2018, August 2018, What to do in the garden

Staying ahead of Japanese beetles

japanese beetle

Japanese beetles can be a challenge at this time of year, eating every rose in sight and making an unsightly mess. Staying ahead of them – or even just keeping up with them -can be a lot of work.

There are gadgets out there that some swear by, like the pheromone-emitting bags that lure the beetles into their trap and kill them. I have no direct experience with these, but have always wondered if attracting Japanese beetles into your own yard is a good idea. Assuming the traps aren’t 100% effective, isn’t there a chance that you could end up with more beetles than you would have had without the trap? (Or is the trick to convince your neighbors to get it…) Anyway, if it works for you, great. No need to argue with success!

jap beetles

Other methods of getting rid of them are a little less palatable to the squeamish, but do work if you have the time and the patience. These consist of squishing them by hand (yeah, I know…) or knocking them off the leaves into a container of dish soap and water, where they drown.

There are additional things that you can do to help. Keep your plants healthy so that they are able to withstand an attack better. You can also try planting plants that they don’t tend to like in amongst your roses, such as Nepeta, and Chives, Garlic. And as a last result, contact someone with a pesticide license to come and deal with the grubs.

An integrated approach is probably best, as it is with most things. Good luck!

 

beetle grubs
Japanese beetle grubs

 

 

March 2018, What to do in the garden

How to Prune Roses

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I often get asked how and when to prune roses. Roses can be a little daunting, that is true, but once you know the general principles of how to prune them, you should be able to tackle almost anything. And many of the principles of rose pruning apply to pruning other plants, too, although you should read up on what it is you want to prune before diving in. Anyway, the most important thing to know about pruning roses is that it will be fine. Most roses are very forgiving. We all do a butcher job at one time or another, and seldom does it result in death.

The main reasons to prune roses are as follows:

  1. To cut out diseased, crossing and damaged growth
  2. To maintain a pleasing shape
  3. To allow for a healthy amount of air to circulate within the plant.

That’s it, really. You want to get rid of any dead bits or bits that are black or distorted from disease. You also want to get rid of branches that cross so close that they rub against each other. When they rub each other’s bark away, they leave openings for disease to get in. You also want a rose bush that has a pleasing shape. So you might end up cutting off a perfectly healthy branch because it messes up the symmetry. That’s ok. And finally, roses are prone to diseases, so if you can cut out stalks that clog the interior of the plant, you will allow more air to circulate in the middle and that will help keep those diseases away.

That’s WHAT to cut. Now, WHERE to cut.

Remember that every time you make a cut, the plant will react to that cut by sending growth hormones to that spot. So if you cut your rose above a bud that is facing outward, that bud, being the last bud on the stem, will now be told to grow, and it will grow the way it is facing. So it stands to reason that, if you don’t want the branches to grow inward, (see reason to prune #3) you should cut just above an outward facing bud. Are you with me so far?

Next, HOW to cut. For this, it’s easiest to show pictures. It all has to do with the angle of the cut in relation to the bud. Here goes:

DSCN3749
WRONG. This cut points toward the bud, so rain etc will roll right down the cut and onto the bud, making it vulnerable to disease.
DSCN3747
WRONG. This cut slants the right way, but it is too close to the bud, and so doesn’t give it enough support. Thus, it will always be a weak place on the plant.
DSCN3746
WRONG. There isn’t anything horrendously wrong with this cut, but it’s a little too far from the bud and cut straight across. An entire rose bush pruned like this will have a stumpy appearance.
rose right.jpg
This cut is just right. It is angled away from the bud, and not too close, yet far enough away to give the new branch support.

And finally, WHEN?

I usually prune my roses in late winter, while they are still dormant. At least, I do the main prune then. I will sometimes shape them in the summer, or cut off a branch here and there. The main thing is not to prune when winter is coming and there is about to be a long period of cold. Since pruning tells the plant to react, you don’t want it to send out a lot of new growth, only to have it killed by a frost.

Hopefully this has demystified things a bit. If you are confused about anything, please post a comment on this blog post and I will try to help make things more clear.

Happy Pruning!