Does anyone remember us being encouraged to talk to our plants?  I recall being told, it could help them grow.  Now we know for sure, they don’t hear, but they can react to sound (vibrations) and protect themselves.

In my opinion, for us regular gardeners, my ability to ‘detect’ an issue is generally more important.   Why for example, has that rose after 10 years, just curled up and died.

Put on your detective’s hat, and look at your plant, ask questions and see what information the plant is visually giving to you.   Are the branches looking stressed, are the leaves dried, droopy, dead?  Are there aphids on them?   There are so many possibilities, use that and a good book, to try and get to the bottom of it.  Here’s another scenario, one I have encountered for 10-15 years now, and I have been tripped up by it.

Let us imagine we’re dealing with a rose – or any plant with woody roots.   Does it look abnormal in some way, not a result of an aphid attack, you know it has been surviving, nay thriving,  for a fair few years….it is not unwatered,  but it is starting to decline?

Did you plant it?   We are all told, from books and gardening forums and hearsay, when you plant, spread the roots out a bit, so they don’t grown in a spiral and thicken.   If that happens, for sure, a plant survives for a few years, then strangles itself.

But, sometimes, those thicker roots escape our detection, they are hidden within the pot shape so  that we do not find them to spread them out a bit.

I’ve seen a few mature plants, that have been in the ground happily for years, suddenly die.  On a cool day, with a tarpaulin set out and a watering can or large bucket full of water handy, I fork up the troubled plant and wash the soil off the roots.  The spiralling woody roots so thick and congested, that it is simply become a mass of wood, and where the roots rub persistently, pathogens can enter as well.  The plant is doomed from planting time.

When selecting a plant to buy, does it look as if it has been in that pot a little too long?  Is it very well grown, for a small pot?  Ask the seller if they will let you see the roots, just get to know what you are looking at….

I have taken to plunging my fingers, as deeply as possible from the base of the pot shape, into the ‘pot shape’ of a plant awaiting being planted….and even soaking all the compost off the roots, to ensure, no tangling is hidden from view.

When doing this, remember, treat the roots and roothairs with respect, and care, it is the roothairs which allow uptake…unless you have added myccorhizal fungi.  Roothairs must not dry out.  Keep water handy, you cannot keep these plants too wet whilst you are checking matters out.  If a roothair is left for ten minutes in the sun, you have a dried roothair.  A dry roothair is a dead one.

Superficial spreading of the roots out from the ‘pot shape’, is not enough.

A little bird told me, that at David Austin Roses (the biggest rosebreeder in the world, and with a wonderful garden to visit) that when aphids call upon their roses, they leave them be.  The company simply could not effect any regime over the entire amount of rose stock.  The aphids, do very little, and go on their way eventually.

I can vouch for the quality of their display, and their roses.  I will now, only buy roses from them.

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