MOST gardeners grow roses. Some devote all their time to their plants and grow them superlatively well, some just plant a few bushes and hope for the best, giving them little or no attention.
The modern roses, the Hybrid Teas and the Floribunda roses, have been developed by rosarians over very many years and are of very mixed parentage. These are the most popular roses today because they have a long flowering period, from June to October or even later in a mild autumn and because theirhave a perfection of form, both in bud and fully open flower. It is often said of the modern roses that they lack fragrance. But very many modern varieties have a light, fresh rose fragrance which is very pleasant and is often more evident when the flowers are picked and brought indoors.
The main distinction between the varieties classed as Hybrid Teas (a very mixed-up group nowadays) and Floribundas, is that the later varieties bear their flowers, which are smaller than those of Hybrid Teas, in clusters or trusses. Some of the newer Floribundas will, if they are disbudded to leave one flower per, bear blooms which are nearly as large as those of Hybrid Teas. These Floribunda varieties range in height from about 2 feet to 4 feet so that they are excellent for bedding purposes since one can plant the shorter growing varieties in the front row. The height of the Hybrid Teas depends to a great extent on how hard they are pruned. If they are but lightly pruned most of them will make bushes about 5 feet tall or so and will come into flower earlier, producing a multitude of blooms in long succession. The flowers will, however, be a little smaller than those that are obtainable from hard-pruned bushes, which will flower a little later.
Most modern roses are vigorous plants which will put up with a good deal of neglect and still produce flowers. But anyone who has any regard for his plants will at least try to give them the conditions they like. They probably give .of their best on a medium to heavy loam containing a fair amount of clay. It is an old fallacy, which like other rose fallacies, dies hard, that roses like heavy clay best. Certainly they will do well on heavy clay lands, but not until they have been improved considerably by digging and lightening.
This usually means digging in sand, ashes, peat,, -mould, spent hops and the like to make the clay soil more open and to make it easier for water to drain away. An equally important agent in opening up clay soils is hydrated lime applied at about 3 lbs to the square yard, and dug in deeply. The question of is important on heavy clay sqils and deep digging is usually necessary otherwise water gets held up by the clay pan below and the of the plants may be drowned. On the opposite type of land it may not be so necessary to cultivate deeply but it is usually essential to incorporate organic materials such as peat, leafmould, , spent hops etc., because such soils are usually hungry and not only will these materials provide food but they will also help the soil to retain water more readily in dry weather.
It is probably true to say that most soils can do with improving in this way before roses are planted. It applies with particular force to the often thin soils overlying chalk. Here deep cultivation is obviously impossible over a wide area but it may be possible to dig wide holes at least a foot in depth for each rose bush. This may mean arduous work with a pick-axe. After the broken lumps of chalk have been removed the bottom of the hole should be broken up with the pick. After this the hole can be filled with good soil brought in from elsewhere. It is usually possible to obtain a load of top-spit loam for this purpose but the real improvement to these thin chalk soils can only be brought about by a long-term plan. Mulching with organic materials at least once a year -more often if they are available will gradually increase the depth of decent soil to the benefit of the roses arid of any other plants.
It is best to get digging done from as early as possible in the autumn so that the rose bushes may be planted from November onwards when they arrive from the nursery. Early cultivation is usually essential on heavy soils otherwise when the autumn rains set in they may become unworkable until they dry out again. The planting season is a long one and in a mild, open season it may extend from late October to March. December and January are often unsuitable for planting as the ground is either too wet, frozen or snow-covered. But there are often mild spells when the soil is quite workable and planting-becomes perfectly possible. If, however, the rose bushes arrive in a bad spell when the soil is frost-bound or snow-covered they may be safely left in their packing in a cool, frost-free shed for a couple of weeks. If such a spell continues the tics round the packing should be loosened but the packing material should not be removed. Alternatively, the material round themay be removed and the roots packed round with moist peat. If the weather is merely too wet to plant then the plants should be unpacked and heeled in in a sheltered corner of the garden where they will not be exposed to the wind unduly.
It is quite feasible to plant in wet weather, even though the soil may seem too sticky to work. Provided some planting soil is kept on the dry side under cover. This is always a wise precaution in view of our wet winters. The soil may be ordinary sifted garden loam, plus a proportion of peat and leaf-mould with |- lb. Of bonemeal per barrow-load thoroughly mixed in with it. The planting hole should be wide enough to take the roots without the need for doubling them over. It should be deep enough to enable the junction between stock (rooting part) and scion (flowering part) to be just below soil level when the rose has been planted. On heavy soils it is worthwhile making the hole deeper than this and planting on a mound of soil in the centre. This enables water to get away more freely without lying around the roots. Before actually planting the rose examine its roots and cut off any that are broken or badly bruised.