October is Rose Month!
October is undoubtedly rose month in South Africa and nothing compares with that first flush of perfect blooms which last so much longer because the sun is not too scorching hot yet. Many other spring flowering plants like yesterday, today and tomorrow, crab apples, and cherries are also in full bloom; not forgetting the beautiful bearded irises, foxgloves and delphiniums. Luckily we are all inspired to garden at this time of the year because there is no time to rest for gardeners in October. If you really want a good return on money spent in the garden this season you need to get cracking and plant this month. This will give you the whole season to reap the rewards of summer with her promise of bountiful blooms, fruits, vegetables and herbs. Although October is a busy month in the garden, set time aside to visit some of the gardens which are open to the public at this time of the year for inspiration and practical tips.
It is essential to water your roses thoroughly about two to three times a week and to start feeding for that beautiful October show, using a balanced fertiliser that is high in nitrogen and potassium like 8:1:6. Nitrogen and sufficient water are very important at this time of the year because you want to encourage not only beautiful blooms but also lots of healthy green leaves to support the roots of your plants, as well as to protect the delicate stems from sunburn during our hot summer days. Mulching is also vital to conserve moisture and to keep the roots cool. Avoid wetting your rose leaves in the late afternoon as wet leaves at this time of the day will encourage black spot and powdery mildew. As a preventative measure, start spraying for fungal infections now with a good organic fungicide like Margaret Roberts Organic Fungicide, or Biogrow Copper Soap. If your roses are susceptible to red spider during hot, dry spells start spraying now with a good organic insecticide like Margaret Roberts Organic Insecticide, or Biogrow Bioneem, both of which will also control aphids and other insects.
Good leaf coverage is essential in summer so do not cut off too many leaves when cutting long stemmed roses for the vase. Cutting roses for the vase can be done at any time of the day as long as they are immediately plunged right up to their necks in a bucket of water. If you leave them overnight in the bucket before arranging, and then add 1 teaspoon of household bleach and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar to 1 litre of water for the arrangement, they will last for much longer.
Briar growth must be removed from your bushes. This grows out from the rootstock of Hybrid Tea Roses from just below the graft and is a light green colour, with smaller leaves. Do not cut them off or they will just grow again; rather tug them off gently at ground level when they reach about knee height. Briar growth should not be confused with new water shoots which have thick reddish stems and will become the new framework of the rose bush; when these reach about knee height, nip out the growing tip to encourage branching. Prune your banksia roses when they have finished flowering.
Plant ‘living’ mulch between your roses this summer to conserve water, and to keep their roots cool. Choose small plants and groundcovers with shallow root systems like: Marguerite Daisy (Argyranthemum); Garden Verbena (Verbena); Summer Snapdragon (Angelonia); Alyssum (Lobularia); River Daisy (Brachyscome); Carpet Geranium (Geranium incanum); Snow in Summer (Cerastium tomentosum); Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia); False Heather(Cuphea); Seaside Daisy (Erigeron) and Candytuft (Iberis). Companion planting will help to keep your roses healthy and reduce the need to spray. Lavender and Thyme deter aphids, snails and ants; and any plant in the onion family like Chives protect against black spot, mildew and aphids. Sage promotes healthy plant growth and will attract bees.
Happy Rose Gardening.