The Home Growers Circle: Real people with a passion to grow real food

Ethel & Bill Robert Charmaine & Brian Brandon Nancy Lewis & Tara Malika & Donny Andy & Susanna Craig & Gary Warren & Lovejoy

Lewis & Tara / Santa Monica

Candelabra Roses


Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 7:50PM

Here’s an approach to maintaining healthy and productive roses. First, step back to look at the rose bush, as if it were a sculpture. You are going to create a skeletal structure that is a springboard for flourishing branch growth. For those of us in more temperate environments, there is no need to severely cut down the bush in winter to protect it from freezing. As you’re doing a major pruning in the fall, try to envision multi-forked candelabra. From this base, the bush can sprout growth from many places. A minimum of branch crossing and touching is desirable. Debris would collect there and it yields conflicting growth. Branches with their leaves should take maximum advantage of light and air flow, allowing the rose bush to burgeon forth in the spring and summer.

Remember: when pruning, it’s great to be diligently focused on your work activity, but keep in mind the location of each hand and finger. Long sleeves and gloves are also a good idea. Roses can be nasty. Puncture wounds and torn flesh are inappropriate fashion statements, as I’m reminded by our friend Tara the therapist. Remove thorns before making that special gift; there is a tool made for this. The rose bush tending process is not a once-a-year event. You must continuously prune during the growing season for the bush to keep budding.

We can learn from a technique I was taught over 25 years ago, from brave-hearted Rebekkah Hindi, an occupational therapist and friend from Albuerquerque (spelled correctly with two repetitions of ‘uer’), New Mexico. Notice rose leaves are really mini-branches with 3, 5 or 7 leaf formations. To promote new dynamic growth, she instructed to always clip the branch just above a five leaf pattern. If you look closely where you plan to cut, you may see a little bud emerging at the base of the five-leaf stem. It may be ruddy or puce (a light yellow-green) in color. This new bud may be as small as a dot, as large as a ladybug, or not here at all. Trim the branch at a slight angle away from the socket of the stem to prevent dryness or injury to the new bud. This requires clipping with an upward angle from the back of the branch. This may require pivoting your torso and body slightly to protect flexibility in your back.

In working gardens, flowers are important to pollination because of the bees they attract. Roses with various colors and fragrances enhance the elegance and refuge in any garden. A range of blooms appear during the changes of season, and the aroma transforms throughout the day. As for color and shape of flower, the multitude and selection are endless to suit your preference. There is more pomp regarding naming than in the world of pedigree pets! Roses also mix nicely with other plants, each with their own blooming cycles.

The water is worth it. Avoid watering in the evening or late afternoon as moisture will cause mildew on the leaves. Try to water in full sunshine and have the soil thoroughly saturated. Depending on the aridity and heat where one lives, repeat the watering in summer every two to three weeks. If you fall behind in pruning, the rose bulbs form after the petals have fallen. They may be boiled to make a delightfully tart and refreshing tea chock full of Vitamin C. These are not the “real” rose hips. However, the tardy clipper will get fewer blooms.

You may research other sources for yellowing of the leaves, “rusting” or mildew cures. Pests are a real concern. Richard Lyman, a former cattleman gone vegan, says an abundance of lady bugs are the sign of a healthy garden. The lovely "ladies" (because we know there are gents in this population, too) are spectacular aphid consumers, which would otherwise be a plague as they gnaw on many young leaves.

Take care for now.

Lewis Perkins lives in Santa Monica, nestled in a semi-tropical paradise, growing exotic edibles in Southern California. When not working with Tara in the garden, Lewis is a Certified Financial Planning Professional® spending time with clients as a real estate, insurance, and securities broker. His websites are and

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We know how much everyone in this city loves the movies. Have you seen this one? The Garden is an Academy Award nominated documentary that tells the story of urban farmers who struggle against land developers to keep their community farm in South Central Los Angeles alive. This film offers a revealing look at the challenges of urban farming in a megacity once known for its agricultural output. The director of the film, Scott Hamilton Kennedy, is a Silver Lake resident and he has offered to not only sell DVDs of the film at a 10% discount, but also grant 10% of proceeds to support the certification fees of future participants of the Home Growers Circle. Buy a DVD and help us build support for an eleventh urban microfarmer. Maybe we'll have to ask one of the microfarmers to raise some corn so that we can make some home-grown movie popcorn. Click here to order a DVD and support the Home Growers Circle. Remember to use promotional code FORAGE.