Roses are not as finicky as many people think. Follow a few basics and these blooms will give you years of pleasure.
Yes, you can enjoy your own home-grown roses. Your yard won’t be transformed overnight (even though you can buy some varieties that are already quite well developed, you will definitely have to wait for these beauties to reach their full potential) and it takes a little know-how, but with the amazing variety of colours, sizes and scents available, it will be well worth the wait for a gorgeous addition to your garden.
Traditional rose gardens are pretty formal in their design, but they do let you show off your individual plants, while streamlining maintenance. In a larger garden, consider having a separate, geometrically laid out rose garden, with standard roses marking the corners and a scented arbour in the centre. Hybrid tea roses, with their elegant blooms and pointed buds, are ideally suited to this style. Finding successful colour combinations is probably the trickiest part of a harmonious rose garden design, but with the wealth of varieties available, you’ll find something to go with any colour scheme. Grow them either in a single colour swathe or mixed, but do grow specimens of a similar height to get that uniform appeal. Structures such as gazebos, pillars and arches add a vertical touch that breaks up the monotony. They will also give you the opportunity to create that all-important focal point – with climbing roses taking pride of place. Alternatively, climbers can be trained to climb up trees (olive or other roses, fruit trees work well), provided these have been pruned in a shape that allows enough sunlight to reach the roses.
KEEP IT CASUAL
Don’t feel bound by convention. If you prefer to keep it informal, create a cottage garden with lots of shrub, ground-cover and creeping-rose varieties rambling through it. The only rule that you should really follow is that taller plants should go in the centre or rear of the bed. In a small garden, a single, central rose bed is a nice alternative. Simply plant up a rose border on either side of a path, or around a veggie patch. A central path bordered by rows of roses, combined with a few low growing,grey-leaved plants, such as dusty miller (Senecio cineraria) or lamb’s-ears (Stachysbyzantina), or trimmed buxus, creates agreat visual effect. (Just keep the rose bushes back from the pathway so their thorns don’t snag your clothes.)
ON THE MOVE
Don’t fret if you’ve planted your roses and you change your mind about the position afterwards. Although roses aren’t fans of being moved, it is possible to transplant them. If you do need to do so, pruning the roots a while beforehand (at least a couple of months) can go some way to preventing the plant going into shock. Using a sharp, disinfected spade, cut around the bush in a 30 cm circle. This should cut off any roots spreading further out and force the plant to grow new roots within that perimeter. Before you move it, prepare the hole you are going to be planting it in and prune back the plant hard. Then gently lift it out and get it back into the ground as soon as possible, making sure you don’t replant it too deeply, and water well.
The different rose varieties have specific needs, but there are some basic things to remember when it comes to keeping your roses happy. They need at least six hours of sunshine a day – with early-morning sun preferable to late afternoon, as flowers last longer under cooler conditions. Although they grow in most kinds of soil – from slightly acidic to alkaline – they do best in fertile soil that’s been well enriched with compost and drains well. Mulch beds with a five to 10 cm layer of organic material to keep the roots cool in the hot months. Do not plant near large trees or shrubs, or too close to other plants, as roses don’t like any root competition and also require good air circulation in order to grow healthily. Roses are susceptible to diseases and pests such as black spot (a fungus caused by too much moisture and humidity), red spider mites, aphids, downy and powdery mildew, thrips and whitefly. There are many products (both organic and chemical) available at garden centres to address these problems. However, if you have your roses in your veggie patch, you may want to think about creating some home-made remedies to combat the bugs without affecting your crops. Something as simple as planting lavender at the base of the tree you are training your roses to climb up should protect the plant against climbing insects.
Deadhead frequently, and water three to four times a week. Roses should not be watered from the top, as this tends to encourage the growth of leaf fungus and the appearance of pests. A specially perforated garden hose or soaker, or a drip watering system should be placed in the bed with the water running slowly. Roses are also particularly sensitive to draughts and water dripping on their leaves. Plant them in an area of your garden that is not overhung by trees, shrubs or other plants that can lead to rain drip. With the right care, roses can flower for up to 10 months of the year. During the warmer months, give them some rose fertiliser monthly and a minimum of 10L water a week, upping that a bit midsummer. Then, simply sit back and smell the roses!
Don’t have a garden? Plant in a container!
Pretty much any type of rose can grow well in a container, but the most effective are those varieties that flower profusely, with cascading or shrubby growth. Container roses should be watered daily in summer and fed once or twice a month. There needs to be good air movement as well, so the container shouldn’t stand directly against a wall that receives full sun for any length of time.