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Rose Rosette Disease taking a toll on North Texas gardens Horticulturists, landscape professional and gardeners in North Texas are all trying to figure out how to deal with a disease that has been killing roses across the region for more than a decade now. Its at epidemic proportions now. The disease has been so prevalent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that its common name has now become “Dallas Rose Disease” instead of Rose Rosette. It was first detected in the Metroplex in 1998 and has since spread to 14 North Texas counties, including Denton, Collin, Rockwall, Grason and Ellis in addition to Tarrant and Dallas. No one is really sure why its become so problematic here. No one really knows why it hasn’t spread to other parts of the state. It was first discovered in Northern California back in the 1940s and spread across the northern tier of the US. And for many years, there was no real presence of the disease to be found . . . until 1998. Since then, literally thousands of various species of roses have been pulled from the ground in the Metroplex. Dallas Rose Disease is a virus pathogen that is spread by a tiny, wingless mite. The mites penetrate the rose when they go to feed on the plant’s sap, transmitting the virus to the rose. The rose will then die within two to three years. However, they become so disfigured and ugly that most are removed before they die. The heartbreaker here is that this disease is fatal. There is no known cure. They must be removed or they become a risk for other nearby roses. These mites can be blown from landscape to landscape by the wind. They can crawl from bush to bush. And they are also transported on gardening tools, and even apparel that brushes against an infected bush. A study is currently underway by the US Department of Agriculture to work on finding answers. So how do you know whether or not your roses have this disease? The most obvious signs are reddish new growth, featuring deformed leaves and a crazy number of thorns. Now new growth on roses is usually red, but turns green as it matures. Diseased red growth will not turn green. It is said that this disease targets the hybrid Knock-Out and Double Knock-Out Roses, but that cannot be true since the disease was around prior to the creation of both species. It does seem to strike them more often, but likely because so many have been planted since their introduction in 2000. It could have become an epidemic-sized problem because so many of the Knock-Outs were planted, and often so close together. This should become a lesson to us all. Too much of anything can lead to problems. Within our own customer base, about half of our customers have had roses in the last five to six years. From that, about half of those have had to have them removed due to the disease. Knowing the issue is serious and is present, do we still plant roses? Yes, we have done that upon customer request and with warning that the disease could strike them down at some point. Some feel the risk is worth it. To defeat this disease, it will require a community-wide effort across all communities in the affected 14-county area. From gardeners and landscapers to HOAs, property managers, etc., all will need to work together to eradicate the disease through educating the public, removing all known diseased specimens in a timely fashion, and informing property owners when the disease is diagnosed on their property. Some of the things we can do to prevent spreading this disease is to keep our tools clean, using hydrogen peroxide to clean them with after each use, and regularly aerating the soil around roses as well as feeding them to keep them in tip-top health. “Why aren’t my flowers and grass growing like they should?” Some climatologists, namely those who incorporate the climate of the sun with their analysis, have said that we’re in the beginning of a global cool down, or “little ice age.” For the past 20 years the climate on earth has not warmed. As researchers have pointed out for some time, our climate events are directly related to features such as sun spots. When sun spots develop, the earth gets warmer. When they are fewer or decreasing spots, the earth gets cooler. The science is really showing up this year as here we are in late April/early May and still dealing with lows in the 40s. These continuing cold fronts that blow through cause temperatures to be unseasonably cool and thus, stunt the growth of our flowers and grass. Don’t worry, they will grow as summer approaches and things warm up. As I type this, I will see a low of 45 degrees this evening. Highs are still in the 60s and 70s. By contrast, 20 years ago we saw 100 degree temperatures in February, March, April and May. Fertilization, Grub worms If you haven’t already done so, go ahead and get that weed/feed or fertilizer applied to your lawn. April was the month to do this but its fine if you hit it in early May. In late May, you will want to treat your lawn for grub worms. Grub worms come from larvae laid last year by the Japanese Beatle. There is no way to keep these Beatles from coming to your property but we can do something about them once their larvae become worms and start working their way to the root zone of your turf grass. Grub worms can cause a lot of damage to a lawn and most homeowners will not recognize the damage is being done until its become bad. So rather than wait to see evidence of their presence, we treat the lawn according to what time grubs normally begin feeding on your turf grass roots. Their rise to the surface is dictate mostly by climate temperatures. Last year, grubs began feeding in early May due to a very mild winter and warm spring. This year, we’re still getting a taste of winter well into spring, so I’m projecting a late May timing for grubs this year. If you can have this professionally done, do so. The products professionals work with are designed to zero-in on these critters. One application of their products normally does the trick. However, if you must buy retail and do it yourself, then plan on applying twice, two weeks apart. Spectracide’s Triazamide is a good product as well as Scott’s Grub-Ex. It is best to not use products that try to kill grubs and fertilize in the same bag. There are products out there like that and its best to avoid them. May Flowers! Hopefully by now you’ve planted your spring and summer flowers. If not, it’s not too late to get that going. I’m often asked, what can I do to make my flowers bloom more or to get more blooms? First, most all flowering plants require sunlight. So make sure flowers that demand full sun, get full sun. You also want to make sure they get the water they need to be healthy and strong. However, another thing you can do to make this happen is increase the available phosphorus in the soil. Phosphorus helps increase fruit production, helps root development – and helps produce more flower buds. There are a couple of good ways of getting this phosphorus to the plant. One, you can mix rock phosphate or fish bone meal into your planting mix during the planting process. You can also add phosphorus through the use of a water-soluble fertilizer that is high in phosphorus. Such products are often called “bloom boosters” and are low enough in nitrogen to be safe for delicate flowers. One such product I recommend is by Carl Pool called BR-61. It is available on the retail market at nurseries, garden suppliers and also amazon. It comes in a tub with a scoop inside. Mix with water according to the directions of on the container. Do not mix heavy. Got a Question? Feel free to ask any questions you might have. Whether its something you’re currently dealing with in your own landscape or something you experience previously but never understood. Fire away! (Mark’s column each month is sponsored by Stagecoach Trailers, Inc., of Naples, Texas. Find them at www.stagecoachtrailers.com)