Margaret Lauterbach

Let new roses bloom; raised beds sometimes need an adjustment

There’s no need to pinch off buds when planting new roses.
There’s no need to pinch off buds when planting new roses.

So many of us lost our roses over this unusually severe winter that we exhausted local nurseries’ stocks in replacing them. Now what? Should you let them bloom or put their strength reserves into establishing roots, as some growers advise?

Some folks online say you should disbud new roses, but Anju Lucas, at the perennials department at Edwards Greenhouse, says that is not necessary. Roses sold here by local nurseries, at least, are sufficiently vigorous to grow on their own. She’s horrified at the advice for cutting off rose blossoms. To put her horror in perspective, be advised that when you buy a rose from Edwards, she asks “who did you buy?” not “what variety did you buy?”

Make sure you’ve planted your new shrub in the best possible location for its variety, with good drainage and appropriate sun exposure, in soil different from that where you lost your rose to winterkill. Some folks experience what they call “rose replant disease,” similar to that experienced by orchard growers who try to plant a new apple tree in the space where they lost one before. Both apples and roses are members of the huge Rosaceae family. Roses take up much less area than an apple tree’s roots, of course, so it’s possible to dig a much larger hole than necessary for rose shrub roots so you can import new soil to the hole for the new shrub.

Alternative interim planting may be necessary to avoid apple trees’ replant disease. Since replant disease doesn’t always occur with roses, plant pathologists scoff, questioning its existence, but experienced rose growers insist it happens, and some experts who have denied this problem have come to believe it may be responsible for small or struggling new plants. Remember though that if you bought a rose shrub on its own roots rather than a variety grafted onto roots of another rose, it will have smaller leaves than roses usually have, at least its first year in your garden. It’s not a question of rose replant disease. If weather is too cold and wet or too hot and dry, either extreme also will slow the growth of your new shrub.

Weeds invading raised beds?

Are you having problems with your raised bed? There are problems that come with the helpful change to your growing habits, ranging from shrinking of the soil to weeds in inaccessible locations. If your raised beds are more than one course in height, you may be having weeds germinate and thrive in the seam between courses of lumber. I have problems like that, and I think insertion of flashing such as that sold for roof margins around chimneys might work. Soil subsidence happens, whether it’s from compaction by the weight of the atmosphere or pounding rain, or from removal of plants with some soil attached to roots.

After a cold wind removed a panel from my old SunGlo greenhouse a few months ago, I bought a replacement panel from the factory. After that was in place, the light was so much brighter I bought panels to renew the roof from end to end, and hired Steve Herring, of Greenhouses, Etc., to install the roof sections. He also mentioned at his home he’d put in a raised bed, and had bought raised bed garden blend of soil from Steve Regan Co. in Caldwell. I buy planting mix from Steve Regan, but hadn’t thought of looking for soil there. Herring was more than happy with their blend, his tomato plants quickly growing after transplant.

Al Sprik, manager of that Steve Regan store, said they’re selling that bed-refreshing blend in 1.5 cubic foot bags for $6.69 per bag. Too bad I’ve already planted nearly all of my beds, or I’d be refreshing soil myself. I know one bed has dropped over five inches in height over the years, but refreshing will have to wait for garden cleanup.

Use caution with insecticide, if it is available

Agriculture Research Service, the research wing of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has discovered (and is applying for a patent) that methyl benzoate, derived from snapdragon and petunia blossoms, is an effective insecticide against insects such as the spotted wing drosophila that has invaded our state in the past few years. It also controls diamondback sphinx moth, parent of tobacco hornworm (and perhaps the parent moth of the tomato hornworm), and the brown marmorated stink bug. ARS researchers say methyl benzoate has been approved by FDA for use in food and cosmetics, but the Centers for Disease Control reports caution should be exercised to avoid inhalation, eye contamination and skin contact.

Why don’t these agencies communicate with one another? I presume caveats will be on the label of commercial versions when they’re available.

Send garden questions to or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.