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War of the Roses

By Paul James

The War of the Roses was fought for 32 years in fifteenth-century England between rival York and Lancaster factions. York chose as its symbol the white rose, while Lancaster opted for the red. So why the brief history lesson? Well, because if you choose to grow roses — and I hope you do — it’s only fair to say that you may have to do battle with a few pests and diseases. But no worries. Here’s how to win the war.

Make sure you plant your roses in the right spot, which in a perfect world means a good six hours of sun a day and fairly rich, well-drained soil. If your soil is less than ideal, add compost or a bag of Back to Earth Rose Bed Amendment at planting time.

Don’t crowd your roses. Good air circulation between plants will go a long way toward minimizing fungal diseases (more on those nasty pathogens in a moment). Ideally, you should allow roughly three feet of space between the tips of the leaves of each plant.

Try to water only the base of the plant and not the leaves. Again, that’s to avoid fungal issues.

And finally, mulch. Roses prefer even moisture rather than erratic moisture swings. So do I, actually, but I tend toward the erratic.

Okay, now it’s time to address — or rather attack — pests and diseases.

Around here, the most common pests are spider mites, rose bud borers, rose chafers, and last but not least, the dreaded Japanese beetle. Your arsenal of organic weapons range from Neem to Spinosad to Pyrethrum, and among synthetics there are contact poisons such as Bonide Eight or systemics such as Rose Shield or Bayer All in One Rose Granules. 

For control of common fungal disease — black spot, rust, powdery mildew, and more — Rose Shield works well, as do old standby formulations containing copper or sulfur, as well as the newer bacterial controls such as Serenade and Revitalize. 

I feel as though I should discuss Rose Rosette Disease while I’m on the subject of roses, but I suggest you go to this excellent article on the OSU website for details on the subject. (Spoiler alert — there is no cure.) 

And by the way, in case you’re wondering who won the War of the Roses, it was the Red Rose Team. Henry Tudor, (Henry VII), earl of Richmond and a Lancastrian, defeated King Richard III, a Yorkist, at the battle of Bosworth Field on August 22nd, 1485. Richard III was the last English monarch to have been killed in battle. Ironically, some five centuries later the white rose would become a symbol of peace.

Happy gardening, ya’ll.

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2 responses to “War of the Roses”

  1. Dawn Blackburn says:

    Hi Paul.. I was watching your old shows on hgtv and I looked you up .. Paul james died ! What I was so upset. Then I learned that your name is very common. Glad your alive and well. I just moved to east Tennessee , I just planted a rose brush . And starting some veggies .
    You where talking about bugs . Do you have any natural ways to kill or keep Them away ? What kind of Christmas tree for the area?

    • Paul James says:

      I’m alive! For now anyway. One of the best all-purpose and all natural insecticides is Spinosad. A popular brand is called Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew.