How to grow Roses

Mills Farm Plants

Keeping your roses happy…

…is very easy.  There’s nothing worse than sad, droopy roses with blackspot, yellowing foliage, and a poor show of flowers, but if you follow these simple guidelines you’ll have a smashing display.

1. Choose the right rose to start with.

Sounds obvious, but if you make sure that your head rules your heart when you’re selecting your roses, half the battle will be won!  Don’t just go for the most luscious rose in the catalogue – READ THE DESCRIPTION!   As a general rule, roses like rich, fertile soil that’s moist but not waterlogged, and they prefer at least half a day of sun.  They don’t do so well in very thin, dry soil, and they tend not to flower so freely if they’re in shade.  However, there are some families of roses that will put up with less-than-ideal conditions.  If you are growing roses in thin, dry soil try the Albas, some of the species and modern shrub roses, the Gallicas and the Rugosas.  For shady places, try the Albas, Rugosas, Centifolias and Damask families.  Remember, though, all roses will give a much better display in a sunny place and in half-decent soil.

2. Prepare the soil thoroughly.

Dig a really, really big hole and enrich the soil with nicely-rotted manure or garden compost.  Don’t be lazy!  You’re only going to plant this rose once, and the way you plant it will influence its performance for years to come.  Mix in a handful of bonemeal too.  If you’re planting a potted rose, make sure the rootball is really well soaked before you begin.  If you’re planting a bare-root rose, trim off any damaged roots, and make sure the roots are kept moist while you’re preparing the hole.  If necessary, heel the bare-root rose in (in other words, plant it temporarily somewhere else in the garden) to keep it happy until you’re ready to plant it.

3. Plant the rose deep enough

Most commercially-produced roses have been ‘budded’ – that means, they’re grafted onto a species rose rootstock.  The place where the rose meets the rootstock is called the union, and you can easily see it: it looks like a lump on the stem low down, just above where the roots begin.  Bury that union about two inches or so beneath the surface of the soil.

Put the soil back in, and firm down well.  Then give it a really good water – NO!  THE RAIN WILL NOT DO!  You’d have to experience a tropical monsoon for there to be enough rain to water in a new rose sufficiently.  Give it a really good watering, and then be prepared to water it regularly during its first growing season if it shows sign of stress.

4. Keep on top of disease

The most common rose disease is black spot.  This is a fungal disease that is spread in drops of water.  A leaf becomes infected and falls to the ground.  The next time it rains, the spores are splashed up onto clean leaves, and they then catch the disease.  So if you’ve got black spot in the garden, try to rake up the fallen leaves and burn them, rather than letting them stay on the rose bed.

If you’re going to use a fungicide, the trick is to spray before the disease appears.  If you wait until your roses are badly spotted, you’ve lost the battle.  Spray the moment the first leaves begin to appear in spring, and then continue to spray at fortnightly intervals (or as recommended on the packet).

5. Aphids

People get very upset about aphids (greenfly) on their roses.  Our attitude is – what’s the problem?  Yes, one wants to avoid having so many aphids that the roses suffer, but just a few won’t do so much damage.  We try not to use insecticides unless it’s absolutely necessary, and most years our natural population of ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies hoover up the aphids for us.  If you use an insecticide you’re likely to destroy those natural predators, and you’ll find that you have to continue to use the chemical because you’ll have killed off the friendly bugs.  If you decide to use an insecticide, our advice would be to find one that is not harmful to beneficial insects like lacewings.  Read the label, or ask advice at a reputable garden centre.

6. Pruning

Sorry, there isn’t time or space to tell you about pruning!  We’re taking a break in 2005 from our rose pruning courses, but keep in touch with us to find out when we’re running them again.