By Anne davies
Make pruning your first priority:
This is important as it helps to reduce disease by encouraging air circulation and lets more light in. The ideal time to prune is about eight weeks before you want your display of flowers. Winter pruning is best done in June or July.
You can prune twice a year – in winter take off about two thirds of the growth, in summer you can prune about a third.
Prune to an outward facing bud (a protrusion of growth on the stem), cutting at a 45 degree angle away from the bud. If the bud goes towards the centre of the bush, you end up with crowded foliage there and are asking for diseases. Cut away all deadwood with a sharp pair of shears or a sharp pruning saw. Pre-clean the blade with Turpentine or Methylated Spirit to stop disease spreading between plants. Remove branches that cross through the centre of the bush or rub together.
Feed them every six weeks:
I suggest a handful of fertiliser and a handful of sulphate of potash (for stronger plant cells and less chance of disease), plus a handful of Epsom salts, which promotes basal (new) growth, because it's important to try to renew the framework of your rosebushes.
Deal with aphids by running your fingers up and down the stem (dodging the sharp barbs along the way!). Alternatively, use a pyrethrum spray.
Look out for black spot, a fungal disease that starts off as a black spot on leaves, turning them yellow and eventually causing them to fall off. Apart from the many chemically based commercial fungicides that help kill black spot, it is worth trying this simple home-made concoction – mix one part of full cream milk with 10 parts of water, then spray onto the leaves.
Another treatment is to put a teaspoon of Condy's Crystals into a bucket of water. As Condy's Crystals are purple coloured, don't apply on your white rose bushes! It's a fungicide as well as an insecticide, so you can use it to get rid of aphids, too.
TIPS FOR CUT ROSE FLOWERS: Make the most of your cut roses by putting one aspirin with a couple of teaspoons of sugar in your vase along with a few drops of bleach into a litre of water. Enjoy! •
Article courtesy Salvation Army Warcry magazine.
Anne Davies is a nursery supervisor and horticultural trainer at the Salvation Army's Tom Quinn Community Centre in Bundaberg (Qld).