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Rose Rosette Disease

The Rose has long been considered the most beautiful flower in the world and is often referred to as “The Queen of the Garden.” Its beauty has inspired poets, artists, composers, and lovers the world over — but to have a variety of roses in a garden here in Northeast Georgia can take quite a bit of work and some TLC.

A thriving Hybrid Tea Rose is one of the most beautiful flowers.

Not all roses are well-suited to our climate and that can make them more susceptible to disease.

This is one of the reasons we often recommend native plants — they are meant to grow and thrive in our unique conditions.

But, back to roses. One of the diseases that can attack roses and that we really hate to see is rose rosette disease.

Yes, it is a pretty name, but it is a nasty virus that attacks roses, is easily spread, and worst of all, is incurable.

So just what exactly is rose rosette disease and what does it do?

Rose rosette disease can also be called witches’ broom of rose because of the way it eventually makes the rose bush appear to look broom-like.

It is indeed caused by a virus that is spread by a very small eriophyid mite. The earliest symptoms of rose rosette disease show up as red pigmentation on the underside of leaf veins. There is an increased growth of shoots, and leaves become deformed.

This is an example of the beginning of rose rosette disease. Red pigmentation on the underside of leaf veins begins to appear, and then the leaves eventually become deformed.

The most likely time for virus transmission occurs between the months of May through mid-July when plants are making active growth. Symptoms from new infections usually start appearing in mid-July.

The virus will kill a rose plant in two to five years.

So, if you live here and you want to successfully grow roses, what do you do? You keep a vigilant eye and act immediately if you spot any symptoms.

A long-time customer of ours had roses throughout their property.

Unfortunately, we started noticing the signs of rose rosette disease. The customer chose to keep the roses as long as possible knowing the outcome would eventually be dead roses.

The only thing to be done is to eliminate the roses in much the same manner you would deal with a human patient with a highly contagious disease. You contain as much as possible and disinfect. We removed the dead plants and immediately put them into plastic trash bags and when we finished, everything was disinfected from gardening tools to gloves, boots and clothes. You cannot allow the mites to travel and infect other plants. Of course, you also cannot replant roses where infected roses were which is why we strongly recommend using as many native plants as possible.

Always use a disinfectant on garden tools, gloves, boots, etc. after handling diseased roses.

Another plant we are increasingly asked to install is Boxwood. It is also a finicky plant in the Northeast Georgia planting zone.

In a good location, they can thrive for years.

Sometimes boxwoods are confused with Hollies. They both are often used for border shrubs. Boxwoods need less pruning and maintain their shape longer because they are slow growing. But, then again, boxwood is more susceptible to disease than native Inkberry Holly (Ilex glabra).

Some ways to cut down on disease in boxwoods is to buy from a reputable nursery. In fact, this is probably a good rule of thumb across the board. Do not overplant boxwoods, and plant them in an environment they prefer.

Another plant that easily catches diseases is the Boxwood, often used as a border shrub.

If you suspect disease or pests, let us know. At Art of Stone Gardening, we follow Integrated Pest Management. This involves knowing what the pest is and coming up with strategies to control or manage the pest. We have two separate licenses: a Georgia applicators license and we are a licensed pesticide contractor.

Honestly, diseases and pests are not fun topics, even if they do have lovely names like rose rosette. But, gardens with healthy thriving plants are incredibly beautiful and inspirational, and to achieve that you must be diligent about the health and happiness of the plants. As the famous painter Claude Monet said, “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.”

What an inspiration.

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