Put in a Few April Hours to Bring May Flowers

With a little special care, you can get your rose bushes to produce an abundance of beautiful blooms for the next seven to eight months, according to Cristin Fusano, color specialist/horticulturist at Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona del Mar:

Be consistent. Water, feed and groom on a regular basis.

Along the coast, water roses deeply once a week. Inland, water twice a week during hot weather. Remember that overhead watering or high sprinkler sprays can cause powdery mildew. Change those water-wasting sprinkler heads to bubblers, drip lines or simply place a garden hose at the base of each plant and soak with a slow stream of water. Feed with a systemic product such as Ortho Rose and Flower Care once a month.

Provide full sun. Thin nearby trees that create shade over bushes.

Cut faded flowers off bush (known as dead heading) as soon as possible to encourage more blooms and to discourage seed development that will slow flower production.

When dead heading or cutting flowers for a bouquet, always cut above a leaf with five leaflets. Make sure it is an outward facing leaf. This causes a new stem to grow to the outside of the bush rather than crossing and crowding the center. This practice will keep the bush open in the center allowing more sunlight and good air circulation. This means better flowers and less chance for disease.

Use a sharp cutting tool for a clean diagonal cut on stems. For best results, put flowers in a bucket of warm or tepid water immediately after cutting. Allow flowers to sit indoors in a cool dark location for an hour before arranging. For long-lasting bouquets, change vase water and cut 1/2 inch off stems every other day.

Always keep old leaves and debris cleaned out from under bushes to avoid harboring pathogens and insects.

If mites have been a problem in the past, mist undersides of foliage periodically using a fine mist or fogger nozzle on the end of a garden hose. Do this in the morning when the sun is shining.

It's time to plant your vegetable garden. If you don't have land, use containers to grow radishes, tomatoes, eggplant, green peppers and melons.

Weeds compete for water so keep them out of the garden, lawn and flower beds.

For those hot and sunny locations in your garden, consider geraniums, which bloom in pink, rose, scarlet and white.

Light, monthly feedings of acid-based fertilizers are suggested after the flowering period ends for azaleas and camellias.

Herbs can be grown in the garden or indoors in a sunny location. Pots of herbs can be used to decorate around the barbecue besides being close at hand to add delicious flavor to the foods you cook outdoors. Most herbs require light shade in the afternoon.

Plant dwarf dahlias now for summer color and dahlia tubers for fall color.

Additional information supplied by California Assn. of Nurserymen.

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