Gardening with Galligan: Roses and perfect June days

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | Sadly these are not my roses, but rather belong to Yioula Van Rynbach. I did a column back when on saltwater intrusion, after Superstorm Sandy, of which she had a good deal. I snapped her rose garden, happily planted on higher ground.

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | Sadly these are not my roses, but rather belong to Yioula Van Rynbach. I did a column back when on saltwater intrusion, after Superstorm Sandy, of which she had a good deal. I snapped her rose garden, happily planted on higher ground.

“And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.”

And perfect flowers. June is rose month and the rose is “Queen of the Garden,” or so the story goes. I will write about the various types of roses, and what might work where, but in all fairness, I must begin with a caveat.

Unless the only rose you choose to grow is the wild rose, rosa rugosa ­— the one you can see growing along the beach at East Hampton ­— you must begin by accepting the fact that unless you really work on keeping your roses healthy, it will be a demoralizing experience. There is nothing worse than looking at a rose bush covered with Black Spot or some other disease.

For several years, I was friendly with an epidemiologist who became really interested when he discovered that roses or, for that matter, flowers, got communicable diseases. When I said that anyone who invented a systemic cure for Black Spot would make a fortune, his eyes took on a strange shine. But then some epidemic broke out in an exotic place and he was gone. Black Spot continues with us, thriving as it does in humid climates. Like Shelter Island.

I really love roses but, as you can see, I often end up demoralized. I begin every season with really good intentions and make careful plans and schedules. Then it gets hot and when it gets hotter, I begin to flag. Energy wanes. Crankiness arrives. So this season I have taken a step that I want to recommend to you. I bought myself a new sprayer. If you don’t have a sprayer, you might as well forget roses. I bought a battery-operated one rather than the pump variety on the theory that if all I had to do was change batteries when it was hot, rather than pump endlessly every few minutes, I would be more likely to hang in there.

Having a good sprayer, even if you don’t have roses, is basically a requirement for any gardener. Bear in mind that a sprayer permits you to do more than one task at the same time — you can feed, protect against disease with an anti-fungal and protect against insect damage with an insecticide, all at the same time. Just follow the instructions on the various labels, usually a certain number of spoonfuls to the gallon. They won’t interact with each other in any negative way. Now, isn’t that really convenient? Are you inspired yet?

One more word of caution: When you choose your sprayer, whether pump or [electric], remember that you’re going to have to carry it; it’s going to be hot and that you’re going to be in the sun. You want one with a shoulder strap and probably not much heavier than a single gallon, a gallon and a half at most. The only thing heavier than water is books and they are the two things I am always lugging from one place to another. But a gallon on your shoulder really isn’t bad. They do sell the kind that you drag along and theoretically the movement of the wheels energizes the spray but I have tried them and never found one that worked.

So next week we can go on to the fun stuff — roses, roses and more roses!

With thanks to James Russell Lowell for the quote at the beginning. He wasn’t even a gardener, at least not that he mentioned.