Nourish your roses with the same positive qualities that you show to your loved ones


Roses are not sentient beings, but the famous and absolutely true 1967 Beatles lyrics, “All you need is love,” apply to people as well as to plants. Our love can be ‘felt’ by our plants when we have the right states of mind and put them into action.

So secateurs, loppers and a good pair of gloves are all necessities in a rose garden, but an equally indispensable tool in our gardener’s toolbox is the positive attitude we bring to the garden with us. Here are some factors that fuel this positive attitude and which are very important. They let your plants know that they are loved:

To be vigilant. Nothing is static. Change occurs daily in people and plants. In people, change is slow, but in a garden and in our plants, change is observable on a daily basis. We really need to inhabit our garden and walk through it, preferably daily. When we do this, we develop eyes to see what is normal and what seems “off topic.” Wide, alert eyes help us catch pests and diseases before they harm the health of our plants. There is an added bonus to all this vigilance: when we pay attention, we are open to the amazing beauty of nature around us.

French Floribunda lace is cultivated with Queen Anne’s lace in the La Mesa garden of Master Rosarian Linda Clark. Queen Anne’s lace is attractive to insect beneficial to roses, which can help control pests and pollination.

(Rita Perwich)

Be curious and eager to learn. When we buy a plant, we need to know what it needs to grow. We need to find out what pests and fungal diseases could threaten our plant and what we need to do to avoid these problems. When we see an insect on a leaf, we have to be curious. What is that? Is it a friend or an enemy? Does this damage the plant or protect it? When we are curious, we want to educate ourselves in order to understand what to do and why. For example, we not only want to know how to prune, but we want to know why we need to do it. A lack of curiosity leads to indifference, inaction or to unnecessary or counterproductive actions, none of which are useful to our plants.

To be engaged. This is essential in a garden, and especially when growing roses. Anyone who plants a rose garden dreams of abundant, luscious flowers, but that final vision comes true best for rosarians who consistently stay the course. Roses are not difficult to grow, but they take work and time. For every magnificent flowering cycle, there are flowers that must be smothered. Our list of things to do when growing roses includes pruning, amending our soil, and mulching, felling, fertilizing, and making sure our roses are watered properly. And then, of course, like any other plant that we grow, we have to have a pest control strategy.

David Austin's fragrant climber 'Gertrude Jekyll', with pink flowers, pushes a trellis.

Being motivated can mean replacing the strong performing roses in your garden with high performing roses like David Austin’s scented climber “Gertrude Jekyll”.

(Rita Perwich)

Be tolerant and confident. We each need to determine the damage we are prepared to suffer in our gardens. I don’t spray pesticides and fungicides. I’d rather be tolerant and put up with imperfect flowers and foliage (after all, who’s perfect?) Dare to believe roses are hardy. When we select our roses with thoughtful research and provide them with their cultural needs, we can be sure that they will resist damage from pests and fungi.

Be methodical in the care of roses. Integrated pest control (IPM) is a sustainable and environmentally friendly integration of cultural, mechanical and biological controls: cultural (plant your roses in the sun, amend the soil, mulch, prune annually, give them sufficient water and fertilizer and dead head); mechanical (harmful collection and jet of water); biological controls (growing companion plants and encouraging predatory insects in your garden).

To be calm. Being obsessed with the damage won’t bring the flowers back, and it certainly undermines our desire to continue growing roses. If your pest problem seems out of control, the IPM has a fourth control, which is the selection and use of the least toxic pesticide (those marked with the “Caution” warning.) But first, take a deep breath. . Make sure there is no other way to fix your problem. If you are using a pesticide, make sure it only targets the pest in question. In San Diego, chili thrips are our biggest pest problem and may require pesticides. Follow the directions on the label to make sure you do not harm our pollinators. Avoid broad spectrum pesticides, which create bigger problems in your garden because they are harmful all insects, even those who help you.

A statue of a frog in a meditation position sits among the white shrub roses.

Be calm: don’t panic and use pesticides at the first sign of pests. If caught early, they can be picked up, sandblasted and cut up. White shrub roses are David Austin’s “Desdemona”.

(Rita Perwich)

Be energetic and stay alert. There is a constant cycle of insects, both beneficial and harmful, in a garden. Your routine of inhabiting your garden provides you with excellent information and insight. You’ll know what month to expect with each parasite, and you’ll look for and detect the first signs of damage. Make your own “road map” for each month of the year for your garden. The timing and presence of pests and fungal diseases that I encounter in my coastal garden will be different than in a warm indoor garden.

To be motivated. The passion for roses is contagious. Join American Rose Society and the San Diego Rose Society, attend meetings, rose garden tours and the annual SDRS Rose Show and re-energize. Replace the medium-sized roses in your garden with your newly discovered rose treasures.

Be truthful. We should only plant as many roses as we can grow well. We are the guardians of a beautiful plant that responds, at least to some extent, to what we do and what we don’t. Granted, trying to reduce “need to own” is a difficult task when there are so many beautiful roses on the market!

Do you have aphids?  Expect ladybugs… they will come!

Do you have aphids? Expect ladybugs… they will come!

(Rita Perwich)

To be in total admiration for the creation. Gratitude among flowers is as easy as breathing. As gardeners in contact with nature, we have the gift of seeing not only the beauty of our roses, but the hand of God at work in the world around us, and the interdependence of all creatures in the world. Earth. So, as crazy as it sounds, I suggest that the Pest Antidote helps certain pests in your garden. Do you have aphids? Ladybugs and all the other hungry goodies will come to your aid. Also, spraying pesticides is not a slam dunk for a pest free garden. But that could be a slam dunk for a garden without any helpers.

Yes, The Beatles were perfect: “All you need is love, love … Love is all you need.” So while you’re in the garden pruning, fertilizing, and watering your roses, go ahead and hum and sing that to them. They will reward you with flowers beyond belief … it is the gesture of love of our roses for the committed rose grower.

Perwich is a fellow of the San Diego Rose Society, rosarian consultant, and master gardener with UC Cooperative Extension.


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