Rose Logic for June 2021

by Lynn Schafer, our Master Rosarian. 

Morning has Broken
Morning has Broken

It is difficult, after nearly 40 years of editing this newsletter, to come up with something “new under the sun.” We grow roses, each year is different, new roses come…and go.

This is why I appreciate all the exchange newsletters I receive, as each of us has ideas to share, and while my roses may not need any adjustments, it doesn’t mean others have the same approach.

I truly appreciate Rich Baer with his wit and wisdom, more in his brain than I could even hope to achieve. But I try not to “over use” his writings or I would have to change the name of my newsletter!

Bill Kozemchak has edited the newsletter for the Philadelphia Rose Society for a number of years, and he always has some valuable insights for his readers. For instance: “I have been told if you ask ten rosarians how to grow roses, you’ll get twelve different answers. This is quite true. If things you are doing work well for you, don’t feel that you have to change because someone else does it differently.

The methods that follow are what well for me and my schedule. Every rose grower needs to tailor a rose care program to work with their needs and desires. If you see something you would like to try, do it. If it doesn’t work for you, do what does. The important thing is caring for the roses, not doing it a certain way because someone says it’s the best way.


The most important thing to do this month is watering. We don’t usually get much rain this time of year, so watering is very important. The temperatures are going up and rose bushes are getting quite large, requiring more water uptake.”

Organizing: Bill also had a very interesting idea. He made a video of his garden in peak bloom, walking through, narrating and explaining why he chose different areas of his garden for different types of roses, even different color schemes. He pointed out favorite varieties and low maintenance ones for beginners. My roses are certainly not so well organized, but I could agree in that my roses are placed so that the smaller growers or miniatures are not placed behind the large ones.

That said, a narrated video…or even one that could be shown as a PowerPoint on Zoom with live narration could work very well. Maybe we will actually have a day in the future when we can have in person meetings. Then it could be shown on the big screen in the meeting room.

Rose aphids often target tender flower buds.
Rose aphids often target tender flower buds.

Getting bugged? I don’t know about your roses, but mine have begun blooming much earlier than “normal,” whatever normal is. The color is vibrant, and there is no sign of disease at this point. I have heard a few references to aphids, but so far they have not arrived here. This coming week may change that if we again get temps in the 90s, so you may have to use my pinch method, some Safer’s Insecticidal Soap or a strong spray of water, your preference.

Insecticides also work (so does soapy water,) but you can probably handle it with the other methods. As Bill said in the quote I copied above, water is very important for your roses. We are so very fortunate to have a good water supply here in the Spokane area, but that doesn’t mean we should just waste it.

Mulching helps retain the water we give our roses, and it also helps with weed control. A watering system provides what your roses need on a regular basis so they don’t fluctuate between being too dry and then rescued by a deep watering.

Ko's Yellow
Ko’s Yellow

Fertilizing: After your roses have kind of wound down from the first bloom, you can apply one more application of granular fertilizer if you used that in the spring. I like to make up the alfalfa tea by filling a 32 gallon plastic garbage can with water, adding a coffee can or two of alfalfa pellets (no vitamin additives, just alfalfa), the covering it for several days to let it “age.” Then add a tablespoon per gallon (2 cups if I calculate correctly) of Miracle-gro or some other liquid fertilizer to the mixture and stir well.

Use a gallon per big rose or about half that on the minis. What I found interesting this year was most of my big roses were hit significantly by the deep freeze we had in February, at least that is what I blamed. A good portion of them were cut to the ground, and I even was concerned I might have lost several.

However, in a short time they began sending up new basals on the grafted roses and shoots on the own root roses like I don’t believe I have ever seen before. Out of nearly 200 roses I lost one mini and one old, old rose which I haven’t dug up as it may still grow.

If not, there are always other roses to take the place of those I lost. None of my roses were hilled up, but with years of using compost as a hilling medium and then spreading it out on the beds, they were probably more than protected.

What I have noticed, however, is the cold snap didn’t bother the weeds at all. Keep after them or you will regret it, not only this year but if they go to seed for many years to come!