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Written by Wally Richards.
There is something special about roses that us gardeners like. It could be the shape and form of the flowers; it maybe the exotic perfumes some varieties have; or it could be something in our genes, because roses must be the oldest cultivated ornamental plant in the history of the world.
In Nature things such as leaf diseases (black spot, rust etc) and insect pest attacks on plants is part of life but when it comes to the rose enthusiast these natural occurrences are like the end of the world.
Woe betide a blemish to the foliage or an aphid feeding on the newly forming flower buds in spring.
It is war and every chemical of mass destruction will be mixed and used to control and eradicate.
The goal is the perfect bloom (with a tear drop of dew on a petal) framed by perfect foliage of a dark rich green. Picture perfect and hopefully with a divine scent to boot.
For those that show their roses at their annual local rose show or in the national rose shows the perfect specimen is the ultimate challenge.
I remember in days gone by when chemicals; that have since been banned because of the damage they did to the environment and to our health, such as Shield for Roses. These would be used religiously by gardeners on their beloved roses biweekly.
Alternating with Super Shield and applications of Rose Fertiliser and Nitrophoska Blue.
If the rose sprays did not do what was expected there were other lethal chemicals to use, Captan, Bravo, Orthene, Target and Maldison. (All banned now as far as I am aware)
To say that the health of the roses was compromised would be an understatement and every season instead of the perfect rose the plants would be a very sore sight.
Years ago I recognised the problem that the chemicals were doing to the soil life and the immune systems of the roses and wrote articles on the matter.
I remember a Garden Centre owner in the Taranaki region telling me how she read my articles on roses and followed the advise. Within a couple of seasons she had turned the sickly roses in her home garden into lovely roses.
The local rose society members visited the gardens and were amazed at how healthy her roses were and wanted to know what chemicals she was using to have them looking so great.
Her reply was no chemicals which the members had problems believing because they had been indoctrinated into Shield, Nitrophoska etc as the ultimate tools of rose perfection.
The products made the companies that sold them a lot of money but did nothing for the health of the roses or the health of the users.
Here is a little logic I remember as a boy visiting my uncles farm in Taranaki where my auntie had a few rose bushes between a paddock and the gravel driveway.
Besides the dust on the plants in a dry summer and the occasional cow or possum nibbling the foliage they were very healthy.
They had some horse or cow manure thrown at them from time to time and cut back in the winter along with a bit of a tidy up.
Another aspect was that being in the country the plants were not suffering from chemicals in the water such as Chlorine and fluoride. Just rain water from the sky or the tank.
I remember another rose enthusiast who also told me that his parents were great collectors of roses and had over the years several hundred specimens on their farm property which he was also involved in their care.
He told me how over the years of growing up how wonderful and healthy the plants had been.
As 'new' things were introduced to assist with the rose care, the health of the roses deteriorated so more stronger chemicals were used to no avail.
His parents passed and it was then his sole responsibility to care for the sick inheritance.
No matter what he used, how much he sprayed the roses only got worse and one winter after another poor health season he was seriously considering plowing all the roses into the ground as they were hopelessly sick and some had already died.
He told me he read an article I wrote about rose health and a program to follow and decided to give it a go for one last attempt.
What happened was that season there was a marked improvement in the roses, not up to their former glory but certainly heading in the right direction.
Then in the following season most of the roses turned to their full health state and a phone call to thank me was made. He said that my advise was the best gift to his deceased parents ever.
It is just common sense really, work with Nature not against it.
Chemicals are designed to kill and control; they can kill both the good as well as the bad as well as adverse side effects as we commonly see with our own human pharmaceutical concoctions.
Chlorine in water is bad news for soil life so if you have this poison in your tap water then see about removing it with a 10 micron carbon bonded housing and filter. Email me for more info if interested.
Next stick to natural things to feed your roses (and other plants) this includes all animal manures including sheep manure pellets, blood & bone, compost that is not made from green waste.
(I know people that have lost their roses to compost containing herbicides from green waste)
For extra minerals use Rok Solid twice a year and Ocean Solids once a year.
Apply a little Fruit and Flower Power once a month during flowering season.
Spray your roses 2 weekly with Magic Botanical Liquid (MBL) with Super Neem Tree Oil added (Use just before sunset) Once a month spray them with Perkfection starting in Spring when there is a good show of leaves. Perkfection can be added to every second spray of MBL & Neem oil.
At this time (Autumn) spray the roses and soil underneath with potassium permanganate (quarter a teaspoon per litre of water) Repeat again in mid winter and then spring as soon as first sign of movement. This is to neutralize disease spores.
During season any sign of leaf diseases repeat with Raingard added.
Because of the unnatural weather compounded by lack of direct sunlight I have some roses in full bud and starting to flower now.
Thus I will let them flower and then cut them back later on.
You will likely have a lot of Rose Hips (Seed pods) The best time to harvest rose hips is after the first frost. Frost helps sweeten the flavor.
They should still be firm and have good color. Leave the shriveled or dried hips for the birds.
Waiting until after a frost is also good for the plant, since cutting the hips before frost could encourage the rose to send out new growth which would be killed back at the first frost.
Rich in Vitamin C you can make a tea from the hips and other cooking/medical uses (Check internet)
The seeds inside can be grown and that is a very interesting subject on its own.
Later on you will do the final pruning of the roses and should afterwards spray the plants with Wallys Liquid Copper.
Dont prune in winter when its cold and damp which can allow Silver Leaf disease to enter the roses. Prunings can be made into cuttings and propagated for more rose plants for free.