Training session is bed of roses

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Larry Hurd knows all about deadheads, buds and glue, and he wants to share.

We’re talking roses, of course. Hurd is the horticulture foreman for South Suburban Parks and Recreation, and on April 27 he led a free pruning workshop at the War Memorial Rose Garden across Bemis Street from Sterne Park.

“He’s the greatest teacher of rose culture I’ve ever encountered,” said Bill Mygdal, one of the 50 or so people who spent four hours learning by doing on the first beautiful spring day of the season. Hurd admits to a somewhat hidden agenda — the students do in one morning what it would take his whole staff two full weeks to accomplish.

There are more than 1,900 roses representing 286 varieties in the garden, with names like “Betty Boop” and “Honey Perfume,” a favorite of the honeybees that keep the flowers pollinated. Hurd said they live in the big old cottonwood trees abundant in the neighborhood, and a huge swarm passes through every May.

Not all bugs in the garden are good for it, though. Japanese beetles are a huge problem, attacking the roses and leaving behind skeletonized leaves and large, irregular holes. Last year, SSPR staff plucked hundreds of them off the bushes and dumped them into buckets of soapy water, the best way to get rid of them.

Cane borers are also a common pest. The larvae carve out tunnels under the bark, causing stems to die or break at wounded sites. That’s where the glue comes in — a little dab on the end after pruning keeps them out.

Hurd says it’s best to finish pruning by Mother’s Day, and fertilize around Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and the middle of August. Then just leave the bushes alone until spring — the stems store the chlorophyll that provides energy to survive the cold winter.

“By July Fourth, they should be in full bloom,” said Hurd. “It might be a little late this year, especially if we get another May frost.”

Everyone agreed the workshop was helpful, even Susan Riehl, who is already a Douglas County master gardener.

“I’ll be back to see the fruits of our labor,” said Cathy Robinson.

Hurd enjoys seeing people gathering in the park and encourages everyone to get out for a look.

“They’re your parks,” he said. “People work really hard to make them look nice. We’re here for you.”