Rose Gardening Made Simple

The rose became the emblem of England in the reign of Edward I. It is part of our national life and it is doubtful whether there’s a garden in the country which doesn’t boast a variety of some kind.

Indeed, roses will grow anywhere provided they get their share of sunshine, reasonable shelter (they object to windy and exposed places) and well-drained soil. Chalky soil is the only kind which presents major difficulties; that is, if the surface soil is in a very thin layer. In this somewhat extreme case the soil can be dug out and put to one side, about a foot of chalk removed and replaced with soil, and the top soil replaced. In any case it’s as well to prepare rose beds carefully, working in plenty of manure or compost before planting.

You can plant roses from November through until March, but not when the ground is frosty or waterlogged. It won’t hurt plants if you heel them in (that is, at an angle of forty-five degrees in a trench, with roots covered with soil and firmed down) until planting conditions are right.

Planting holes should be wide enough to allow roots to spread out unhindered. Any damaged roots must be removed, and if your rose is a standard (a description of the various types will follow) put in a support about the centre of the hole before planting.

At the bottom of the planting hole fork in a couple of handfuls of bonemeal mixed with a bucketful of moist peat (retain some, though, to cover the roots). Then refill the planting hole with soil and tread it down firmly. As a guide to the depth of the planting hole, the union of the stock and scion, which is quite easy to see, should be just covered with surface soil when planting is completed.

Cut back long growths on newly planted climbing roses. Newly planted bush roses should be pruned back thoroughly to encourage a good root system.

In spring dress the ground round the bed with a fertiliser and apply a mulch of peat, but only when the ground is moist. Wet the mulch at a rate of a gallon of water to the square yard. Generally speaking they are classified as follows: hybrid tea roses have single or small groups of double blooms — you could call them the more formal type; floribunda roses grow in either bush or standard forms and bear flowers in large clusters; miniature roses are those which, as their name implies, grow to only a foot or so and bear small size blooms; ramblers have long stems and bear flowers in clusters’, climbers also have long stems but these are thicker with either single or clusters of flowers; shrub roses grow in bush form – in the main they are varieties of the wild original roses; the term ‘standard’ is applied to roses grown on bare stems a few feet high.

Some roses can be propagated by cuttings. Pruning should be carried out when bushes are dormant, usually between January and the middle of March, depending, of course, on the weather and whereabouts in the country you live (in really cold areas it’s as well not to prune until late April). Newly planted roses need more pruning than established ones because this encourages them to develop strong roots.

So, in the first spring after planting, all types (except what are known as climbing sports of hybrid tea roses) should have weak or twiggy shoots and shoots of sappy growth removed. Alternatively, cut back growth to just above a dormant shoot bud, which points away from the centre of the plant and is not more than six inches from the base. Incidentally, you can cut out dead wood at any time, preferably the moment you spot it; and suckers, which appear from below ground off the roots of the wild root stock, should be cut away right from the root. It’s no good cutting them off at ground level. As this simply encourages them. Sometimes suckers appeaj quite some way from the bush, so be on the look-out for them. If left they’ll weaken the bush.

Don’t forget to have frequent ‘disease check-ups’ in your rose garden! Greenfly, sawfly, capsid bugs, frog-hoppers and caterpillars are all deadly enemies. You can buy sprays to cope with these. And be on guard against black spot, mildew and rust, too.

Roses make quite a demand on the nutriment in the soil, so regular feeds are something of a ‘must’. Hunger signs in the bushes can be recognised by small, poor flowers; petals falling off prematurely; and pale, small or discoloured leaves. The regular picking off of dead blooms is important, and with established floribundas the whole truss should be removed.

As a rule hybrid tea roses grow more than one flower per shoot. For really good specimen blooms remove the side buds.This will allow the strong terminal bud to develop to its maximum. When cutting for decoration indoors, don’t take more than a third of the flowering stem, and always make the cut just above an outward facing bud. It’s best not to cut from newly planted roses during their first season.

One final point – for part of the year the rose bed isn’t much to look at, so why not underplant bushes with small plants to give you colour. Pansies and violas fit the bill in this respect, as do dwarf nasturtiums or petunias, but there are many other small perennial plants which would suit the purpose – complementing the scene, not stealing it!

As Longfellow said of the rose, ‘How wonderful it is, the queen of flowers’ – and how right he was!

Make the cuts like this, with the bud pointing away from the centre of the bush.

Pruning keeps roses in good shape and lengthens their life. It should be carried out in April, when all danger of frost is over.

Cut weak shoots back to the stem.

Prune strong shoots of Hybrid Tea Bush and Standard roses back to three inches; Ramblers, Floribunda.

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