While puttering about my urban rose garden one Spring day, I discovered a hollow and dying cane on one of my hybrid teas. Though small and usually unseen, the rose borer impacts the life of a rose’s cane and possibly the entire plant. The rose borer is a worm like larvae that typically digs into and hollows out a freshly cut cane. They also target young more pliable canes to dig in to and set up their nests. A rose borer could be labeled as a good bug as it eats its share of aphids. However, the rose borer could easily be labeled a bad bug as well for it causes canes to wilt and die. Furthermore, some borers just keep digging until they reach the bud union at the base of the rose bush potentially causing the entire bush to perish.
To protect your roses from borers, seal off freshly cut canes with a dab of Elmer’s multipurpose glue. Refrain from using Elmer’s school glue as rain fall or watering your roses can wash off the sealant. Also, in a pinch, you could drop clear nail polish on the end of a freshly cut cane, but be advised chemicals in the nail polish could damage the cane, which defeats the purpose. If you notice the damage of a borer, go ahead and cut back the cane until you reach the healthy filling of a cane. Upon doing so, seal off the end of it. With each cut you make of your canes, dab on the Elmer’s glue so the borers will eventually run out of options.
“Bind this warning, ‘Seal the Torah within My disciples’.” Isaiah 8:16
The internal damage an unsuspecting rose borer does to a rose bush reminds me of how easily the unrecognizable sins of unforgiveness and bitterness creeps within the canes of our soul. I have noticed in my own life, I tend to forgive others for their harmful behavior towards me, but often I fail to forgive myself for some of my own harmful and impacting decisions. Without even realizing it, hints of bitterness borrow deep into my canes. Nightmares and other circumstantial triggers clued me into such a wilting and potentially devastating issue hidden within my heart. Despite knowing Abba Father (God) forgives those who repent (Psalm 103; Isaiah 1:16-20, 43:25), I would walk around with self-imposed shame, guilt, and condemnation. While I realize I cannot control the actions of others, I can control my choices. Unfortunately, we must live with the consequences of our choices and one particular decision haunted me for years.
Thankfully, upon realizing our Father’s love and lavish mercies, I could cut out the bitterness and unforgiveness bored deep within my soul, while sealing my heart and mind with His commandments like we seal the freshly cut cane with Elmer’s glue preventing further damage. When I reflect on His forgiveness, love, and instructions for living, I am free to flourish producing “ever-blooming roses”.
Nearly every morning I inspect my rose babies looking for damaging insects such as aphids, sawfly larvae, Japanese beetles, and thrips. Thrips, though terribly difficult to see, as are most of these critters, leave obvious evidence on fragrant or light-colored rose petals. By their very nature, thrips thrive by sucking the life out of the rose bud and its petals if they are even able to bloom. This summer I added the wonderfully fragrant, lavender colored Memorial Day rose to my garden. Just a few feet away I also planted Oregold, another hybrid tea rose, which produces a lovely bloom in vibrant yellow. Unfortunately, Memorial Day suffered from thrips. In a short amount of time, my Oregold rose also succumbed to them. I hadn’t known such microscopic creatures even existed until I noticed my Memorial Day rose petals had a bizarre brown edging. I hoped this delightful smelling rose bush was suffering from heat exhaustion. But even after thoroughly watering the bush in addition to the temperatures subsiding, shades of brown still smothered her every bud and bloom. Shortly thereafter, my Oregold, who once provided large layers of glorious yellow petals, now was hampered by dilapidated edges of brown or petals that appear dry and shriveled as well as buds that won’t open, all of which are common side effects of thrips.
Consequently, I went to the trusty internet to determine what is plaguing my newly adopted roses. After doing a little research, I took a closer look at my roses and could identify them. Yikes, it’s thrips! To determine just how bad the rose bushes were infested, I took a white piece of paper and tapped the blooms over the paper. Sure enough the once nearly invisible thrips were now clearly visible though ever so tiny! To ward them off, I hosed them down with water and then gave them regular dosing of neem oil. I prefer to use more organic measures than resorting to systematic insecticide. The infestation of thrips proves yet another example of why beneficial bugs like ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings are desperately needed in a garden as they love to feast on such devastating creatures.
“I am the Lord; I called you with righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people’s covenant, for a light to the nations. To open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of a dungeon, those who sit in darkness out of a prison..” Isaiah 42:6-7
As I went about decontaminating my roses, I pondered on the simple fact that a light colored and or fragrant rose attracts such insects. Light, in general, attracts bugs. How interesting that sometimes though as we may live out a lifestyle of worship as the light of the world and emit a sweet aroma as daily living sacrifices, we too can attract pestilence in our lives. It would seem the more you blossom as a fragrant, light colored rose in God’s garden, those who choose to reject Him or merely believe in God but don’t live according to His instructions, find themselves harboring contempt towards you. Perhaps they don’t understand or more specifically, don’t want to understand. In fact, to them, your decision to obey God and His Torah, which is defined as light (Psalm 119:105-106; Proverbs 6:23) and to live a lifestyle that reflects His light, may be more like a stench in their nostrils than an inviting fragrance.
In particular, have you ever overcome something horrific while giving God all the glory for helping you be victorious? Some would have preferred to see you suffer or succumb to the thrip infestation as it sucked all joy from your petals of praise. Instead, you were willing to be anointed with God’s neem oil or you chose to bask in His light rather than the darkness seemingly attacking you. You chose to thrive despite the thrips. You overcame your enemy and walked out of that battle with the enemy’s goods because you, through God’s grace, turned the experience into something beautiful as it molded your character. By doing so, you are emitting the sweet fragrance God enjoys as you triumphantly obey Him through thistles, thorns, and even thrips!
Spring, in all its glory, has a marvelous way of resurrecting my spirit. A spirit that seemingly had lost all hope in the blustery cold winter months. The hints of life burgeoning in my garden stirs renewed hope and energy within my aching bones. How exciting to see new canes sprawling out as if stretching from an oppressing winter! The new red leaves bursting in color declare, “I’m alive just waiting to bestow glorious blooms!”
Irritatingly deceptive are the tiny green aphids that blend in perfectly as they cover an unsuspecting rose bud and other areas of the plant. Technically, aphids may appear in your garden as an assortment of colors such as black, brown, red, or even white. Aphids attack worldwide and their different species are in the thousands! Aphids arrive in the Spring, but can reemerge anytime during rose season seeking out the sap within your rose plant. They tend to cover the rose bud or hide under the plant’s foliage. Aphids can even transmit disease to your other roses. Thus far, every Spring when I look closely at my buds anxious for them to bloom, I am horrified to see a cluster of life sucking creatures curling the leaves around her, smothering her, and doing their best to prevent her from blooming!
Thankfully, there are a few ways to resolve an aphid attack. One such option is to remove them by picking them off and squishing them although this method is quite tedious considering how many aphids typically plague a rose bush at any given time. Another much faster option would be to take a hose with a nozzle and blast off the aphids. This method won’t damage your roses and provides a quick, but temporary solution. Perhaps the best option is to develop an inviting host environment as previously discussed. Various herbs like dill, parsley, and mustard and flowers such as butterfly weed, tansy, Queen Anne’s lace and golden rod will attract ladybugs. Ladybugs thoroughly enjoy a tasty aphid and can devour the colony of pests in no time. You could also purchase ladybugs through an online source and release them into your garden. Follow the directions if you choose this option and understand most of the ladybugs will fly off but some will stay and enjoy the aphid buffet. Considering how aphids will seek out to destroy your burgeoning buds every Spring and into the Summer months, wisdom says to start establishing a welcoming host environment for the good bugs to permanently move in.
“And now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto Me; moreover, I have seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.” Exodus 3:9
An aphid attack on glorious roses reminds me of the affliction of the people of Israel, also known as the ancient Israelites and today known as the Jewish people. It seems quite unfair to notice and delight in a flourishing bud, such as God’s chosen people, only to have them smothered by pest likened to antisemitism!
Nevertheless, the Hebrew Bible repeatedly both warns and encourages the Israelites, whether natural born or grafted-in such as Caleb (Numbers 13:6, 14:24, Joshua 14:13-14/Genesis 15:19) and Ruth (Ruth 1:2,8-18), both grafted-in Jews, for example, to not fret and to even expect affliction, but in the end, God will literally save the Jewish people, collective Israel scattered throughout the world raising them to be victorious (see Isaiah 30, 41-42, 49, 53-56, 60; Ezekiel 34-37; Joel 3; Zephaniah 3; Zechariah 8-12 as a few examples).
“Even though you planned evil against me, Elohim (God) planned good to come out of it.” Genesis 50:20
Furthermore, suppose the oppressed rose bud was crying out to you, the master gardener, to rescue her from such bondage. She was unable to free herself of the smothering aphids but her gardener could. What if we learned to cry out to our Abba Father, our Master Gardener, rather than try to fight off the aphids ourselves or worse, choose helplessness and hopelessness by giving in to slavery, depression, or fear. Surely, He hears our cries (see Exodus 2:23 and 3:9). Sometimes though, for the greater good and for the bigger picture that we cannot comprehend, it may feel like God, our Abba, has abandoned us so we cry out like the Israelites did, which David penned about them stating, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” (see Psalm 22:1). But ultimately, they were rescued from the oppression of Egypt. We see from the Psalm in verse 5, “To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” David also encourages Israel and future readers, to understand the blessings coming to those who trust in the LORD when he scribes, “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” David further encourages the often oppressed and afflicted Israel while prophesizing about future world stating,
“You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all the seed of Jacob, honor Him, and fear Him, all the seed of Israel. For He has neither despised nor abhorred the cry of the poor, neither has He hidden His countenance from him; and when he cried out to Him, He hearkened. The humble shall eat and be sated; they shall praise the Lord, those who seek him; your hearts shall live forever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and return to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall prostrate themselves before You. For the kingship is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations..” Psalm 22:24-29
The point, sweet sister, is even though Israel or the Jewish people collectively and possibly those who align with them, may be heavily afflicted throughout the centuries, ultimately, God is grooming and preparing a world to come full of victorious overcomers! Whether you need to tediously hand pick those aphids right off of you, blast them off in one clean swoop, develop an environment full of ministering angels, or better yet, cry out to your Master Gardener, then just do it! I’m here to remind you, beloved daughter of God: He hears you. In His strength and His time, you can overcome the attacks of pestilence!
“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5
One may think bugs, any and all bugs, are pesky nuisances invading our glorious garden, but the truth is without many of them, our garden wouldn’t thrive. Not only do insects, such as the honey bee, provide important roles, but they provide a variety of products as well like certain medications, candles, cosmetics, furniture polish, and of course, honey! Other insects, though ugly and inconvenient, provide proper nutrients to the good insects our garden needs. Often found roaming around our rose gardens are beneficial bugs like lady bugs, hoverflies, and lacewings. Conversely, bad bugs for our roses are aphids, thrips, and sawflies to name just a few. But are they really all that bad? After all, without the “bad” bugs the good bugs would have nothing to sustain them. Did you know just one adult ladybug can devour 50-60 aphids in day?
Most gardeners just want the bad bugs gone without considering the overall environmental factors. While you could spray your rose bushes with insecticide to kill off the bad bugs, you’ll also harm the good ones. Other organic methods include purchasing neem oil concentrate from your local nursery. Be sure to carefully follow the mixing directions though and only apply neem oil during the early morning, evening hours, or on an overcast day as spraying neem oil on your rose foliage during high heat days will burn the leaves. Another option in preventing bad bugs like thrips and the dreaded Japanese Beetle from infesting your rose plants would be to release Heterorhabditis Bacteriophora Nematodes into the soil. These small worm like creatures will seek out and destroy many annoying and dangerous threats to your rose garden before they have a chance to be seen!
Moreover, assuming you will want your rose garden to thrive for years to come, it would behoove you, the Master Gardener, to be a good hostess by creating an inviting environment for the beneficial bugs to reside. In some ways, bugs are much like us in the sense that they need food, shelter, and water. They also appreciate convenience.
By providing a steady food source, you’ll keep your lady bugs, lacewings, and hoverflies happy. But before the aphid buffet shows up in the Spring, you’ll need to provide plant life that will nourish your good bugs earlier in the season. By planting herbs that bloom early and also provide good nectar, the good bugs will want to move into the neighborhood! Herbs such as mustard, dill, and parsley will be sufficient. You many also want to plant lavender, but leave room for growth as lavender tends to consume much space. Mint and thyme will provide a soothing smell to your garden while Angelica, is not just the name of my youngest daughter, but an herb that especially attracts ladybugs – bonus!
In addition to the herbs, you’ll also need a bird bath, water feature, pond, or other water source free of chemicals like chlorine. Apparently, even bugs get thirsty and need a bath now and then! Once you’ve created such a welcoming open house, or rather, open garden, it won’t be long before the good bugs set up a nursery of their own by laying their eggs on
our rose foliage. But when the weather turns cooler, don’t let your hard work go to waste, be sure to provide them with ornamental grasses and soft wood twigs and branches, like willow, poplar, and ash for them to stay cozy throughout the winter months. Whether you are a novice gardener or expert, your roses will appreciate your efforts as you build an inviting and thriving rose garden.
“For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. And you shall call Me and go and pray to Me, and I will hearken to you. And you will seek Me and find [Me] for you will seek Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will return your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will return you to the place whence I exiled you.” Jeremiah 29:11-14
When I compare the similarities of our garden to our lives, it’s interesting to note how God allows the bad bugs in our garden of life to manifest something spectacular in us as well as God’s heartfelt intention towards us. So often we blame evil or Satan, as the source of our troubles forgetting that even Satan had to seek God’s approval before doing any harm to our garden (see the book of Job). In other words, God, as the Master Gardener, recognizes the bad bugs, but perhaps He’s allowing them in our garden for a reason. Perhaps the reason is to discipline us for our disobedience or perhaps He is developing us into the fragrant, beautiful, disease-resistant rose He intended with no actual wrong-doing on our part such as the accounts of Joseph, Job, or Esther. However, other times, the unfortunate turn of events may actually be a result of our own unrighteousness. In the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet repeatedly warned of the Jewish people being taken captive should they continue to live as they desire rather than live as God desires found in the Torah. The Prophet Jeremiah foretold the Jewish people would be taken captive by Babylon for 70 years, but in the end, that God was using it all to cause them to repent, to seek Him with their whole heart, and in turn God will gladly regather them and bless them while continuing to teach them His ways and will for them as the light to the world. Interestingly, this same prophetic word is applicable to the future of the Jewish people and others who keep God’s holy covenant eventually being gathered to Jerusalem, Mount Zion, in Israel as a light to the world one fine new day (see Jeremiah 29-31; Isaiah 51-56, 60-62, 65-66; Ezekiel 36-37; Hosea 14; Zechariah 8-10, as a few examples).
I want to reiterate the fact that often the seemingly bad bugs attacking us as rose plants could have been released for the sole purpose of teaching us how to reflect our Master Gardener’s glory and splendor to a dark world needing to be enlightened in God’s light and love. How even more glorious and brilliant and yet challenging it is to be ever-blooming, testifying of His love, His wisdom, His justice, and His will when you are currently living amongst the pestilence of life!
In a perplexing manner, God is being a good host as He continues to develop His righteousness in you. He is busy creating a holy, eternal garden or environment where you and others may indefinitely thrive by allowing not just the good experiences or good bugs to benefit from you, but by equally, if not more so, using the bad and down-right ugly experiences to also cultivate beauty.
In doing so, His intention is to develop an ever-thriving, ever-rejoicing, and ever-blooming garden of God within you during the good, the bad, and the bugly. How we respond to such pests and said treatments remains to be seen.
“For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26:9-10
While I’m still recovering from the flu, which now has turned into bronchitis, I reflect on how our beloved roses sometimes show signs of illness as well. With spring just around the corner, perhaps these resourceful links can help you diagnose signs of sickness in your roses early on. My original book, Ever-Blooming: Despite Life’s Prickles provides tips to combat diseases like powdery mildew, black spot, and more. Also, if your roses suffer from pest issues this gardening season, be sure to get a copy of my second book, Ever-Blooming Roses: During the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly.
In the meantime, here are a few articles written by other sources to help solve some diseased rose riddles.
When you think of chocolate and roses, Valentine’s Day may come to mind, but did you know there is mulch that smells like chocolate? Cocoa hull mulch or cocoa shell mulch is simply the shell of the roasted cocoa bean. This economical, organic, and dark colored mulch is readily available at many nurseries in the area or online and boasts a divine smell as well as other benefits to your garden. Some benefits to this aromatic mulch is it improves the soil since it has a pH of 5.8 and puts nitrogen back into the soil, whereas rapidly decaying organic mulches reduce nitrogen level. It also helps retains moisture and cocoa hull mulch helps prevents weeds as it interlocks together when wet creating a nice barrier. In addition, it helps repel slugs, snails, termites, and some bugs.Another benefit is cocoa shell mulch gets darker as it ages not lighter like most mulches.
A word of caution though if you have small children or pets, cocoa shell mulch can cause physical illness or death if consumed in large quantities, but most animals would not be attracted to it in the first place. Nevertheless, something to consider. Another factor to be aware of when considering this mulch is a harmless mold can grow on it if over-watered or when in very humid conditions with not much air circulation. A simple solution of vinegar mixed with some water will resolve this issue though.
Personally, because of it’s smell, textures, natural resource, and benefits to my roses, I am a big fan of cocoa hull mulch! It seems everyday is Valentine’s in my garden!