Growing Concerns 577: Lavender roses, suckering trees


A happy anniversary celebrated with lavender roses and simple solutions to suckering trees


Dear Readers,

"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 more.

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 examples.

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 help?"

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 sharp."


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