A plague on both my roses

I must apologise for my recent absence. You see, I have been battling dark forces. Just look at the state of my roses and you’ll see what I mean:




What is causing these roses to look so sickly? I found this page on the RHS website which lists common problems in roses: leaf curl, aphid, black fly, white fly, green fly, rust, black spot, dieback, brown scale… A feeling of horror and despair came over me as I compared this list of infamies with the signs and symptoms in my roses, their curling, brown-speckled leaves, bare branches, infestations and knobbled wood: my roses are suffering from  every single affliction!


For some reason I was particularly infuriated by the aphids. Look at this rascal! See how nonchalantly he adventures across the leaf in search of fresh shoots to maim. Now imagine hundreds of his bastardly cousins on the underside of the leaf,  gorging themselves on the rose’s lifeblood.

Between the acute infestation of bugs and the chronic infestation of moulds, I decided the bugs were the most urgent problem. The first thing I did was to fill a sprayer with a dilute soap solution, because I’ve read that soap makes it impossible for the aphids to stick to the plant. I saturated each rose plant with this solution, and the next morning was most gratified to find scores of yellow, dead aphids all over the roses.


However, I was not sure how sustainable this answer was. Would the soap eventually concentrate and degrade the soil? I decided to throw some money at the problem and bought from the local garden centre an organic pesticide made of ‘a blend of fish and vegetable oils’ suitable for an organic garden. It promised not only to eliminate all types of bugs, their nymphs and their eggs, but to control the black spot and rust moulds too. It promised to be safe for the plant, and to be non-toxic to animals and beneficial insects such as bees.


It sounded almost too good to be true.


I gave my roses a really good dowsing and found that the organic pesticide of natural oils was as good as its word as far as the aphids were concerned, although I did notice an increase in black fly, possibly moving in opportunistically now that the aphids were mostly gone. The moulds will take longer to go as once a leaf is discoloured it will remain so for good. The spray simply prevents the mould taking hold in new leaves.


It may be too late for one of the roses. It lost almost all its fragile leaves overnight in a storm. Only time and patience will tell if it survives.

5 thoughts on “A plague on both my roses

  1. I’ve never seen a rose bush in such a dire state so early in the season. The abject specimen in your photograph looks as though it has been malevolently neglected for years. And yet it has been pruned under expert supervision, fed gourmet horse manure and probably even engaged in erudite conversation. How can this be?
    I fear it has not been given quite the armoury it needs to see off the worm that flies in the night. A rosebush is a highly-bred individual. Many of its ancestors are from Mediterranean climes, and crave sun and warmth. There really isn’t a thing you can do about the latter. Sunlight might just be improved if anything is overshadowing it which you could cut back (May is a good time to cut back any evergreen, and anything which has already flowered). Roses hate to be crowded.
    Next up is nutrition. A rose bush cannot fight the fungus on an empty stomach. Horse manure, though excellent as a soil conditioner, will not provide the balance of N:P:K and other jalap that garden roses need. I’m afraid you’ll have to steel yourself to buying proprietary rose food. Again, now is a good time (you are supposed to feed after the first flush of flowers, in June, but I cannot discern a single bud, let alone a flush). If the manure is still lying over the soil as a mulch, draw it aside and add the food to the soil and rake or water it in. Then pull the mulch back, keeping it clear of the stem.
    Lastly, hygiene. Keep spraying, at the intervals specified on the bottle. If diseased leaves are lying about gather them up and bin or burn them. When pruning next autumn be scrupulous in gathering up every last snippet, the spores of next season’s fungi are lurking there.
    Take heart – is quite hard to kill a rose. If it were not so yours would most certainly have perished long ago. Feed it, cosset it, talk to it kindly. You may yet find out what colour the flowers are.

  2. Most roses flower twice a year. This one is still in with a chance for August – September 2014. Is it in the same sort of square patch as the rhododendrons? Before giving the midsummer feed loosen the soil under the landscaping fabric as well (that’s what it’s called, don’t blame me). Be careful not to loosen the roots’ hold on the earth, though. Roses resent what is known as wind rock. Afterwards water it in well, and firm the earth up again.

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