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ROSE CARE FOR APRIL
SNIP AND TUCK FOR A BLUE RIBBON -
Fertilizing and Disbudding
by Gail Trimble, Master Rosarian
Now that you have pruned your roses, it is time to think about fertilizing. I usually wait until the ground warms up a little and the rain has eased off. There is no point in applying fertilizer only to see it washed away. Roses love plant food. I have visited gardens where either no fertilizer was given, or the homeowner put down just one layer of alfalfa pellets in the spring, and those gardens’ roses were very small. Although old garden roses in cemeteries have survived without food for hundreds of years, modern roses seem to need an extra boost, particularly if you want to exhibit your roses, or cut bouquets for the table.
For fast effect, you can use something such as Miracle Grow, which has a high percentage of primary nutrients (N-P-K) and lots of micronutrients. However, this is a chemical fertilizer that will eventually leave a build up of salts in the soil. Organic fertilizers take a lot longer to break down and become available to the plant, but their advantage is that they are much better for the soil in that they can improve its consistency and texture, while adding beneficial organisms.
For many years, I used both chemical sprays and chemical fertilizers, and my roses were gorgeous. However, I could not let my chickens out of their side yard (since chickens eat rose leaves and therefore chemicals can get into their eggs) and I was concerned that my dogs would get chemicals on their feet and lick them off. Plus I worried about my lungs and the environment! After purchasing my last group of chickens six years ago, I decided to go organic. For the first 2-3 years, my roses sulked and disease was rampant. Eventually, they started to respond to the organic feeding and while I still have lots of disease (being at the bottom of a very steep hill and having no air circulation), most of my roses now grow vigorously. I have been using the following mixture per plant every 6-8 weeks with excellent results:
1 cup EB Stone Organics Rose and Flower food (available at Sloat Garden Center)
1 cup EB Stone Organics Bat Guano (available at Sloat’s)
1 cup worm castings (available at Sloat’s)
4 cups alfalfa pellets (available at most feed stores)
Plus I add ¼ cup Epsom Salts twice a year only.
I can’t recommend enough the excellent series of fertilizing articles on our website by Nanette Londeree, which won an Award of Merit by the American Rose Society. There are also a few other recipes on the site, all located at: http://www.marinrose.org/fertilizing.html
As the weather warms up and buds begin to appear, it is time to think about disbudding. Disbudding is the practice of removing undesirable buds. It is achieved by placing the bud between thumb and index fingers and rocking it back and forth until the bud breaks off at the base. The earlier in the bud's life this is done, the easier it snaps off and the less scar that remains.
Disbudding for One-Bloom-Per Stem
For entries of one-bloom-per-stem hybrid teas and miniatures, it is essential to remove the side buds, or the entry will be disqualified. The right photo of a miniature shows two side buds and a third side bud lower down the cane. On the far right is the same miniature after disbudding all 3 side buds.
This next photo on the left shows a hybrid tea with two side buds. On the right is the remaining center bud after removing the two side buds.
Disbudding for Sprays
Disbudding for a spray is done in the opposite manner. In this case, one removes the center bud because the center bud develops more quickly and will be in the process of dying when the side buds open. If done early, the side buds will fill in the hole left by the removal of the center bud. In the photos to the right of a miniature before and after disbudding for a spray, the center bud and a lower bud were removed and three side buds remain.
In the next photo above of a floribunda, the center bud was again removed leaving three side buds. Note again that a side bud further down the cane was also removed. This bud will develop into a flower that is much lower than the rest of the spray.
In the next photo to the right, there are multiple buds originating from more than one leaf axil.
In this case, if you remove only the center bud, you will have a spray of 3 florets. However, if you remove the center bud AND the three center buds in the side sprays indicated by arrows, you will end up with a spray of 6 florets, as in the photo below of the same spray.
This is the desirable way to disbud a shrub such as 'Sally Holmes' which has multiple sprays originating from multiple axils.
It is not necessary to disbud many shrubs and old garden roses if the side buds enhance the exhibit. If the side buds are taller than the bloom, detract from it, or push into and distort the shape of the bloom, then a penalty is imposed. In the photo of ‘Fair Bianca’ at the beginning of this article, the side buds frame the bloom nicely.
Even if one does not exhibit, removing the side buds on hybrid teas and miniatures, and the center buds on floribundas, shrubs, and climbers will make for much more attractive blooms for both garden and vase life.
Photo of ‘Fair Bianca’ is by Judy Pineda
All other photos by Gail Trimble
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Last Modified: 4/7/17