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Everything's coming up roses

Posted: September 5, 2008 10:00 p.m.
Updated: November 7, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Autumn begins in 16 days. And never mind that temperatures are still reaching into the 100s most afternoons here in Santa Clarita, it's time for you to start your fall flower care. With just a little effort you can have colorful blooms popping out from now until next summer. Two of the flower-care concerns for September are bulbs and roses. We'll get some advice on these from local experts.

Bulb time
Richard Green, owner of Green Landscape Nursery in Saugus, is a state-licensed landscaper and a state-licensed landscape contractor. His company has been at the same location on Bouquet Canyon Road since 1980 and he knows what works and what doesn't plant-wise in the SCV. He said that, in general, bulbs are "augment things" for coming out of winter.

"They offer a slight, short term effect to start off the season in most cases, of flowering before the perennials," he said.

Narcissus: However, depending on the type of bulbs, here in the SCV they may flower well before spring time. Green said narcissus may bloom from October through January. "It depends on when you stick them down and start giving them moisture," he said.

"We stock 10 varieties of narcissus," Green said.

Both daffodils and paper whites are very popular forms of narcissus and Green said that paper whites are perfect for generating an interest in gardening in your children. "They're very easy to grow. You can grow them in a plastic plate - and you can get an egg-sized bulb for under a dollar," he said.

Green noted that shipments of bulbs should be coming in this month and said, "We tell people to refrigerate them five to six weeks (in simulation of winter), so that the flowers will set well."

Iris: Green said that iris is another popular bulb. "You plant them in November and December and they don't come up until late spring or early summer." He added that the Japanese iris is a "big, bearded iris that really makes a statement."

Amaryllis: Green said amaryllis grows in containers. "She shoots up on her own with no direct sunlight and puts up huge flowers in pinks and reds, reds and whites. You bring it out of the cabinet in early November and start watering. It's a colorful favorite of our holiday seasons."

Tulips: While most people think of tulips when then think of bulbs, Green said that tulips generally do not do well in the SCV. Unlike their native climate (Holland), the SCV climate presents tulips with many obstacles. It is arid and there are periods of excessive heat. The soil is generally alkaline and the water high in minerals. "These conditions are hard on bulbs and on plants in general," he said.

Green said that you can grow tulips "for short term flowers" if you plant them in a good potting mix and use a heavy dose of flowering or starter fertilizer. "Keep them moist, in a well-lit area and you may get flowers," he said.

He offered that some people, who simply must have tulips, buy them ready-to-flower and then throw them out when the flowers are done.

Others: Other bulbs that flower well in the SCV (with proper care) include Hyacinthus, anemones, crocus, freesia and Ranunculus.

Care: Green noted that with bulbs, as with other garden and yard plants, consulting a local expert is vital.

He described doing your landscaping as "gambling in your yard," and said, "I can show you the games that win. We have people avoid the toughs and go with the easys."

He said the care of bulbs is pretty simple. First, use a good potting soil and planter mix, and prepare the soil with bone meal, and good organic bulb fertilizer for good, slow-release feeding that lasts over many months. Plant the bulbs at the proper levels and, generally, place them in a well-lit, well-drained spot.

September Rose Care
The SCV Rose Society is your local source for everything roses, and a wealth of information can be found at their Web site. Specifically, there is a monthly rose care calendar at, and we include that information here.

Finish summer pruning for bountiful October blooms. The first week of September is the last chance to finish your summer pruning. You will need to lightly prune all of your roses now for a big burst of colorful bloom during the month of October. Do not strip off all the foliage like you would do for the hard winter prune, and only cut back about one-third of the height of each plant. Whether you want to exhibit at the fall shows or simply want a bounty of beautiful roses for your dinner table, the fall pruning ritual is well worth the effort.

Begin the fall feeding and spraying program. Mildew will begin to make its appearance as the weather starts to cool down again. It's much easier to prevent mildew than to try to get rid of it once you have it. Spray fungicide every seven to 10 days (read the label for directions). When you see aphids, it's time to spray with an insecticide. Begin feeding with rotations of fish emulsion, Epsom salts, iron, and a balanced rose fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro, Peter's 10-30-20, Grow More 10-52-10, or Bandini granular. A shot of SUPERthrive does wonders.

Disbud your roses for big blooms. Towards the end of the month when green buds start to form, daily disbudding of sidebuds on hybrid teas will be of utmost importance for serious exhibitors. This procedure will encourage bigger blooms. For floribundas, you should remove the central bud which will usually bloom before the rest of the spray (bloom cluster).


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