Simply roses

Published November 15, 2015
Hybrid rose — ‘Emperor du Maroc’
Hybrid rose — ‘Emperor du Maroc’

It is hardly surprising that roses feature high on everyone’s list of favourite flowers and, as many readers have requested information on how best to grow roses in our somewhat fickle climate, this week’s column is dedicated to them.

First and foremost, roses are surprisingly easy to grow providing, of course, that you get soil and placement conditions right.

These gorgeous flowers do best in well-drained soil — basic soil type is not important — which has had lots and lots of organic material mixed in: this organic material can be old, well-rotted, manure, compost, leaf mould or something similar. Roses, irrespective of whether they are climbers / ramblers, tall / medium / small bushes or of the miniature variety, are hungry plants and, if they are to grow healthily and produce lots of the blooms they are rightly famous for, they must be well-fed.


Growing roses has never been so easy; follow tips and have a beautiful display of gorgeous roses


Irrespective of how much organic material is added to the soil, roses also enjoy additional nourishment in the form of pure, organic, bone-meal, hoof and horn, blood meal, seaweed fertiliser — all of which should be given (amounts vary depending on strength so please follow instructions on the packets) once every four to six weeks almost around the year, the exception being for one month before and one month after their annual pruning: this can be done anytime from mid-November to mid-January.

Additionally, roses benefit from a once in three months, light application of Epsom salts dissolved in warm water: this substance contains lots of essential trace elements / minerals they may otherwise lack.

Roses cannot stand having wet roots, hence the need for excellent drainage at all times and whether they are being grown directly in the ground or in pots or other suitable containers.

Bush rose — ‘Escapade’
Bush rose — ‘Escapade’

Plants, in pots and ‘bare-rooted’ should be appearing, in large numbers, in your local nurseries from the end of this month right through until the end of February, although pot grown roses can be found all year round, even when they are in full bloom but, be warned, do not transplant roses when they are in flower as they will not thank you for what is, for them, a ‘shocking’ experience!

Prepare planting holes of a width and depth to easily accommodate the plant roots without having to resort to squeezing them in. It is a good idea to place a handful of the aforementioned bone-meal, hoof and horn or blood meal in the bottom of the planting hole, then to mix it with a little soil before putting the plant in.

Once the plant is in place firm the filled in soil down, watering generously and then — you may not want to do this but it is beneficial in the long-term — prune off all tall growth, including any rose flowers / buds present. Pruning at this point serves to help the newly planted rose get over transplantation shock and to develop strong, new growth. The plants recover from this initial pruning very fast and, before you know it, are bursting with new growth.

Climbing rose — ‘Compassion’.
Climbing rose — ‘Compassion’.

Pruning of existing roses is generally done from mid-November to the end of January, which used to be very complicated as different pruning instructions were advocated. Some people advocate digging up the poor plants and exposing their roots to daylight for two to three weeks but this completely unnatural practice is, thankfully, no longer recommended and I, for one, have never done it. Pruning, need not be complicated: simply cut out, using very sharp secateurs, any dead, damaged or diseased stems and dispose of them sensibly. If you feel that the rest of the plant is a bit out of hand then, by all means, prune back any excessive growth to a height you — not the books or foreign television programmes — are comfortable with and that, dear readers, is that!

Healthy prunings can be made into cuttings and propagated: select strong stems only, cut them into lengths between six to eight inches long, remove all but the top four leaves and then, instead of using chemical rooting powder / solution, simply dip the lower end of the stem in pure honey and plant in pots of good quality, well draining compost, water lightly, keep in light shade and you should, in time, have lots of new rose plants to find homes for.

It could also be that you like your existing rose plants exactly as they are and, in which case, forget all about pruning and just leave them be, but do pay attention to their ‘food’ of course.

In general, roses enjoy at least six hours a day of direct sunshine although some varieties — the Floribunda rose called ‘iceberg’ for example — will still bloom with four hours, not less, of sunshine each day.

The subject of roses is too vast to include everything here but, I hope, this information has simplified at least some rose lore for you.

More on roses in two weeks time.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 15th, 2015

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