“Everything is Coming Up Roses”

On August 5, 2023, an enthusiastic group of rose lovers arrived at Robinson Gardens to hear horticulturist and renowned rose specialist Charlie Follette. The talk, “Everything is Coming up Roses,” was organized by Patty Elias with her usual perfection.

Patty graciously welcomed guests with a brief history of The Virginia Robinson Gardens, mentioning that our classes are sponsored by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation in collaboration with the Friends of Robinson Gardens and that these classes are open to the public.

Charlie attended UC Berkeley and holds a BA in horticulture and plant science. He studied garden design in Paris, France and continued his education in Holland, studying rose diseases, insects, and plants. For 19 years, Charlie owned and operated The Rose Garden Nursery in Santa Monica. Charlie continues designing and building rose gardens to this day. His clients have included President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, and Bob and Doris Hope. Charlie’s talk focused on mid-summer rose care. 

Charlie advised us,” Take care of your roses as if they are your children.”  He emphasized that this is the perfect time to address rose care to assure that you will promote fine blossom production late into autumn. 

The persistent marine layer and recent hot summertime temperatures present challenges in your rose garden. These are ideal conditions for various fungi diseases such as powdery mildew, black spot, and rust and are just a few examples of this challenging problem.

Disease Control

The best way to control these problems is to implore the old phrase, “Nip it in the bud.” Begin a spray program with organic or inorganic fungicidal products in February and March to prevent disease establishment. Steps can also be implemented in early August to limit damage.

During morning hours, hose off leaves with a spray of water two times per week. Use an organic or inorganic fungicidal product to prevent disease. Be sure to water before you spray to prevent leaf burn and for the necessary absorption uptake to the roots.

Prior to any fungicidal spray application, a thorough ground watering of the rosebush is necessary. This will protect against leaf dryness and potential leaf burn. 

Organic Control: Spray with neem oil, horticultural oil, sodium bicarbonate solution, or copper spray. This must be done before the sun shines on the leaves to prevent leaf burn. 

Systemic Fungicide Control: Use BioAdvanced Disease Control Spray.

Insect Control

Heat is the second weather-related condition. As temperatures increase, the metabolism of the insects speeds up. The result is increased infestation of spider mites, aphids, thrips, leaf miners, budworms, and scales.

Organic Control: For this problem, Charlie suggests Safer Insecticidal Soap & Neem Horticultural Oil.

For Systemic Control: Use BioAdvanced Insect Disease and Mite Control Spray.


To stimulate new growth to mid-December, be sure to do mid-summer intermediate pruning while deadheading. Remember to prune 1/8-1/4 inch above a bud eye that is facing outward — meaning toward the plant’s exterior.


In order to promote new leaves, stems, and flower buds, the plant requires adequate nutrients. Charlie recommends a product that specializes in roses. He said, “At this time of year, I suggest using a fertilizer with the largest number in the middle. Phosphorus will assist in providing lovely roses late into autumn here in Los Angeles. I have relied on Gro-Power Premium Rose Food 6-8-4.”

In addition to the fertilizer, Charlie recommends a product, mycorrhizal fungi, “that contains microorganisms which work with plant roots to promote a robust root system and a more productive and healthy plant.”

Dehydration Damage

When rose gardens become dry, damage can occur to leaves, buds, and flowers. The main symptom of dry leaves is discoloration, evidenced by yellow and brown leaves. Remove yellow and brown leaves. Increasing the duration of water timing and supplemental hand watering is also recommended. Redwood chips prevent dehydration.

The morning talk ended with light refreshments and prizes for three lucky guests — a forged trowel, a rain wand, and a bottle of neem oil. I think we all agree, America’s national flower is worth the extra attention it needs to perfect its bloom.

Charlie Follette can be contacted by emailing [email protected] for rose maintenance and garden design.

“The Rose” by Christina Rosetti

The lily has a smooth stalk,
Will never hurt your hand;
But the rose upon her brier
Is lady of the land.

There’s sweetness in an apple tree,
And profit in the corn;
But lady of all beauty
Is a rose upon a thorn.

When with moss and honey
She tips her bending brier,
And half unfolds her glowing heart,
She sets the world on fire.

Post by Joan Selwyn
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member
Founder of the Friends

Photos by Joan Selwyn and Krista Everage

  1. krista everage
    | Reply

    So grateful for this informative class! We took this new knowledge right into action and now have a wonderful new blooming cycle in motion !! Thank you Charles and Patty !

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