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Why a Rose by any other name does not smell as sweet & Hosta virus X – Have you spotted this villain in your garden? (Hint: he’s not wearing a cape)

pink rose

You’ve heard it before – A rose is a rose is a rose, or is it? Does a rose by any other name smell just as sweet? Do you know? Have you ever given it a thought? A question reaching high on your priority list, I know. You cannot deny it is an interesting question, admitting most of us think a rose smells like, well, a rose.


I worked for a magnificent old fashion jeweler/silversmith when I was younger, http://www.rushstudio.com/  , he has since moved to California, he is still a magnificent jeweler. I will never forget a certain bit of wisdom and whimsy he once told me. When asked a question about an item such as diamonds or gold and the item in question was not present or the question asked was too vague for a decent response he would simply reply – How long is a piece of string?   I can still hear his laughter after saying it.


An analogy such as this is very fitting with the original question of the rose, is a rose a rose and does a rose by any other name smell just as sweet? How long is a piece of string?


 Identical. First, what type of rose are we talking about? An Heirloom? Fairy? Floribunda? Tea? Hybrid? Knockout? Wild? Climbing? Shall I go on? The simple answer is – the farther back you go to the original heirloom varieties, the better you understand the sweet in the scent.


The one who coined the phrase – Take time to smell the roses had caught a whiff of an old fashion rose – and that my friend will turn your head! Thank God this notion was imagined before the roses lost their sweet savor. Yes, lost in years of hybridizing for better color and larger bloom. Imagine, if the phrase were to be revived for today we would have to say – have you stopped to smell the Gardenia, Or maybe the lavender. Have you smelt your cilantro today? REFRESHING!


Your roses may or may not attract your sense of smell; this however does not imply you should not take time to check your roses. This week, if the temperatures cooperate – give your roses a trim.


Only do this if the temperatures are above freezing – you do not want to damage the tissue of the stem if it is frozen by cutting it. Trim all of the dead wood out of your roses and then shape them to your specifications. If you have a tenacious rose you may want to trim it back to about twelve inches. If your roses are anything like mine you will want to approach them as you would a wild dog, very slowly, cautiously and patiently. The moment you forget this I guarantee you will get bitten. Take head.


We’ve learned that roses have entranced us with their color to the point we have forgotten they should smell sweet and now this Hosta virus X is trying to lead us to believe it is some kind of super garden villain.


Those who are waiting for the pied piper of the garden so to speak, grab your flute. Confucius says choose to find the high road in this situation – it seems to be all we are left with – get the infected out of your garden, I know this is heartbreaking. At times like these we must find comfort in the fact that everything must change and when we do not choose to change, sometimes life chooses to change us. This is true in our garden.


Hosta virus X was first discovered in 1996 and has been spotted making its rounds ever since. The virus has no mode of transportation – that is, without your help.


A garden that is infected with this virus became infected by one of two ways, either an infected plant was brought into the garden or infected tools were brought into the garden, this includes your hands. You can infect your Hosta with the Hosta virus X by handling contaminated Hosta and then handling a healthy Hosta without washing your hands, and you thought washing was just for our sakes.


Avoid this virus by buying your Hosta from a reputable source, think twice before bringing a rouge Hosta into your garden, sanitize your tools between trimming different plants and remember what your mother told you – wash your hands after playing in the Hosta.


I recently spoke to a Hosta hobbyist who lives in Akron, she thinks she has spotted Hosta virus X in her prized Hosta garden. She has over 450 Hosta.


The good news, only certain Hosta varieties are susceptible to the Hosta virus X. The bad news, remember I am only the messenger; you brought it to the garden. If you find Hosta that are infected they need to be removed and incinerated. Leftover contaminated tissue in the soil may infect susceptible Hosta until the microorganisms in the soil have rendered it harmless. Plant non-susceptible varieties – there are too many to list – An associate at Dayton Nurseries in Norton can guide you in a proper choice if you stop in to purchase.


Earlier I had mentioned the high road; I know when you are in the middle of a personal garden tragedy it is hard to think about the high road. We have to play the cards we are dealt, re-imagine, re-invent – re-garden. If your garden has been infected do not look at it as a loss, look at is as potential to discover a new variety, a new friend, a new tenant in a nostalgic space.


Don’t allow the villain victory – Always Remember to CONTINUE to Cultivate Joy in the Garden.