Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Fasciation again: now it's on Wisteria!

Well, folks, you might be tired of hearing about fasciation: but I find it quite fascinating (ha! ha! See what I did there?) and I'm always astounded when I find a new example of this harmless, but rather scary-looking, mutation.

Here's the latest one: Wisteria.

Yes, that well-known and well-loved climber, the one which drapes our houses and arches with long dangling plumes of usually purple (sometimes white) flowers in late spring... yes, it also suffers from this weird distortion.

Here's a fasciated stem which I found last week: you can see the typical longitudinal lines running up the stem.

Weird, huh?

And here's the same stem, rotated onto its side, to show you how flattened it is.

As you probably know, Wisteria stems ought to be round! 

Plump and round.

Not looking as though they've been ironed.

This means we can add Wisteria to the list of plants which exhibit this curious, but harmless, spontaneous mutation: the list now includes Buddleia, in Forsythia, Summer Jasmine and Hibiscus: in Asparagus (that one surprised me!), in Roses, and even in Bindweed

So there are plenty of articles to read, if you find this subject as interesting as I do!



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Sunday, 11 July 2021

Pink Spots on rose petals - what are they?

 I came across this phenomenon the other day - a white rose with pink spots on it.


Pink spots?

On a white rose?

At first sight, I wondered if it was something to do with water: perhaps it was drops of water from recent rains, somehow concentrating the rays of the sun and, err, bringing the latent pink colour of the rose petals to the surface?

The white rose petals...?

My Trainee looked at me, unconvinced.

I wasn't convinced either, so I came home and did some research.

Apparently it's one of the fungal diseases - Botrytis cinerea, to be exact - and the pink spots are the rose's response to the infection. 

So, all roses get pink spots, they are just rather more noticeable on a pale-coloured rose.

The cause, as with so many of the Botrytis infections, is to do with water - in this case, we've had a run of rainy days so the flowers and leaves are physically wet: the ground is wet, therefore the air is generally humid: and the rose is trained against a wall, so it does not have much in the way of air circulation.

This is the perfect recipe, it would seem, for  Botrytis in general, and cinerea in particular.

So, what are the dangers? Will it spread? 

Well, yes: all the Botrytis - er, plural of Botrytis, anyone? - anyway, all of them are fungal, that means they spread, so it's important to remove infected flowers as soon as you see them.

If you don't remove them, the mould will spread to the stem of the flower, and if you are very unlucky, it will continue to spread downwards. 

Another reason for immediate dead-heading is the word "fungal" which has a sub-text of "spores" which therefore comes with a side-order of "invisible but will spread like a mad thing". This is a serious hint, that anything with a fungal infection should be carefully removed from the plant, as soon as it is seen.

Incidentally, don't put this material onto your compost heaps - either burn it, which is best: or put it in the council Green Waste bin, where it will be processed at a much higher temperature than it would achieve in your domestic compost arrangements, and which should therefore destroy all the spores.

So, what will happen to this white rose with pink spots, if I were to leave it?

Answer: the mould would spread to other parts of the plant: flowers would develop pink spots like this, and then they would go brown and die. 

Unopened buds would be infected, and would rot before they could open. 

The mould would spread from those dying buds, back along the stem of the rose.

And so on, and so on.

So be vigilant! When you see the first sign of this infection, dead-head like a mad thing: not only does it remove all the infected blooms, but by removing some of the plant, you are allowing air to circulate more freely in the rest of the plant, which makes the conditions less favourable for the Botrytis.

And there you have it: alas, pink spots on rose petals are not a charming colouration: they are a warning sign that something horrible is approaching.

You have been warned!



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Sunday, 4 July 2021

How to move a large standard Rose

I had a question last week:  "How do I move a large, established, standard Rose."  "With fear and trembling" is the answer! 

As it happens, I have actually done this a couple of times now, and I'll happily tell you all about it.

Firstly, what do we mean by a "standard" rose?

It means a rose which has been carefully trained since infancy, to have one long central upright stem, with a lollipop of flowers at the top. 

Here's a couple, in one of "my" gardens - left. (Yes, I know the Box hedges needed clipping! This was actually the "before" picture for the hedging..)

They can be knee height, waist height, shoulder height, head height: the taller they are, the more they cost, because the formative training takes longer - years, in some cases.

Most standard roses are grafted: that means, the roots and upright part are from one type of rose, usually Rosa rugosa, which is fast-growing and sturdy.

Then, the more decorative rose is grafted on at the top.

This means that the rose never grows any taller: the main stem gets thicker, and the top part gets denser, but the whole thing does not grow any taller.

Now the question is, can such a plant be moved?

I've successfully moved roses in the past: (*checks back through blog articles - oh! I never did get around to writing that article about moving a mature rose. Maybe later...) and they are not the easiest things to move, as they don't have a nice dense rootball.

But it is possible.

Standard roses, however, have another whole layer of complexity -  to move something fragile and top-heavy like this, will definitely take two people, and some extra care. Obviously, this is not something to be undertaken lightly, but sometimes it is necessary, and if you have to do it - well, needs must, when the devil drives, and if the alternative is having the roses dug up and thrown away, then it is clearly worth at least trying to save them!

In my case, part of the garden was scheduled for demolition, and four large, top-heavy standard roses had to be moved.

First job: first and always - prepare the place where they are going to. We dug (that's me and my current Trainee - I told you this was a two-person job!) a nice big hole, enriched the soil, removed all weeds, and left the hole ready for planting, ie with the soil lifted out and placed to one side, and with a couple of trowels and a sledgehammer to one side, along with a selection of tree ties.

Next job: reduce the top part, so that we can get close to it without being stabbed in the eye, or scratched to death. This is no more than "hard" dead-heading, really: just cut back enough of the flowering top, such that you can work around the bush with relative ease.

Start the digging: we dug a channel all the way round the  base of the rose, about a yard/metre out from the main stem, cutting through any roots we found, and excavating out the soil.

This allowed us to attempt to cut "under" the rose, aiming to lift out a solid ball of soil and - hopefully - roots, of about a foot and a half (45cm or so) across, and about the same size in depth. 

Once we were starting to make progress underneath it, one of us was detailed to hold the stem, while the other one undid all the tree ties, and wiggled loose the supporting stake. Once that was done, one person had to be holding the stem at all times, for the obvious reason.

("Because otherwise it would flop over and break," of course)

The other one then finished off the under-cutting, and together we lifted the whole thing out and into the wheelbarrow, with one of us carefully supporting the head.

Having said that, one of them came out with the stake still firmly embedded in the rootball:

..which made it very easy to get it in the wheelbarrow, although it was pretty heavy to lift.

This particular one is a standardised Rosa rugosa, so we didn't reduce the head by much.

Having trundled it across the garden to the hole we had prepared, all we had to do was lift it out of the barrow, and place it carefully in the hole, with one of us holding it upright, while the other one sorted out the roots.

Leaving one person holding it upright, the other one stood back, and assessed whether the rose was "facing" the right way, or should it be revolved. 

Frankly, it was that heavy, we agreed that it would be fine as it was...

... so one of us continued to hold it up, while the other one started backfilling the soil around the roots. 

Once a few handfuls of soil have been firmed down, but before the whole thing is settled, the stake needs to be re-positioned: for the one in the picture, the stake was already there, but for the others, the stake needed to be inserted, carefully using the original "hole" through the root ball. If the old stakes are badly rotted, now is a good time to replace them.

Now for the tricky bit: one person has to hold the top of the rose, while the other one hammers the stake in place. This means positioning the stake very, very close to the stem, then gently leaning the top part away, to prevent it being hammered. It also means that you have to trust your partner, who is using a sledgehammer, worrying close to your face!

Once the stake is firmly hammered in, one person continues to hold the top, while the other one completes the backfilling. In case you are wondering why I specify staking before doing all the backfilling, there is a reason: sometimes, stakes will only "go in" in certain places, ie if there are stones or roots underground. Sometimes, you need a bit of wiggle room with the plant, in order to get it close to the stake, and if you firm in the plant first, then you have to lean it awkwardly, which can look quite ugly. By getting the stake in place first, you can sometimes shuffle the rootball over a few inches.

Now we're nearly done: one person continues to support the head, while the other fits the tree tie or ties in place, good and firm, but taking care that the stem is not rubbing against the stake. As we have moved both the plant and the stake, the position of one relative to the other might be quite different now, so it's not just a case of replacing the old ties where they were before: you might need to fit them in different positions.

At last! We can both stand back and look at it. 

And hopefully, not look at each other and say, glumly, "it's not straight..."  (which would mean digging it out and doing it all over again, which would be annoying as well as being possibly injurious to the plant.)

Here it is, left,  in the new position: plenty of company, but no immediate competition, so it should do well.

Final job - water it well - slowly and thoroughly. Mulch around it if possible, to help retain water and suppress weeds, then water it every day for a week, every week for a month, and keep an eye on it over the following months, as it might need extra watering for the first year or so.

The nerve-wracking part is the next day... and the next few days. Will it droop and die? Will it recover? 

This one did splendidly (all four of them did, thank heavens): here is it a fortnight later, a few lower leaves have gone yellow, but the rest of it is lush, and it is making new growth - and flowering as well, which is an added bonus.

Normally, I would not allow a recently-moved rose to flower, because they put a lot of energy into flowering, and we want them to use all that energy to make new roots.

But this is the one with the large solid rootball, so I left some of the flower buds on it.

Well, there you go, how to move a very large, top-heavy standard rose, one step at a time. It's not something I enjoy doing, it's nerve-wracking every time, but it can be done!


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Friday, 2 July 2021

How to get a fence covered in roses...

 ... instead of the usual problem, where you have a fence covered in bare stems, and a bunch of roses so high up that you can't see them.

This is such a common problem: it's really easy to fix, and it's all about the training.

I've already written at length ("how else?") about the Whys and Wherefores of training Roses, and the need for persuading the roses to go horizontally, in order to get more flowers on them.

Here is a perfect example - in fact, Here's One I Did Earlier *laughs*

This is a climbing rose which the Client bought, for a splash of colour on the rather dull fence.

They originally started training it to go straight up the fence, but I stepped in, at an early stage, and instead, trained the rose to go sideways, so that we could cover more of the fence with just the one plant.

This was achieved simply by screwing a couple of Vine Eyes into the fence posts, then stretching strong galvanised wire between them.

As the rose grew, the branches were tied onto the wire - not wrapped around it, but that's an article for another day! - and now, in the second year, you can see that the rose is making good progress along the fence.

And you can see how the branch is simply covered with flowers and buds.

Here is the lower branch:

And again, you can see that it's covered in buds.

Roses always want to climb upwards, so this year, we'll allow a few more branches to grow from the lower branch, but we won't allow any branches to grow from the upper one: they'll all be pruned off. 

This prevents the rose from getting out of control, by growing up and over the top of the fence - and it also keeps all the flowers on our side of the fence, where we can see them!

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