Garden fanatic

Steve Kawaratani

“Beauty . . . is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that

is all.”

-- W. Somerset Maugham


“Cured yesterday of my disease, I died last night of my physician.”

-- Matthew Prior

I always smell her perfume before I see her -- my anticipation growing

prior to our kiss.


Although her scent lingers faintly indoors, Catharine is away on

holiday. I am feeling lonely this evening, but not alone. I return to our

roses, which fill the air with fragrance and our garden with color.

Warmer weather has a way of enticing roses to bloom.

The delicate shapes and colors of roses are unique among flowers of

the world. For this reason, many believe that they are frail and readily

predisposed to pest and disease. This is simply not so . . . roses are no

more susceptible to garden problems than most other flowering shrubs.


Roses are tolerant, hardy plants, but a constant application of

pesticides won’t make a healthier plant. Roses require the basics of

sunlight, well prepared soil, water and fertilizer. Your mission (if you

choose to accept it) is control, not elimination, of pest and disease.

Your rose questions to the Plant Man for the third week of May included:

Q: Plant Man, how do I get rid of the aphids on my roses?

A: The tender new growth and flowers of your roses are desirable

targets for aphids. These soft-bodied insects are easy to control by


using horticultural oil or an insecticidal soap product. For systemic

control, use either Orthene or a rose care product that contains a

systemic insecticide plus a balanced fertilizer.

Q: My rose is growing great leaves but I haven’t seen a flower yet.

A: Some rose varieties will concentrate their energies into growth the

first year and flower little, especially if they have received heavy

dosages of nitrogen. If your rose is a once-blooming variety it will not

bloom the first year. Climbers are also not likely to bloom their first


Q: Plant Man, is it OK to plant roses in pots?

A: Smaller roses that remain under three-feet tall may be planted in

18-inch pots. Larger roses and climbers should be planted into 20- to

28-inch pots.

Q: My climbing roses never bloom although I prune them every spring.

A: Climbing roses bloom on old wood, rather than new growth, so I

recommend only stripping leaves at pruning time.

Q: My rose leaves look like my grandmother’s old doilies, just like

lacework. What’s up?!

A: Lacework holes in rose leaves are classic caterpillar damage. Spray

infested plants with either Orthene or Orthonex for immediate control. Or

you may also control caterpillars with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), which

is a biological control and most effective while the caterpillars are


Q: Hi Plantman. What’s causing my rose leaves to wilt?

A: A number of different fungi may cut off the flow of nutrients and

water throughout the stem, causing the leaves to wilt or yellow. They

enter through a wound caused by the thorns or at a cut stem. Prune out

infected canes and spray a fungicide containing chlorothalonil at 14-day

intervals until control is achieved.

Q: I’m still getting mildew on my roses. Can I spray as needed?

A: Controlling mildew during warm, moist weather is nearly impossible.

I recommend using Funginex at the first sign of a problem, but only at

seven to 10 day intervals to avoid damaging your plants.

My sweet wife (yes, Ben, she is my honey) returns from the Grand

Canyon on Memorial Day. Here in Laguna, as I stand on my deck on Tuesday

evening, I begin to anticipate her homecoming. Although all of our roses

are in bloom, there is work to be done -- Catharine will return to the

scent of our roses -- and a kiss. See you next time.

* Steve Kawaratani is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery, 1540

South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. He is married to local artist,

Catharine Cooper, and has three cats. He can be reached at 497 2438, or

E-mail to