|Author: Martin Horne||Published: 3rd July 2012 14:32|
If we were to ask people - gardeners and non-gardeners alike - their favourite flower, many would answer "Roses!"
To some extent, this may be because such flamboyant characters in the past such as Harry Wheatcroft (he with the handlebar moustache) have brought it to prominence but it is also of the most photographed and drawn of our flowers.
Roses are probably the first flowers that come to mind when we think of giving or sending a bouquet and a single rose (usually a red variety) is a token of love. Romans used to have rose petals strewn over floors, both as a decoration and to mask unpleasant odours with their scent.
What is the attraction of roses? To some it is the shape and form of the flowers and to others it is the scent or the perceived resistance to pests and diseases. They make excellent cut flowers for presents or our own display. Whatever our needs or desires may be, roses will always be at the centre of our gardening conversations.
Uses for Roses in the Garden
Below are a few ideas for how roses may be grown in the garden:
- Bedding displays.
These are principally for the bush-type roses such as hybrid tea (now often known as ‘large flowered) and floribunda (known as ‘cluster flowered). Generally, these beds are predominantly roses, with some underplanting.
- Informal groups in mixed borders
This would be preferable for a larger garden and would consist of cluster-flowered/floribunda types.
- As shrubs.
These would be free-standing and again would be preferable for the larger garden.
- Climbing plants
These would need a structure such as a wall or trellis and would consist of climbing species, climbing or rambling roses.
- Standard plants
These are large flowered/hybrid tea or cluster flowered/floribunda plants grown on a long stem. Sideshoots and ‘suckers' are taken out to achieve the ‘standard' effect.
These types of modified roses are especially popular in giving height to a planting display but care has to be taken that all plants placed in the ground below the standards are not allowed to grow too high or too dense and take over the space which the standard will need.
- Ground cover
These are a special type reserved for the specific need for carpeting an area of ground and preventing weeds.
- Patio and container roses
These consist of plants specifically named ‘patio' or dwarf cluster flowered roses.
- Container roses
These are little rose plants specifically bred for planting into a range of containers. They are very popular as packaged presents.
Conditions for Growing Roses
Roses prefer a drier atmosphere and a heavier soil. Clay soils accommodate roses very well, as long as they are free-draining and contain good quantities of humus (organic matter). They benefit from an annual mulch of organic matter and regular maintenance and feeding, including watering in dry spells.
Planting newly-acquired roses
When we acquire new roses, they come in two different forms from the garden centre or nursery:
- Bare-rooted or
Bare-rooted plants are obtained during the dormant period of winter and are dug up from the nursery and wrapped in a material to protect from frost and chill. On receipt of these plants, make sure that they are ‘heeled-in' - that is placed in soil and covered to ensure that their roots do not dry out and that they are not exposed to extreme conditions - if you do not have time to plant them immediately.
When ready to plant the roses, ensure that you have a good, thick pair of gloves! Dig a hole big enough to accommodate width and depth of the plant as it grows (a common mistake is to plant just to the current size of the plant, leaving no room for expansion). If needs be, prune back the roots but not too severely. Position the bush with the bud union slightly below the soil surface. A good indicator of the soil level at which to plant the bush is a point on the stem where the wood appears damper and darker. This is the point at which the plant was growing in the nursery.
Incorporate well-decomposed organic matter and a sprinkling of base fertiliser such as bonemeal for the roots into the soil. Return the soil around the plant and firm it in well, ensuring that there are no air pockets to induce rotting. Mulch the planted area well with organic matter of well-rotted bark.
Container-grown bushes may be planted at any time of year, weather conditions permitting and the same principles apply to digging the planting hole. Ensure that the soil ball in the container is moist and that the roots have not become too ‘pot-bound'. If the roots have started to grow in a circle on the pot, gently tease the roots to their growing positions, pruning, as required.
All other planting procedures are the same as for bare-rooted plants but don't do as a friend of mine once did and leave the plant in its container when it was planted in the ground!
Once the rose bush is safely planted, check for any damaged stems and remove them by pruning, as damaged stems can encourage disease to enter the plant.
In spring, newly - planted roses will benefit from a top dressing - that is a spreading over the soil - of a multi-purpose fertiliser around the plants around the plants. Don't be tempted to apply a fertiliser containing nitrogen before the worst of the frosts have abated, as nitrogen produces, soft, green growth which is soon attacked by frost, causing ‘die-back'. There will be more about die-back later.
Pruning and Training of Established Rose Bushes
It is said that we tend to love our rose bushes so much that we neglect them with kindness. In other words, it is tempting not to prune the roses too much, as they have given us so much pleasure. Without pruning, however, we may see one year of a mass of lower followed the next year by very few - a process known as biennial yield.
How do we prune and when? Here are a few guidelines.
When a rose has flowered and there remains only the hip (the fruit that contains the seeds) this will need to be 'dead-headed' - taken out to release energy for other emerging buds. Dead-heading takes place unless the grower wishes to retain the hips for propagation by seed or, in the case of a shrub rose, for decorative effect.
In October, after the last flush of flower, the bush requires a light pruning. Make a diagonal pruning cut, above an outward-facing bud, about a third of the way down each stem, ensuring uniformity of shape. This form of pruning is to prevent ‘wind rock', as strong winds are prevalent during mid to late autumn. By reducing wind rock, we prevent the effects of the roots moving under the soil surface and creating a ‘pan', a compaction of the soil directly under the plant. Failure to address this problem may result in subsequent flooding and the eventual rotting of the plant.
Why have I not pruned the plant hard down to the base at this stage? This is where the subject of die-back rears its ugly head. Winter frosts can have the same effects on plants as on unlagged domestic plumbing. The frost attacks the cells of the plant and, after a thaw, the stems of the plant have a blackened area at the top. This is dieback, so, as you may imagine, had this plant been pruned heavily to the base of the bush, there would have been nothing left of the poor plant.
Hard pruning, therefore, is left to late February or early March. Any later than that would risk damaging the plant as the sap is rising to produce new shoots in the spring.
Again, prune to an outward-facing bud, three to four buds up the stem, with a diagonal cut. Why do we make a diagonal cut each time? The reason for this is that a horizontal cut would attract water which would hold in the plant's stem and eventually encourage rotting. A diagonal cut allows water to run off.
Finally, when pruning, cut stems to an outward-facing shape, to allow maximum light to enter the plant. All dead, diseased, dying and damaged wood must be removed, as must any stems which are crossing or rubbing against the outward-facing stems. Suckers (more about those below) must also be removed.
Climbing plants have their permanent framework of branches retained, with new shoots retrained and trained to replace older branches that have expended their energy in flowering. Side shoots may then be pruned back to 10cm. or less, according to their vigour.
Rambler roses are pruned in a similar way to climbers but all flowered shoots are pruned after flowering and new shoots trained in and tied up.
The principles of pruning apply to shrub roses but it may be as well to check books to see whether individual shrubs require special treatment.
Earlier, I referred to ‘suckers'. Most established roses have been propagated by means of budding or grafting. This entails fitting the stem or ‘scion' of a particular favourite rose - for example ‘Peace' - onto vigorous rootstock, usually a dog rose or similar. This gains the bet of both worlds - a vigorous root system combined with the attractive properties of the individual cultivated variety.
Occasionally, however, usually owing to overenthusiastic hoeing, the rose plant may become damaged and, as a result, part of the original rootstock appears above ground. It is easily recognisable because the thorns are much closer together. A clean pruning cut to remove the sucker is required.
Propagation of Roses by Hardwood Cuttings
Having written of budding and grafting, I ought to mention propagation by hardwood cuttings.
Find stems of pencil thickness, the best time being at autumn, when the light pruning takes place. Make a clear sharp cut below a node (leaf joint) and cut a piece of stem about 20cm long with a diagonal cut above the node. The diagonal cut ensures that we know which way up to insert the stem!
If space allows in the garden, make a V trench and insert the cuttings in the soil and cover the stem. It may help to dip the stem in hormone rooting powder before inserting the stem. If the soil is heavy clay, it may be beneficial to mix sharp sand into the V trench to aid drainage and rooting.
If space is limited, place the cut stems into a mixture 50:50 of potting compost and sharp sand or grit in a pot of about 1 litre, placing the stems around the edge of the pot to attract the most moisture.
Spring may find these stems rooted, so the rooted stems are then potted-on prior to planting out. If they do not appear to have rooted, then wait and, with patience, they should eventually show signs of growth.
Pests and Diseases of Roses
Sadly, like most plants, roses are not immune to pests and diseases.
Aphids can destroy buds and newly-emerging flowers of roses by sucking at the sap and leaving a sickly mess which suffocated the parts of the plant. Nature's predator to the aphid is the ladybird, so these must be encouraged. Chemical control is possible in the form of sprays but check with the garden centre or supplier which pesticides are now available and which have been recommended for withdrawal.
Powdery mildew can occur by spores being transported in the wind. Symptoms are a powdery substance around the leaves of the plant. Treatment is by pruning away badly affected material, ensuring that secateurs are thoroughly cleaned and sterilised afterwards or, alternatively sprayed with a fungicide.
Black spot is another fungal disease common in roses. It is a ‘clean air' fungus which thrives when heavy rain splashes the spores onto the plant, creating unsightly black spots on the leaves. Black spot was almost unheard of in the days when everyone had coal fires. Many modern varieties of rose have been bred to withstand the onslaught of blackspot but, apart from the use of fungicides, there are other deterrents. Wood ash, as well as being a good fertiliser and soil conditioner will help to stave off blackspot.
Finally, listed below are a few nurseries which supply roses. You may like to research your own and please let me know.
David Austin Roses, Ltd.,
Bowling Green Lane,
Roses supplied include:
Roses supplied include:
Thelma Barlow (former actress on Coronation Street)
Chris Beardshaw (presenter on Gardeners World)
Roses supplied include:
The Rose Gardens,
Roses supplied include:
Bill LeGrice Roses,
In the words of an advertisement a few years ago....Roses grow on you! Happy growing!