Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
October, 2003
Regional Report

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Cherry Parfait is a 2003 AARS winner.

Fall Rose Care

Lucky low desert gardeners! Rose bushes are venturing out of summer's heat, ready to burst into their second major bloom period. Although the fall flowering is usually not as prolific as the spring bloom, it's still delightful. You can enhance your rose shrubs' health and blooming with minor pruning and clean-up and good cultural techniques of fertilizing, watering, and mulching.

After temperatures remain below 100 degrees F for several days (yes, it will happen), cut back rose bushes by about one-quarter to reinvigorate. (Spring pruning is more intense, cutting back about one-third of the plant.) Remove any dead or crossing canes or weak, twiggy growth. Pruning cuts should be at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4 inch above an outward facing bud eye. The angle allows sap to run down opposite the cut. The outward facing bud eye points in the direction you want it to grow.

If any suckers have grown up from below the graft union, remove them. The graft union is a raised bump at the base of the plant where the variety was grafted to the rootstock. Suckers will revert to the rootstock variety (Dr. Huey is the preferred rootstock for the low desert), not the variety you purchased. You may need to lightly brush away the soil to get to a sucker's origin.

Clean Up
After pruning, rake up leaf litter around the base of rose bushes and dispose of it in the trash. Low desert roses are susceptible to powdery mildew, one of the very few problems we contend with. This fungal disease can overwinter on plant debris, so it's best not to put it in the compost pile unless you are a fanatic composter whose pile reaches temperatures of 140 to 160 degrees F for 2 or 3 days. These high temperatures kill most pathogens, but you must turn the pile and "reheat" it several times to ensure all of the plant debris is exposed to the high temperatures.

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