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The secret to growing beautiful roses

 

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David Austin’s “Olivia Rose Austin” in the Moosbach Garden

There seems to be so many myths surrounding the successful growing of stunningly beautiful roses but it really is very easy.  In this article I will share with you my secrets of how to create a beautiful new rose garden in 2 years that will rival any rose garden in the world and will allow you to create beautiful bouquets and arrangements of florist quality.

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Gertrude Jekyll and Wollerton Old Hall

So where to start?

Firstly, you need to understand that roses are a widely diverse group of plants and you must first decide what look and feel that you are going for.  We shall start with basics, so that we are all on the same page.  Roses come in many different forms but the basic ones to consider are:

  1.  Floribunda (ground cover) roses.  Lots of clusters of small rose blooms ideal for covering ground.
  2. Tea roses. Fairly short but showy roses ideal for parks and formal gardens but not particularly fragrant. Repeat flowering.
  3. Bush Roses.  Vary in height from 1-2 metres.  very beautiful and can be very fragrant. Many are repeat flowering.
  4. Climbing roses. Can grow up to 5 metres depending upon the variety and can be both beautiful and wonderfully scented. Many are repeat flowering.
  5. Rambling roses.  Can grow as much as 11 metres high, generally have clusters of small flowers, normally only flower once and have a wonderful scent and good rose hips.

Now before I get shot down in flames, there are many old roses worth considering and if you have the space then I would advocate taking a look at these but for many people where the size of their garden is limited a repeat flowering rose is what you want to go for.  If you follow my advice, a rose is an investment that will reward you for decades to come.  Bearing this in mind, it is worth choosing the right roses and putting in the effort in the first year to get them off to a flying start.  The late David Austin created  a group of roses that he entitled “English Roses” and these combine the fragrance of the old musk and damask roses with the beauty of the newer Tea roses.

Choosing the right roses for you

It is always best to do your research, quality roses aren’t cheap but baring in mind that they will last decades I think that it is worthwhile.  There are many websites that you can look at and what you really need to see are pictures of mature roses in planting schemes. A photograph of an individual rose is very helpful in showing you the beauty of that particular rose but unless you have a very good eye or are an experienced garden designer it helps to see planting combinations that you can copy or adapt for your own garden.  My advice would be to visit established rose gardens , in the UK there is David Austin Roses, Peter Beales Roses or many of the National Trust Gardens. If you are in Europe there are many regional rose gardens or you could visit the wonderful Moosbach Garden in Germany.  At this point I would like to make this offer, if you want free garden advice drop me an email and I will do my best to answer your question.

So you’ve made your choices but where do you buy your roses from and when do you plant them?

I would always recommend buying your roses from an established and experienced rose specialist rather than from ebay, amazon or a garden centre that doesn’t specialise in roses.  Obviously, the Moosbach Garden has a fantastic range of roses available!  You have 2 choices when buying roses and these are bare root or potted roses.  Bare root roses are normally only available between November and March, when the plants are dormant and potted roses are available all year round.  Potted roses give you the chance to see how healthy the plant is and this is my preferred option.

If you order bare root roses they will arrive in a bag hopefully with the roots still moist,  you must soak them in a bucket of water for up to 2 days but not longer before you plant them in the garden or into a pot.  Roses don’t like their roots drying out but they also don’t like sitting in water for too long.

Potted roses normally arrive in full leaf and if you are lucky with flower buds, this only applies in the summer as plants will be dormant in the winter.  When your potted rose arrives give it a good soak in a bucket of water for  at least an hour and then water daily in spring and summer.  If there will be a delay of days or weeks between your potted rose arriving and you planting it, then water it daily or weekly depending upon the weather.  If you are unsure test the weight of the pot or press a finger into the soil to a depth of about an inch, if the pot feels light or if your finger comes out dry then you need to water it.  Remember what we are aiming for is a happy rose that is not water stressed.  I water all of our potted roses by filling it with water up to the pot brim and once this has subsided doing the same again.

Planting time

Planting time is very stressful for many people but it doesn’t have to be.  What we re aiming for is to give the rose the best possible start in life, resulting in a quicker established rose.  The main things to consider are:

  1. The type of rose.
  2. The soil.
  3. The location.

All roses need to be planted with the scion (grafting point) facing you and below the soil by about an inch. If the soil is heavy dig a hole twice the size of the pot to make it easier for the rose to get its roots established in the ground.  Add some good compost or well-rotted manure into the bottom of the planting hole and Sprinkle mycorrhizal Fungi over the root ball and into the planting hole, this friendly fungi attaches itself to the roots of the rose and feeds it with water and nutrients helping the rose to become established quickly, this is available from our Shop.  If you are planting near a house or a wall, resist the temptation to plant it right next to the wall where the soil will always be dry and unwelcoming to your rose.  Plant the rose further away from any walls out of the roof shadow where no rain reaches.   Back-fill the rose with soil, firm the soil in with the heel of your foot and water in well as this ensures that the roots are in good contact with the soil.

Watering in the first year – VERY IMPORTANT

I alluded to myths concerning roses at the start of this article, here it comes! Many people think that you shouldn’t water roses too much, well this simply isn’t true.  I think people say this because people are worried about fungal diseases like black spot, rust and powdery mildew.  I will grant you that roses should be watered from below and you should avoid getting the leaves wet but what do you think happens when it rains?  If you think about what happened when you turned your rose out of it’s pot, you got a rectangular or round mass within which the roots were contained.  Until the rose has established itself in the ground and the roots have extended into the surrounding soil you are affectively watering a potted rose.  So, my advice is plenty of regular watering for the first year.  So we have covered planting, we’ve added well-rotted manure and mycorrhizal Fungi, we’re on top of watering, the only thing that we haven’t covered is feeding your rose and helping it to stay healthy.  I would also recommend mulching your roses to minimise water evaporation.  We use Bark Mulch and it is very effective and has no detrimental affects.

Feeding your rose and keeping it disease free

Not all rose feeds are the same, I use and trust the specially formulated rose feed from David Austin, available from our shop.  I subscribe to the David Austin feeding recommendation, which is as follows:

  1.  Feed each rose about a handful of rose feed per rose when the first leaves appear.
  2. Do not feed again until the first set of flowers have finished and then give a second handful of feed to each rose, this ensures that the second set of flowers are as beautiful as the first.  Repeat this but do not fertilise in the autumn as this encourages new growth which will be damaged by the first frosts.

Now, the thorny issue of controlling diseases.  The new English Roses are more resistant to diseases but I find that the only sure way to keep your roses healthy is to spray them when the first leaves appear and then every 3 weeks throughout the summer.  There are many brands of rose care products and I cannot recommend any as I have not conducted a comparison but I use the products from Bayer.  If you only have a few roses then you might want to buy a premixed spray bottle but if you have a larger number then I would suggest buying a concentrate that you mix with water.  Always thoroughly wash all spray bottle before use to avoid contamination.  When it comes to aphids I use a spray bottle filled with water and the tiniest amount of washing up liquid and this seems to do the trick, you can buy chemical products but washing up liquid is much cheaper and just as effective.

So if you follow these steps your roses will be happy and healthy and put on a good show of flowers.  In my experience it is from the second year that you really get a fantastic display.

Pruning the different types of roses

I will cover the pruning of roses in another article which will also include a step by step guide to planting roses.

 

 

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Andrew Huber

I am an English gardener who has been living in the Black Forest in Germany for 4 years. Slowly I am transforming 16 acres of mountain into a garden. Feel free to email me if you have any gardening questions and I'll see if I can help.

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