Roses may become only short-lived perennials if disease not controlled

Rose plants might last only a few years unless the virulent rose rosette virus is controlled. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Rose plants might last only a few years unless the virulent rose rosette virus is controlled. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: My group of Master Gardeners would like to rejuvenate the rose garden at a county park. We will remove several diseased ones but would like to plant those areas with companion plants to roses. Any suggestions? Janet Leutzinger, Gwinnett County

A: You’ll get much better advice from the Greater Atlanta Rose Society, atlantarose.org. Their rosarians offer free advice to the public and they have great experience choosing rose companions. If you have lots of roses, you must be ever-vigilant about spotting rose rosette virus. Removal of the sick rose is the ONLY cure. I see so many rosette-infected roses in my drives around metro Atlanta that I despair of it ever being controlled. For that reason, I fear that roses may soon become only short-lived perennials in our gardens. I have pictures and research on rose rosette at bit.ly/GArosette.

Q: Can I mow my Bermuda lawn now while it is dormant? I would like to clean it up after I have raked all the leaves. Rick Swartz, LaGrange

A: It is OK to run the mower over the lawn as long as you minimize the number of trips. Brown Bermuda foliage is brittle but necessary as it protects the plants underneath from cold damage. Your mower wheels crush the dead turf as they roll. Particularly avoid mowing when the lawn is covered with frost.

Q: My fig bush is getting too big next to my house and I must prune it back some. It produces a lot of figs each year and I do not want to damage the tree. Sam Chappelear, email

A: You won’t damage a healthy fig by pruning. The first step is to decide how tall you want the fig to be. Then subtract a couple of feet to account for summer growth. Assuming you think 8 feet would be a desirable height, cut everything back to 6 feet tall. You will get regrowth that is much more controllable if you make every cut back to the base of a limb or just beyond a limb sprout. Try to never leave a short stub: These invite limb rot. Remove limbs as needed to give yourself at least 3 feet of walking room around the plant. As you work, remove any dead limbs or ones that cross from one side of the fig to the other. Pruning a fig is a yearly task. If you do it right, you’ll have a bushy plant loaded with fruit in late summer. I have details about growing figs at bit.ly/GAfig.

Listen to Walter Reeves’ segments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener. His email address is georgiagardener@yahoo.com.

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