A happy anniversary celebrated with lavender roses and
simple solutions to suckering trees
"Growing Concerns" debuted here eleven years ago this week.
Happy anniversary, as we start another year together! Two things I
hoped to do by writing were to keep learning and earn volunteer
time answering out-of-column questions.
So I committed myself to sit down once a week, learn, then write
a column. I thought it would be good, but it's been wonderful. Your
input expands my view far beyond gardens I tend, into thousands
In this column each week, I distill what you show me and peers
tell me. Today, I'm celebrating how that happens, in these two
First, this news about lavender roses.
L.G. posted "I planted a climbing rose along side my other
climbing roses 3 years ago. I think the color of blooms are
supposed to be purple. I knew I was not supposed to fertilize it
until it had its first blooms. Well, I forgot, and fertilized it
when I fertilized my others. That first year I got no blooms. Last
year I thought I would not fertilize it until it bloomed. Well, all
summer went by and still no blooms. Here it is the 3rd year and
what do I do ? Should I fertilize it or what ? How do I now get
this rose bush to bloom?"
Nancy Lindley, author of 'Roses for Michigan' (Lone Pine
Publishing, 2004) replied, "In general, lavender-colored roses are
'whimpier' than roses of other colors. This could be a real problem
in a climber. Climbers bloom best on side shoots that grow out of
older canes and that means you need to be sure you're growing a
hardy climber. If the climber freezes back each year, or if you cut
it back hard each year, then it never develops 'old wood' and never
has a chance for flowering side shoots to grow out of the main
canes -- the old wood.".
"The best lavender climbers I know for this area," Lindley adds,
"are some purple ramblers like 'Veilchenblau.' Ramblers
are once-a-year bloomers, but they're in bloom for 3- 4 weeks in
June and totally covered with blooms. These are the showy
"climbers" featured in coffee-table rose books. It's possible that
your rose is one of these wonderful, older purple ramblers. It may
not be blooming if it's receiving a heavy pruning. Some extra
fertilizer isn't going to hurt it and isn't a cause for
lack-of-bloom. Roses are heavy feeders, real pigs who appreciate a
good, balanced source of nutrients."
Then,ways to stop crab apple suckers.
J.P. asked: "How can I discourage suckers from growing around my
lilacs, flowering crab and apple trees? The crab and apple trees
are surrounded by lawn and I have been told not to fertilize near
them. They still shoot up suckers! The lilacs are mature, are never
fertilized and seldom watered other than rainfall. Would landscape
fabric placed around the base of the trees and covered with mulch
Karen Auch, arborist, responded,"Landscape fabric and mulch will
not take care of the problem, unfortunately. Prune the suckers as
close to the ground as possible. The best method of control is to
be sure to plant varieties that are known to produce minimal
suckering. `Prairifire' is one such crabapple that also has
excellent resistance to Scab, Fire Blight, Rust, Mildew and
Japanese Beetle. Another that is very good in all those areas is
'Dolgo'. Other information on apples and crabapples can be found in
Michael Dirr's book, 'Manual of Woody Landscape Plants' or in J. L.
Fiala's book 'Flowering Crabapples, The Genus Malus'."
Dan Kurkowski, added, "Just to balance out this wonderful
discussion, there is a chemical alternative. (HA! Better living
through Chemistry!) There is a spray on the market called 'Sucker
Stop' that is an inhibitor for these species. You just spray the
base of the tree or the little sprouts when they're young, or so
the back of the bottle told me. I've never used the stuff myself,
as I prefer mechanical means by pruning when my hand saw is
Green thumbs up
to all the friends and critics who keep me writing to improve
all of our gardening.
Green thumbs down
to the possible elimination of the Master Gardening
program. You just don't have a clue, if you end this program
in which people learn, then volunteer in their communities to
share, the how-to of caring for that garden.
Originally published 7/31/04