14 February 2020
A Garden Tip from Helen...
Preventing Black Spot
Interestingly enough, February and early March are the times to address that perennial problem of black spot on your roses. I do realize that as an aging gardener, the three things to give up in your garden to make your life easier are chrysanthemums, irises, and of course, roses – all of which are labor intensive. That said, there are just some things I cannot give up, and one of them, is the rose. So… take the next nice day and get out the garden sprayer. Fill it with a gallon of water and a tablespoon each of cooking oil, Dawn dish washing liquid, and baking soda. Spray your rose plants thoroughly, including all the branches and leaves on both sides, if there are leaves still hanging on. In two weeks, take the sprayer, fill it with another gallon of water, add a tablespoon of Neem oil, and spray the plants again. If you can repeat this procedure a couple more times at two-week intervals, you should be set for a wonderful season of disease-free blooms. All this is necessary because black spot fungus winters over underneath the rose stem’s epidermis, so the only way to get rid of it is to smother it!!
In the past few years, a new rationale has surfaced regarding rose pruning. Historically, gardeners were always instructed to prune roses back severely to encourage an open center that promotes air circulation. Now, experts are saying to simply allow plants to continue to grow helter-skelter, pruning only to keep stems from rubbing against each other. Personally, living in a very windy location with roses growing within thirty feet of the water, I have now embraced the new philosophy and let them grow naturally. This is my concession to the aging factor.
With all our warm winter days, I hope you are taking advantage of the early budding out of pussy willows, camellias, forsythia, witch hazel, heather, and hellebores. Cut them and bring them in the house for a guaranteed pick-me-up.