s interesting that in the two years since that checklist was drafted, much of the “wisdom” is outdated.  I wonder how much will have changed two years from now?

Fungus Among Us–Black Spot

Since we just finished talking about roses last week, I thought I’d discuss one of their most disfiguring problems this week since all this week I’ll be discussing what happens to plants when we get hot and humid weather.  As you can imagine, my approach to all of this is rather hands off, but some folks do like to treat.

Two things I’ll tell you about fungal diseases–they are easier to treat before they are a problem.  So if you have them this year, plan to treat proactively next year.  Next, fungicides are much better at preventing problems that they are at curing them.  Once you have the fungus all they can do is manage it.

I’ll also tell you that it is a rare fungus that will kill a plant.  Sometimes you will wish that the plant will die because it gets so ugly–but that’s a different thing.

Blackspot can be prevented in roses by giving them good air circulation.  You can see that I break that rule and so I’ll have issues.  This David Austin™ rose is underplanted with both a smaller Fairy rose and with catmint.  The catmint deters the japanese beetles, but it runs amok in the garden and probably causes moisture to linger, hence the blackspot.

What do I do?  Nothing.  When the leaves get too diseased, I pull them off and throw them in the trash.

Should you wish to be a little more proactive than I am, there are lots of good organic remedies that are easy on the environment.  Neem oil is said to be a fairly decent fungicide in addition to being a pesticide.

If you’d prefer to use something less toxic than that, a 50%/50% mixture of milk and water is always a good remedy.  Just be sure to clean out your sprayer after every use.

I’ve heard that liquid seaweed or liquid kelp sprayed on the leaves is also a good preventative but I have not tried it myself.

And finally there are organic fungicides on the market, but they do vary in toxicity to bees and other beneficials so be sure to investigate those before using, even proactively.

Rose Week–OSO Easy Roses

Oso Easy™ roses are trademarked groundcover and shrub roses by Proven Winners.  Everyone recognizes a Proven Winners plant by now–they come in distinctive white pots in varying sizes with a large PW on the side.

In order for a plant to earn that “Proven Winner” designation, it must undergo rigorous testing and trials in various parts of the country.  My regular readers may recall me saying that I “trial” shrubs for Proven Winners each year.  By the time they get to me, they are already in limited release in various parts of the country.  Prior to that, it can take anywhere from 5-10 years for a plant to be test, trialled and grown on  before it is released to the public.

This article from the The Register-Guard of Oregon talks about some of the Oso Easy™ roses, as well as two other Proven Winner introductions, Home Run™ and Home Run™ pink.  Home Run™ Pink must still be in limited introduction in our area–I’ve not been able to find it at all and I’ve looked both here and in Massachusetts.

My own experience with the Oso Easy™ roses has been very rewarding.  Last year I was sent two Oso Happy™ Candy Oh! (Rosa ‘ZieMartin Cipar’) to trial and this year I was sent two Oso Easy™ Peachy Keen (Rosa ‘Horcoherent’) to trial.  Neither year has been a particularly easy growing year.  Last year was extremely hot and dry.  This year started off very cool and damp and has transitioned to hot and dry. Nevertheless, both sets of roses are thriving!

Over the winter Candy Oh! tripled in size and it has been in almost constant bloom from late May on.

Peachy Keen has bloomed much more sporadically as I might expect from a newly planted rose but it is thriving as well.  I expect it will do as well next year as Candy Oh is doing this year.

I also planted Home Run™ this year.  For a newly planted rose it is doing well and settling into its new home.  It has not had a lot of blooms this year however.  I am sure that will change in coming years–remember, the first year, they sleep.

I am not giving these roses supplemental fertilizer that way I do with my Austin™ roses.  As I do with any newly planted plant, however, I am giving them a little extra water, when nature isn’t helping, to get through the dry periods.

There are 9 roses in this line and one is sold as a true groundcover rose–Oso Easy Fragrant Spreader™ (Rosa ‘Chewground’).  From the sound of the name, that rose has some fragrance as well.  While I haven’t grown it myself, I can believe it would probably be a good ground cover–the foliage on these roses is lush and thick and is truly disease and pest free.  They don’t get bothered by the rose sawfly larva or by japanese beetles (although as you saw last week, I’m not much of authority on those since they rarely plague me) and they don’t get defoliated by the bane of rose diseases, blackspot.

The roses stay compact too making them suitable for beds, borders, or in temperate climates, containers.  These are fabulous, versatile roses that I can recommend without reservation. The only thing they do not have is a scent (except perhaps for Fragrant Spreader!)!

Rose Week–EarthKind Roses

The Northeastern Trial Garden for EarthKind™ Roses is at the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden.  I have not visited but I have followed it with interest in print and on-line.

To back up a bit: EarthKind™ roses are not any particular “brand” of rose.  Rather they are roses already in cultivation that have been identified through trials as being particularly sustainable, shall we say–they need less irrigation than traditional roses and they need no applications of fertilizer or pesticides beyond compost at planting time (if you could call that fertilizer, really).

The initial trials were done at Texas A&M University and now regional trials are being done throughout the country.  The Northeast trial in being done at the New York Botanical Garden.

While many of us in the Northeast will feel that a zone 6 garden is a completely inadequate place to test roses (why, for example, didn’t they choose the Coastal Maine Botanic Garden?  That would have been a true northeastern test?!) Perhaps those further north than zone 5 don’t really attempt to grow roses and so this is perhaps a fairly representative place?  I’m not entirely sure.

The other thought is that the Peggy Rockefeller Garden has already gone organic because of stringent rules in place in New York concerning pesticides.  So perhaps that is the reason that garden was chosen over others–because they knew that the principles of no supplemental pesticides or fertilizers would be adhered to already.

In any event, the names of the Earthkind™ roses contain many “easy-care” roses that many gardeners would already know (and there is a list at the Garden’s web site for those interested)  Knockout™ is of course on the list, as well as its siblings, Blushing , Pink, Sunny and Double Knockout™.  That makes 5 of the 7 possible Knockout™ varieties.  Proven Winner’s entry Home Run™ is there as well.  Some other names you might recognize are Carefree Wonder, Belinda’s Dream, Seafoam, and the china rose, mutabilis.  There are 33 roses in all, with the Knockout™ family making up almost 1/6 of the list!  Pretty impressive.

In my garden, I have Knockout™, Pink Knockout™ and Double Knockout™.  I think the original is still my favorite.  It’s done the best for me and somehow, those bright single flowers against the darker foliage are a classic.  It’s hard to argue with success–unless of course they could breed in some fragrance.

Rose Week–Knockout

Ever since the first Knockout™ roses (Rosa Radrazz) appeared on the scene in 2000, the world of easy-care roses has been forever changed.  These truly are “bullet-proof” (as I refer to them) roses.  I’ve never seen a Japanese beetle on mine (although if you think back to last week, I might not be the most reliable source for that since I don’t have a ton of those pesky beetles.  I will tell you, however, that one of the two that I did spot this year was in the same garden with my Knockout™ and Home Run™ roses–and it chose to be on a filipendula instead!)

They’ve never really been plagued by those pesky rose sawfly larva.  Sure they try to eat the leaves, but the leaves are just too tough for them.  They don’t get marked up and burned through like traditional rose leaves.

And perhaps even more important, they don’t get the dreaded blackspot, or the less troublesome by still problematic powdery mildew.  As you can see here, my Knockout is in no means an optimal location–it’s in what I call the “wildlife” garden, meaning it’s crowded in one side by my huge veronicastrum (and when that’s in bloom, it drapes right over it) and surrounded on the other side (and would be over-run by if I weren’t vigilant) by black-eyed susans (rudbeckias).

And it still blooms its fool head off all summer, thank goodness.  What’s not to like about that?

Since this original was introduced, its breeders, Conard-Pyle/Star Roses have introduced several varieties–variations on a theme as I think of them so now there are 7 Knockout™ roses in all including a couple of double varieties for those who like more petals.  And of course there is a web site devoted to this family of roses–every good rose should have its own web site, right?

The web site states its height and width at 3′-4′.  As the photo shows, in my garden it’s more like 5.5′ or more–but I don’t prune, really.

Here’s Blushing Knockout™ in bloom.  This has stayed a little more in bounds for me at 3-4′.  But it’s growing practically in the shade because it has been overtaken by a large magnolia!

Home Run™ introduced by Proven Winners (so you know what’s coming–the long botanical: Rosa x ‘WEKcisbako’)  and not a Knockout™ rose at all) is sometime referred to as the “red Knockout”–totally incorrectly I might add!  It was sold to a neighbor of mine as such and this is how I know it’s happening.

In case you have doubts about how truly “bullet-proof” these are just about every public planting in the last 7 years of so has incorporated them or their progeny.   Highway medians, gas stations, parking lots of every conceivable type and public plantings everywhere have Knockout™ roses in them.

So does that mean you should shun such a “common” rose in your own garden?  Only if you want to avoid hassle free, carefree roses!