Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

It wasn’t long ago that I was happily declaring that the fight to defend my roses against aphids was being won by parasitic wasps. Well, the wasps have clearly bitten off more than they can chew (as have I) and the aphids are overwhelming me with sheer numbers.

A 'Chicago Peace' bud, showing some stem and bud damage

I’ve squished, squirted and flicked them, but still they keep coming.

Aphids on Mister Lincoln rose - April 2010

I’ve actually lost blooms, mainly due to stem damage. The aphids have feasted on the new growth resulting in weak stems that can’t support the bloom – which may also have been damaged.Ā  It has been a dissapointing Autumn flush.

Just Joey April 2010

Anway putting aphids aside for a moment, I am going to intersperse this post with photos of my April ‘bloom survey’ of those roses that were in bloom on the 26th. I’m having to cheat a little with some photos from the last few days, as I got a bit carried away cutting roses to bring indoors before I took my photos!

'Altissimo' is a spectacular single rose

From now on the 26th will be my ‘rose survey’ day when I take stock of what’s in flower to help get a better picture of my year of roses. If anyone is interested in joining me for a monthly rose bloom survey, you are more than welcome. If I get any takers I’ll work out how to link the posts!

'Camp David' April 2010 - lots of blooms and smells delightful

Back to the little green beasties. Aphids aren’t uncommon in my garden, but they are usually kept in balance by predators and a little bit of squishing here and there. No need for drastic methods such as spraying with insecticides.

I don’t have a lot by way of theories as to why the aphids are so bad just now, but here is what I have come up with:

  • It has actually been quite wet over the last few weeks – good drought breaking rain that is seeming to indicate that our temperate conditions may be returning to a more normal pattern – good for the garden, but good for providing food for an abundance of pests too.
  • Neglect last Spring and early summer had meant that I have paid even less attention to fertilising and caring for my roses than usual. Some of the plants are not as healthy as they should be.
  • Many of the roses are in shaded positions, making them weak and more prone to attack. The roses tend to get tired toward the end of the autumn flush anyway, so it is a hard time of year for them.

Margaret Merill at close range - April 2010

So what is the solution? Give in and get out the spray? A little pyrethrum at least? No, at this point in time I’m just going to force myself to be patient and wait. It’s only about six weeks until it’s time to prune the roses anyway, so I’m cooling my heels and drawing up battle plans. I’ve come over all ‘Art of War’.

'The Dark Lady' is in flower, sadly my photos just don't capture her beautiful rich colour

Pierre de Ronsard powers on. It is one of the few roses in my garden rarely bothered by aphids at all.

So far the plan of attack is as follows:

  • Learn how to attract more beneficial insects to the garden, including re-establishing a ladybug colony in spring. I’ve found some interesting info on attracting ladybugs and will share what I’ve learnt soon.
  • As I’ve mentioned before many of the roses are going to be moved to a sunnier position over winter, so this should help them develop much stronger growth and make them less prone to attack.
  • Moving the roses will be a great time to give them a good tidy up and start them off again with a really good feed, again this should boost their health.
  • I’m also going to look into the viability of purchasing some beneficial insects if I can’t attract them on my own.

'Abraham Darby' still has plenty of buds waiting to open.

Winchester destined for scrap heap as this is a rare bloom on a sickly plant.

It won’t be until next year that I know if these strategies have been succesful or not…but I’ll at least have some idea as to how healthy they are all looking in spring!


Comments on: "April Rose Diary/Survey Day…And Those Expletive Aphids!" (20)

  1. Sorry to hear you’re having so much trouble with those pesky aphids. As I’ve not had much experience growing roses, I don’t have any fabulous advice for you … but your plans sound practical. Moving them to a sunnier position … then building up the health of your plants by feeding, mulching and watering appropriately should make happier, healthier plants that are more resistant to pests.

  2. Oh my, I’m sorry the aphids won’t take the hint and leave. When I had roses I did purchase ladybugs to release in the garden, and it did help to at least knock the pest situation back down.

    Aphids really attracted to that fresh succulent green growth. If your roses weren’t growing you probably wouldn’t have aphids. However, anything you can do to improve the health of your roses I’m sure will help.

    I have resorted to just using a little mineral oil and water in a spray bottle. It helps to smother the aphids on the stem, and it’s non-toxic. About 2 teaspoons of mineral in a pint of water, and put in a spray bottle. I don’t spray in direct sunlight though, just in case the oily water might burn the leaves. Good luck!

    • Hi Clare, I’ve always had a few aphids munching on the new growth of my roses, but I think it is the sheer numbers this year that are freaking me out a little – it is an unusually large outbreak!
      Thanks for the suggestion about the mineral oil – I’ll hang on to that one for next year, as I think I might need such an option if it it gets this bad again. But I really hope that I can avoid it happening again as I don’t want to take out the beneficials along with the pests. I really hope it’s just ‘one of those years’ or else I’ll have to re-think the inclusion of roses in my garden!

  3. Why do such beautiful roses have to be such tough little buggers to grow? Seems like if I’m not fighting off my own beasties (japanese beetles), I’m fighting off blackspot disease. Hope it turns around for you!

    • Hi Kyna, I think one of the reasons I’m so frustrated at the moment is that by and large my roses haven’t been high maintenance ‘prima donnas’. They have survived and thrived in drought very happily where other plants have withered and died.
      I think years of dry conditions may have created a false sense of security for me…I sure hope that blackspot is not going to take off now too!
      Good luck with the Japanese Beetles – that is one bug we don’t have to deal with (touch wood!)

  4. Bummer on the aphids. I am clueless on how to get rid of the pests. we fight a constant battle for our hosta and ligularia with slugs. I have to spray soapy water every day. Good luck.
    Your Altissimo is stunning. jim

    • Hi Jim, there is always something that wants to eat our favourite plants isn’t there?! At least our ducks keep the slug population down…but we still have a few!

  5. Aphids seem a global problem! I just wish there were vaccines for plants too!
    Wonderful roses there. I love your posts mainly for roses. I am crazy for fragrant ones, but we don’t get many varieties here that are fragrant (only two :()
    Did you consider introducing ladybugs manually? I guess you can buy them there.

    • Oh Chandramouli – I didn’t realise that you couldn’t get many fragrant roses where you are – that is bad news! Now I won’t take mine so much for granted!
      Yes, I think I will introduce some ladybugs manually in the spring…for years we had them using our ‘Mother Maple’ tree as a nursery…I hope to see those days return!

  6. Boy, I hate them too! They are starting to wane though because the warmer summer temperatures will soon be here and the aphids don’t like it.

    I am interested in hearing how your battle against the aphids turns out in the spring šŸ™‚ I hope you are successful.

  7. I would be very interested to know what you find out in the spring. Your roses are so beautiful despite the aphids.

  8. I’ll let you know how I go Ami…I guess some aphids are always going to be in my rose garden, but I’ll be happy if I reduce them from this year’s plague proportions!

  9. I love your roses. I plant garlic & chives around the roses. I give them banana peels and compost. I don’t get aphids. Who knows maybe it is because we tend to be so dry.

    • Hi Gloria and thanks for visiting šŸ™‚ I will keep your tip on underplanting with garlic and chives in mind as I was starting to wonder if some companion plants might help. I have also been researching the herbs that ladybugs like, so I might end up with a herb/rose garden šŸ™‚

  10. Elephant's Eye said:

    The roses we transplanted and then fed, are doing well. Especially since they were old bushes that are looking rejuvenated. In August I will prune out more old wood, then next year I should have healthy ‘new’ plants there. And I forgot to fed the others. Did so last week, so enjoying an autumn flush now, before we prune in august.

    • Hello Diana, glad to hear that your roses are doing so well šŸ™‚ Sounds like your pruning time is just a month or so after ours. I was very pleased to spot some ladybug larvae on mine today…better late than never!

  11. I thought I had a severe case of aphids in my garden but it actually seems light in comparison to your case ! šŸ˜‰ Anyway soap+water completely cleared my favorite rose after only 2 applications.

  12. Hello “Garden Much”, thanks for the tip…I was trying to get away without using any spray, organic or non-organic as I so wanted the benificial insects to get started…but come spring I might just have to have something up my sleeve like your suggestion in case the cavalry doesn’t arrive!

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