TAKE my word for it, roses are right up at the top end of fussiness when it comes to providing them with all that they desire for performance-plus.
The nation’s most cherished flower they may be, but let your attention slip an inch and they will rebel.
Yes, roses grow on you, but yes, roses will also groan at you!
They do need space. Of all plants, roses perhaps are the ones to carry the greatest degree of hatred if they are hemmed in, especially if their foliage touches that of a non-rose “competitor”.
In pure-air regions, such as where I live in North Devon, most modern varieties will almost certainly succumb to black spot – a nasty fungal disease which can strip a bush of its leaves within two or three days. Once black spot disfigures the foliage there is no cure, but the condition can be kept at bay by spraying with a sulphur-based compound such as Sulphur Rose. This works well for my 70-odd varieties, though it would be misleading to say that every single leaf has escaped. Some varieties – reds and oranges in particular – demand very regular spraying.
Roses do respond to summertime pruning. After the first flower flush, instead of leaving the nondescript old stems to stay put, seek out an outward-pointing leaf joint about halfway down and snip it off. Feed with a quick-acting booster such as fish, blood and bone or Growmore and await the results – more blooms later in the season.
Roses relish life in the sun. They will cope with some shade, though anything too extreme will send them into a sulk – and eventually they will probably perish or simply become a non-mover.
Unlike many plants, roses don’t scream out on heavy, clay soil. In fact, they positively enjoy it, though if you plan to include one or two old-fashioned shrub roses in your collection, best to talk to the expert on hand as some less vigorous varieties from yesteryear covet increased TLC.
Do snip or pull out off any suckers. These are effectively wild rose growths from below the rootstock. If allowed to develop they will divert the sap from the cultivated rose and will – well – sap the plant of its energy. Suckers usually have paler green, narrower leaflets which tend to be more numerous than the parent plant’s. Don’t tug suckers too vigorously as you could end up pulling up the entire bush, so resort to the secateurs for safety if in doubt.
If you don’t enjoy hoeing around the roses, scatter a good mulch around each plant to suffocate the weeds and to keep the soil cooler when the sun beats down – as of late.
There are several more “do’s” and “don’ts”, but many can provoke wide disagreement, such as the best time to carry out the principal prune. Most books say March and this is no doubt wise for Midland and Northern gardens. Here in the South West I always cut back in December, provided the weather is frost-free and provided I’ve got the will to go out into the cold and do the job without a grumble!
Enjoy your roses. Treat ’em nice and they’ll reward you with a five-star show.
■ Ravishing roses: Top – English Rose Molyneux, named after the Wolves football ground; centre – Baron Girod de l’Ain, a real golden oldie from 1897 with bright crimson petals and a distinctive white edging; above – a refreshingly bright yellow, Korresia, from 1975 and a decent scent as bonus.