Monday, September 19, 2011

Yellow leaves

A couple of days ago I was looking out the kitchen window at Climbing Maman Cochet, and the sight of several solid yellow leaves made me catch my breath in alarm. My reflex response to every new situation is near panic, but it quickly hit me that the yellow leaves simply meant that there was new growth pushing out behind them, a natural result of my feeding her three weeks ago. I searched and searched her canopy for tiny new sprigs of growth. I saw one and hoped the squirrels didn’t see it, too.
Don’t get me started on the subject of squirrels!
The sight of yellow leaves need not be a cause for alarm. In fact, the longer you grow roses the less upsetting it will become, because you’ll become comfortable with the idea that they mean the old is being replaced by the new. Yellow leaves are good, harbingers of new leaves and beautiful new roses. They have nothing to do with disease and everything to do with the life of the rose.
Yellow leaves ALT
Yellow leaves Carnation
You may see a black spot or two on them, but on a disease resistant rose when energy is diverted from old leaves for the sake of new growth, vigor and immunity diminish. The leaf becomes less resistant, and disease sometimes appears. But it’s not a communicable problem, because the green leaves are still resistant.

Yellow leaves DDB
New growth appears even while old leaves linger. Roses don’t do anything instantly. They’re all about the process.

Yellow leaves DDB2
And the process can look pretty discouraging and even frightening as in the rose below. I forget which rose it is. It’s not there anymore, but it’s a young rose. You can see the whole new cane at the bottom left, but all over the plant there are leaf bud eyes swelling on older canes in their effort to usurp the space of the old leaf. It will fall off unless you remove it first which isn’t a bad idea. After all, even though it’s weakening, it is still drawing energy that could be going to the new growth. And anytime you cut a rose it jumps into full gear to defend itself and to grow.

Yellow leaves SdFG
The newest growth on ‘Bermuda’s Anna Olivier’ is bright red while probably the old leaf is still hanging on, and older new growth is green and bearing flowers and buds.

Yellow leaves BAO

Big disclaimer! I admit it. This blog topic is Carol Green’s, the acclaimed editor of Rose Rambler, the newsletter of the Marion County Rose Society of which I am a truant member. I received her email this evening and stole her idea instantly. Thank you, Carol.

My apologies to all for missing yesterday’s meeting. I was deep into the master bathroom’s plumbing this past weekend. DH and I finally had had enough of the old leaking faucets and ugly glass vessel sinks.  I won’t bore you with talk of the endless hours of internet surfing for replacements. We wound up getting them at Lowe’s. Since DH’s back is in no condition to be contorting under a sink, I became the apprentice plumber who labored under his supervision. Got it all in late, late Saturday night only to find leaks in several places. You already know my reaction – panic and alarm! But on Sunday DH had a plan...silicone caulk and silicone X-TREME TAPE. I didn’t like the plan at first since it would mess up the look of those pretty pipes plus it seemed like admitting failure. Then I remembered that the original pipes, installed by a professional plumber, were covered with that glop, so I figured it must be standard plumbing procedure. We still have one tiny drip – on my side naturally, and the backsplash needs to be finished and the mirrors shifted. But it’s over, including the dirty looks I was getting from DH for brushing my teeth in his sink.IMG_9844 (2)


  1. Your yellow leaves are the result of mildew, not natural growth. When the leaves die, which they will, the plant will send out new leaves, but this is not healthy and the rose is spending valuable energy doing this, energy being stolen away from making blooms.

    The way to treat this is to mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) in a quart of water, along with 2 T each of canola oil and environmentally friendly kitchen soap, like Seventh Generation brand, and spray them. We spray ours weekly. You can also add some homemade garlic oil or peppermint or spearmint tea to the mix for an all natural general insecticide.

  2. PS... I am a member of the New England Rose Society and ARS have been asked to speak to this very topic as the featured speaker at the NERS February meeting.

    Our entire protocol is on our blog here:

  3. Great info Sherry from Carol Green of the Rose Rambler.I also see yellow leaves before new growth appears. Right now is when our roses are doing great again after our long, hot, humid summer.

    I have two good sized cuttings I rooted of the climbing Maman Cochet and I look forward to planting them hopefully this week.

    Cathy ~ thanks for the info and the link to your blog with all the recipes for organic goodness for our roses.

    Happy rose growing ~ FlowerLady

    P.S. Your new sinks are gorgeous!

  4. Cathy and Steve:

    You've forgotten that rose culture is a local affair. We Floridians must be tolerant of passing imperfection in our roses. If we sprayed an oil based spray this time of year the leaves would burn up. It's still 90 here and usually that inhibits any mildew. Black spot is something that you must learn to deal with at times unless you are willing to make weekly chemical sprays.

    You have a lovely garden on your blog :)


    Your Anna Olivier looks just like mine only bigger. I really like blooms on that one.

  5. Thanks for the tutorial on yellowing leaves. You're right - we seem to always panic when we see yellow on roses! Love the look of your bathroom! How exciting it must be!

  6. Cathy, down here powdery mildew does not look like this. Our powdery mildew is a white powdery coating that is clearly visible on newer leaves if I'm not mistaken. It also distorts the new growth here. I've only seen it in my garden in the cool, dry spring. This is not powdery mildew. This really is the normal cycle of warm-climate Old Garden Roses, such as Teas, Chinas and Noisettes. I've only been growing roses for 4 years, but Carol Green confirmed this this morning via email. She has a lot more experience, having about 900 roses in her 8-acre garden. It's sometimes hard to fathom how different a perpetually warm climate is from a northern, colder one. These roses do not have a dormant season here. They are evergreen and shed their leaves throughout the year, never completely defoliating. They're a lot like some of our oak trees. I do appreciate your commenting though, because you brought up a possible point of confusion for others that might see the same thing as you did based on their experience.

  7. FlowerLady, I'm so excited that your cuttings of Climbing MC are doing well. Your experience with the yellow leaves is consistent like mine. Things are different in Florida, as they say!

    Amber, I do so appreciate your mentioning the danger of spraying oil on the roses when the temps are up in the 90's. I've never used it so didn't even think of it. You're also right about being tolerant of imperfection. When I was new at this, I was constantly pulling off less than perfect leaves. Then I caught on. Now I only notice them on rare occasions. Thanks again for jumping in to the conversation. Rosarians are the most helpful folks - northern and southern.

    HolleyGarden, thanks for liking my bathroom! It is exciting. I like it much better than the old version.

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  9. Apologies for causing a panic. You're right, I wasn't thinking that growing roses in Florida is like being in a totally different world for us!

  10. My sister has an anna olivier rose and it is a beauty. Like your new sinks.

  11. Cathy, no need to apologize. As I said, your comment was a valuable one as in what if a novice Florida rose gardener were talking to a friend from up north and this discussion came up. The Floridian could easily get in a tizzy, thinking she/he was doing the wrong things, and do a worse thing that the friend advised because that's what he/she does for the different roses that are grown up north. It's good for everyone to realize that gardening is local.

    Thanks, Susan. Bermuda's Anna Olivier really is a great rose.

  12. Wow, you are amazing with your plumbing skills! The sinks and faucets are gorgeous! Feels like a whole new house I bet....

  13. Oh, thank you, Cyd!! Wrenches are about my least favorite tool. Enlarging the drain holes in the cultured marble top was fun – for a while. It took over an hour to ream out each 1-3/4” hole up to a 2-1/4” hole with a burred drill bit. Builds strong abs.