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Petal power

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque’s dry climate is great for roses where they are spared many of the diseases and pests that prevail in humid areas.

There are 1,200 rose bushes at the Albuquerque Rose Garden that surrounds the Tony Hillerman Library at 8205 Apache NE. These are called “Falling in Love” roses.

But they do need plenty of water; preferably a good deep soaking one to three times a week rather than a daily sprinkle.

That’s the advice of Claudia Bonnett, longtime member of the Albuquerque Rose Society, whose members volunteer to care for the 1,200 rose bushes in the Albuquerque Rose Garden that surrounds the Tony Hillerman Library.

“Other parts of the country have many diseases and pests, we’re lucky here,” Bonnett said.

Rose bushes in Albuquerque typically explode with blooms in the late spring and early summer and then sport few flowers in the hottest part of the summer.

“Roses are like us. We don’t want to stand out there and burn all day,” said Bonnett.

She shared a few tips on how to keep your rose bushes happy and healthy during those weeks of hot weather.

Albuquerque Rose Garden Society President Katrine Stewart, left, trains Faith Holland how to care for the rose plants at the Albuquerque Rose Garden. The society has started a volunteer initiative to attract young volunteers to become “Rose Buddies” who will be mentored in the care of roses by a member of the society. After their training the Rose Buddy will be able to advise others seeking help. (Greg Sorber / Albuquerque Journal)

After the first flush of flowers, removing the spent blooms when they appear brown and ready to fall will encourage another cycle of blooms. Use pruning shears to remove the “deadheads” by cutting the stem below the flower. Make the cut at the second or third five-leaflet below the bloom. Cut at a 45-degree angle away from the leaflet so that if water drops on the leaflet it will roll away from the leaflet. That is the spot where the next stem will appear.

“If you do that you will get another (bloom) cycle before it gets really hot,” she said.

Bonnett said roses are thirsty plants. She recommends watering deeply – two to three gallons, per bush – twice a week to foster a healthy root system. It’s best to lay a slow running hose down and let it seep into the ground for up to 20 minutes. Stick your finger as deep as possible into the ground near the base of the plant to test for dryness. A mulch ground cover around the base helps hold moisture.

Aphids, also known as plant lice, appear when the weather warms, congregating on new growth and sucking juices out of the plant. You can usually get rid of them with a good strong spray from a hose. Ladybugs, which some local garden stores sell, will also help control aphids, according to the Rose Society’s booklet “Growing Roses in Albuquerque.”

Thrips are another common pest. These tiny brownish-yellow insects like pale colored roses and they damage the buds causing them to turn brown and fail to open. Bonnett recommends using a “systemic” insecticidal spray that can be absorbed into the bud where the critters hide.

Claudia Bonnett deadheads a rose at the Albuquerque Rose Garden.

She said thrips and aphids typically disappear when the weather gets really hot.

Watering in the evening after a hot day when the temperature will soon drop can lead to the appearance of powdery mildew, which looks like a fine white powder on the leaves.

“It’s not serious, but it looks awful,” said Bonnett. She advises watering early in the day so foliage is dry by night time.

Roses also appreciate fertilizer about every four to six weeks. However, avoid using a fertilizer heavy in nitrogen during the hot summer months because it will damage the plants. Bonnett recommends an organic fertilizer such as fish-emulsion, which improves the soil. She also likes Mills Magic Rose Mix, which is available from the Albuquerque Garden Center, 10120 Lomas NE in Los Altos Park.

“Water and organic fertilizer will carry them through. If you water them well, roses will come through the summer with no problem,” said Bonnett.


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