‘Rogue’ roses, and other reader questions

I really enjoy your column in The Daily Sentinel. I have been having trouble with my roses “going rogue” on me.

After a couple of years, small branches with small leaves start coming up from the base of the plant. I keep cutting them off at the ground, but wondering if that isn’t diminishing the flowering ability and health of the original graft.

— Ole

What you’re seeing are rootstock suckers. Most roses are grafted plants, meaning they’re two plants grafted together: a scion, which is the hybrid type rose you want, and a rootstock that lends the plant improved vigor, growth and flowering.

Occasionally, that rootstock will sucker up from the ground and you really don’t want to let that grow.

They don’t make a good rose. They’re long and lanky, almost a climbing type of rose with smaller leaves. They will sap strength and vigor from the scion and eventually choke it out completely.

This type of rose usually only blooms once in the spring. They often will develop alternate blooming characteristics, that is, they will bloom heavily one year and then very little, if any, the next.

These suckers are usually down near the base of the plant, but they do occasionally pop out from the mother plant.

The only way to deal with suckers is to prune them out. And when you prune, do as complete of a job as possible.

Rootstock suckers rise right at the base of the plant or out of the soil immediately around the plant. Cut them off as completely as you can. Don’t leave a stub because that will just resprout.

You may have to dig into the soil a bit to cut it off as low as you can, even underground. The plant will often send up some more suckers after you’ve done this.

Be persistent! If you’re good about cutting them out and keeping them cut out, the plant will eventually give up suckering.

I misplaced your article from a few years ago about certain trees and shrubs that can and shouldn’t be planted around leach fields.

Of course, now that the time has come for me to do some landscaping around it, the article has found a good hiding place. Could you please refresh my memory?

— Gary

I’m usually not that concerned about planting most trees near a leach field.

You want to be careful about planting too close to the septic tank, however.

Plant roots in the leach field actually help improve water capacity of the system. But if they get in the septic tank, they can clog up the works.

The only trees I really worry about are riparian species that naturally grow along stream and river banks such as willow, birch, maple, sycamore and poplars. I’d probably try to keep them a ways away from the leach field.

I have several bird feeders in my yard. I’ve noticed the seed castings surrounding the feeders have built up over a period of time and have smothered the nearby ground cover.

Should the castings be periodically removed? Are they a danger to the tree a feeder resides in? Do you have any ideas that may prevent the spread of these castings into neighboring flower beds and lawn?

— Chris

Yes, those shells and other debris should be removed on a regular basis.

It can build up into a thick enough layer to interfere with plant growth, plus, it can start to ferment, which produces compounds toxic to plants.

Depending on how big your feeders are, you should figure on cleaning up castings anywhere from once a month to a couple times a year.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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