General Rosese maintenance FAQs

What should I do if I take over a garden with badly neglected roses?

They are likely to be unpruned, may well have been badly pruned in the past, probably will be disease-ridden with many dead stumps, and there may be suckers as well. If the suckers are growing a great deal more strongly than the roses, it is probably not worth trying to rescue the plants. If, on the other hand, some of the roses are still producing strong new canes, prune them perhaps a little harder than usual in spring and leave them alone otherwise. Any that look as if they are on their last legs should be cut back almost to ground level and dead stumps round the base removed. This treatment may easily activate invisible dormant buds and completely rejuvenate the bushes.

The following summer will provide the answer, and any roses that do not survive this drastic pruning would not have been worth keeping anyway.

I am told I should remove suckers from my roses. How do I distinguish a sucker from an ordinary shoot, and how do I get rid of it?

A sucker is a shoot coming from the rootstock on to which your variety is budded. Thus, any shoot that forms below the budding union is a sucker. If it rises from the soil more than 75 mm (3 in) from the base of the plant it is almost certainly a sucker. A useful, but not infallible, indication of a sucker is if it has seven leaflets per leaf, rather than the usual five; the leaves are usually of a different shape, and of a lighter green, than those on the rest of the plant; and the thorns may also be different. Do not remove a sucker by cutting it with secateurs: this will have the same effect as pruning and encourage it to grow more strongly. The best method is to grip the sucker tightly and give it a sharp tug. This should pull it away cleanly from the rootstock, and also remove any dormant sucker buds that are clustered about its base.

What is meant by dead-heading?

This is the removal in summer of unsightly spent and faded flower heads in order to prevent hips from forming. If they are allowed to form, much of the plant’s growing strength will be channelled into their development, and there will be less flowers later. Do not pull off the old flowers. Cut with secateurs back to a healthy leaf-axil bud 75-100 mm (3-4 in) down the stem, which will then more quickly produce a stronger shoot to carry new blooms. Do not dead-head those shrub roses or wild (species) roses that you are growing partly for their autumn display of hips. You will not get any if you do.

What is meant by disbudding?

It means pinching out, as soon as they are large enough, some or all of the side-flower buds if there is a cluster at the top of a shoot. This, of course, means that you will have fewer flowers, but those buds that remain will produce much larger blooms. Disbudding is done mainly by exhibitors, who need to produce large blooms. For normal garden display, however, disbudding is seldom necessary, and then only on the few varieties (such as ‘Pink Favourite’) in which the buds are likely to be packed so closely that the blooms cannot open properly. task is to clear the beds of all fallen leaves, in which disease spores can over-winter. Put them on the bonfire, not on the compost heap.

Do my roses need special protection in the winter?

In the United Kingdom this should not generally be necessary, but in those northern districts subject to bitingly cold winds some earthing up around the base of the plants may be advisable. In addition, straw or bracken may be woven into the heads of standard roses, which are particularly vulnerable.

Are there any special jobs to do before winter sets in?

Cutting back to prevent windrock has been dealt with already. The most important other

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