Poetry and Gardening

Musings from the days of a creative writer/gardener with a true appreciation for nature, meditation, and poetry.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Dreaded Black Spot, Scourge of a Rosebush Life

This blog post is one of (I'm sure!) many I'll write in the near future, so if I don't cover something, shoot me a message, and I'll do a blog on it.

Roses.  I love them, but I've almost given up on roses several times because of the horrible infestations of Black Spot that my poor bushes would endure year after year.  At one point, I had 54 bushes, all types of roses, and I spent some serious money on hybrids and disease resistant breeds.  I hated seeing the first indication of Black Spot because I knew if I didn't spend a couple of hours a day hand-picking the leaves, then it would spread faster than butter in July.  You have to love roses to put up with their weakness to disease (and don't get me started about Japanese beetles).

Through the years, I found more than half a dozen sworn-by-the-expert cures but none of them truly worked with 100% efficiency and several made a serious dent in the checkbook.  And I've also discovered that weather can really be your enemy when you're trying to treat Black Spot.

There are a couple of things that have worked for me during the years, and one of them that I would normally recommend is something I just discovered is extremely toxic to animals, so I'm leaving that one off my list of suggestions.

Because the disease is spurred on by heat and humidity, Black Spot usually happens during the height of summertime, which means you get to enjoy your roses for about a month (where I live) before you see the first telltale signs.  If you know you might have the disease in some existing roses, it's a great idea to treat before you see the slightest signs of the disease.  Prevention includes making sure that the space where your roses are planted is clean of debris and that the roses have plenty of sunlight and breathing space.  If the bushes have grown since first planted and are now touching each other, Black Spot will spread like . . . well, the plague.

So, preventing Black Spot:
  • Plant roses at least 24" apart in holes that are three times the size of the root ball.
  • Ensure roses get sunlight most of the day and that they are watered regularly (Note:  everything can be argued, and I'm sure my sister will tell you that the roses she has out behind her house facing a very busy highway have been very successful thriving without any human help whatsoever).
  • Keep the ground around the roots of the plant clean of dead leaves and debris (Black Spot moves into the plant when the spores on the ground connect with the rose via ground water).
  • As soon as the bush starts to leaf out, spray the bush with a Baking Soda Spray (1 tsp baking soda, 1 quart water). Add a couple of drops of non-bleach detergent to the mix so that the baking soda will stick to the leaves.
  • Make sure that every leaf is sprayed, top and bottom.
  •  If the Baking Soda Spray doesn't work, check with the local greenhouse for Neem oil.
  • Watch the plants and clean, water, treat them at least every week, preferably every four days.
  • Caveat:  Some gardeners swear by a very strong fungicide, and you might want to try that, too, but I've tried to deal with this issue as naturally as possible.
Throughout the summer, continue this prevention program and make sure you trim/prune your bushes regularly so that you'll keep this disease (and others) at bay.

The point is to get roses that look like this:

~~~***~~~   ~~~***~~~   ~~~***~~~   ~~~***~~~   ~~~***~~~   ~~~***~~~   ~~~***~~~

And this post's poem is, of course, about the beautiful rose.

'Asking for Roses' by Robert Frost

A house that lacks, seemingly, mistress and master, 
With doors that none but the wind ever closes, 
Its floor all littered with glass and with plaster; 
It stands in a garden of old-fashioned roses. 

I pass by that way in the gloaming with Mary; 
'I wonder,' I say, 'who the owner of those is.' 
'Oh, no one you know,' she answers me airy, 
'But one we must ask if we want any roses.' 

So we must join hands in the dew coming coldly 
There in the hush of the wood that reposes, 
And turn and go up to the open door boldly, 
And knock to the echoes as beggars for roses. 

'Pray, are you within there, Mistress Who-were-you? ' 
'Tis Mary that speaks and our errand discloses. 
'Pray, are you within there? Bestir you, bestir you! 
'Tis summer again; there's two come for roses. 

'A word with you, that of the singer recalling- 
Old Herrick: a saying that every maid knows is 
A flower unplucked is but left to the falling, 
And nothing is gained by not gathering roses.' 

We do not loosen our hands' intertwining 
(Not caring so very much what she supposes) , 
There when she comes on us mistily shining 
And grants us by silence the boon of her roses.