Roses are so desirable that no garden without them is worthy of the name. Every rose, from the innocent species with single flowers to the luscious centifo-lias, contributes a romantic- quality to a garden which no other family of plants can match. But one cannot pretend that roses are particularly easy to grow. They want loving cultivation and protection against the pests and diseases to which many are prone. All roses like rich but well-drained soil and a sunny position; some need regular feeding, others need training, most need pruning, and some require regular spraying if attacked by enemies. They are not trouble-free.

When choosing roses it is wise not to be bewitched by the lovely old names into choosing varieties which are for the historian rather than for the working gardener, but to consider the vigour of each rose, the kind of soil and position you can offer it, and the length of its flowering season. In general, rose species will be strong and healthy, though the flowering season will be short, and shrub roses will make the best all-round garden plants, especially the relatively modern ones. Shrub roses will grow in any good soil; they need minimal pruning; and they blend beautifully with other plants, espe-cially in a mixed border. At the other end of the scale are the hybrid teas, which are labour-intensive. They need rich soil which is not too alkaline, hard pruning in spring, regular feeding and spraying, and they look best in special rosebeds of their own – but the blooms are superb.

In between come the climbers and ramblers and the floribunda, or cluster, roses. When choosing climbers, pick varieties recommended for vigour and two flowering seasons, and if you are bad on ladders, consider a pillar rose rather than a giant rambler. Floribundas are less fussy than hybrid teas as to soil and need only light pruning, while the more graceful ones, like ‘Iceberg’, can be blended into a mixed planting.

Instructions for growing roses can be found in many rose books and, more succinctly, in rose catalogues. All I would suggest here is that you pay special attention to your roses when you plant. Dig the ground some weeks in advance, working in rotted manure or compost, and when you plant make a large hole so that the roots are not cramped, scatter in some bonemeal and peat, and plant firmly, and when the flowers die, dead-head thoroughly, a job which is some-times neglected. An hour spent deadheading your roses will make the whole garden look fresh and flowery, and will encourage a succession of bloom.

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