Enjoy your roses this month when they are at their beautiful best, but beware of the diseases hovering like witches about to strike!
Barbara Lea Taylor on common rose diseases and what to do about them.
There have been in the past – and there still are – many roses that are fashionable for a year or two and then disappear because of their susceptibility to diseases. Recently I read a letter written in 1887 by the Secretary of the Christchurch Horticultural Society. In it, he listed roses grown in Canterbury at that time and commented on their hardiness or lack of it. Out of almost 100 roses mentioned, I can find only a dozen or so that are grown today. Not all would have succumbed to diseases; some would simply have been superceded by better roses. It follows, however, that the old roses we grow today are hardy survivors and deserve a little effort on our part to keep them at their best.
Roses grown in good conditions have a head start.
But there are seasons when aphids, black spot, rust and mildew can descend on the best of gardens. Whether or not you use
chemical sprays depends on your gardening philosophy. I’m not particularly happy about some of them but I do use them if I have to. The longer I garden, the less I’m prepared to be dogmatic. Gardening is 50 per cent magic anyway. But it helps if we recognise a problem early – and do something about it. The two most common problems at this time of year are black spot and rust.
Black spots appear on the leaves and grow rapidly until the leaves turn yellow and fall. You are left with a defoliated, weakened bush. When the first black spot appears, I forget all about organic gardening and reach for the appropriate spray. It is also vital to collect and burn all fallen leaves. If they are left at the base of the rose, spores of the disease will multiply – and thousands will be ready to attack next spring. Check that the affected roses are growing in good soil and have adequate nourishment.
Rust is another common problem. Orange spots that gradually turn brown appear on the underside of leaves and spread rapidly over the entire plant. As soon as you notice it, remove all infected leaves and burn them. Some roses are particularly susceptible and you might have to decide whether they are worth keeping.
It is hard to pick a favourite rose when the garden is full of spring delights.
But I love to see my two old favourites in bloom. The lovely ‘Lucetta’ was introduced in 1983 by David Austin. Softest pink blooms are large and loosely double with prominent golden stamens, and are held prettily in clusters. Everything about ‘Lucetta’ is large – the bush is tall with long, arching branches which means it is happy against a trellis, wall or fence, and can be treated as a graceful shrubclimber. My all-time favourite is the lovely old Tea rose ‘Jean Ducher’, introduced in 1900. Big double blooms that sit like loosely folded silk in the softest peachypink with a tinge of ivory, few thorns, an upright graceful habit of growth and the ability to keep on blooming into winter make this a truly desirable rose. My ‘Jean Ducher" was planted more than 25 years ago and is still happily blooming.
You will need to order these roses from a specialist rose nursery.
My English magazine arrived full of good advice for the gardener in winter but that will keep.
Flyers seem to decorate the bowels of every magazine and newspaper today but the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds promised me a handsome nestbox free if I joined, and I would help save rare nightingales and give puffins a home on land and at sea. The white owl, wings outstretched on the cover of the Member’s Guide looked a bit scary but it was when I saw the photo of the hedgehog that I exploded. Don’t these people know that Mrs Tiggy-Winkle eats birds!
There is nothing hedgehogs like better than a meal of young birds in the nest. They will even swallow full grown birds if they can get them. I saw a hedgehog eat a bellbird once. It took a while to get the bird down, from its head to its toes. There was nothing I could do. The bellbird was dead and would provide the hedgehog with food for the winter.
Black spot on the leaves of ‘The Charlatan’.
Hedgehogs love a meal of baby birds.