SARAH’S GARDEN JOURNAL
Caring For Your Roses
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden
Picture a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and roses immediately come to mind. Pretty, colourful and fragrant, roses play a starring role in the flower garden.
Roses can be grown in many different ways and you’re sure to find a habit perfect for a spot in your garden.
These are tall roses, often five or six feet high, which are attached to a support and trained to gently fall over a rose wheel. Because they will become very top heavy, it’s vital to ensure the steel support is very sturdy and will stand to test of time and weather, including strong winds. Many varieties can be used as weepers, among the most popular being “Crepuscule” – a peachy profusion. In my garden, I grow the romantic “Pierre de Ronsard”, which is a prolific producer of large pale-to mid pink beauties.
Standard roses are often grown to four or five feet high and shaped to form a flowery ball. Again, they need a strong support at the time of planting. Many varieties of roses can be grown as standards. The hardy “Iceberg”, which can be either brilliant white or a lovely burgundy red, is a reliable producer. Standards make the best impact when grown in groups, either lining a pathway or as a row in a flower border. Just be sure to keep those supports straight!
One of the more beautiful sights in a garden is a rambling rose. A healthy climbing rose will grow over an arbour, fence, pergola, chicken coop, water tank…the only limit is your imagination. Climbing roses take a bit of work. The growing canes need to be secured to whatever it is they’re climbing along. I favour velcro tape which can be nailed or stapled to the structure then loosely secured around the rose canes and adjusted as required. Whatever you do, be sure not to tie your rose too tightly and this will strangle the new growth. At Violet Cottage I recently planted “Renae” at the base of my front veranda to grow up and along the awning. “Renae” is a very pretty pink rose, with small flower, flexible canes, and best of all, few thorns-perfect for training, I hope!
This is probably the easiest way to grow roses. I use the term “bush” loosely. Roses which can be grown as bushes include floribundas, hybrid teas and my favourite, the old English roses of David Austin, which not only look beautiful, but have been bred for fragrance as well, a feature sometimes sadly lacking in modern varieties. Bush roses are at their best planted in groups, preferably odd numbers (I don’t know, why this just looks better!) of three to five. You’re sure to find a colour you love, whether its the happy yellow of “Graham Thomas”, the pretty peach of “Peace”, the magnificent red of the “New William Shakespeare” or the gorgeous soft pink of my all-time favourite “Sharifa Asma”,
Like most pretty things, roses can be a bit high maintenance!
Prior to panting, prepare the soil well with rotted manure and compost. Roses don’t appreciate being planted where a previous rose has been (did I mention high maintenance?) so if replacing a rose, be sure to remove the old earth and fill in the area with fresh soil suited to roses.
Roses can be planted as bare root plants, which are available in Winter, or all year round from potted varieties. Your new rose should be healthy with two or three strong stems at its base and no signs of disease.
Roses appreciate mulching. Lucerne is one of the best types, as it provides plenty of nitrogen essential for healthy growth. The added advantage of mulch is water retention and weed suppression.
Roses are hungry plants. It’s not recommend to feed bare root roses in their first growth season, but after this time, roses benefit from feeding every six to eight weeks over Spring and Summer. I use a granular feed to scatter around the drip line but there are also liquid feeds which can be applied as a spray.
Roses do require pruning to keep avoid leggy, poorly productive growth. The hard pruning time is winter where the plant can be cut back by a third, or more if you’re game. Just use sharp secateurs and prune to an outward facing bud. While you’re there, remove any sad twiggy growth or branches which are crossing over each other. The aim is to keep the rose bush open, like a vase, to promote healthy growth and minimise disease. In Spring and summer, roses also benefit from another trim. After flowering, prune the stems as if you are cutting the flowers for a tall vase.
Of all the rose diseases, Black Spot, a fungal disease, is probably the most troublesome in Berry. Black Spot loves warm humid conditions and over Summer, is almost impossible to avoid. Some years will be worse than others. Try to minimise overhead watering, clean up any diseased leaves and use a regular eco-friendly treatment such as bicarbonate spray. Application of lime sulphur at the time of Winter pruning can also be beneficial. Try not to be discouraged by disease on your roses. It’s part of life. I once meet the lovely Colin Campbell, and he said we wouldn’t pull out a human being for having the common cold! Care for your roses and they’ll be sure to reward you with so many beautiful blooms you’ll be able to overlook the odd spotty leaf.
Some gardeners worry that a rose garden will look boring in Winter, when the leaves have gone and the bushes are pruned. Underplanting with plants such as catmint, pansies, violas or lobelia can provide a pretty distraction. Personally I embrace the various seasons within the garden. Winter is a time of rest. I know the warmth of spring hides just around the corner and within weeks those now bare sticks will be shooting with new life. In this busy world, full of demands and distractions, I encourage you to grow roses. To “stop and smell the roses” reminds us to slow down and appreciate the beauty that is all around us. Why not create your own little piece of paradise today?