UP THE GARDEN PATH

Louise Tomlin takes a look at garden related topics. This time she’s urging us to take time to smell the roses and don’t be scared to try growing them…

Everyone loves roses, don’t they? If you are one of the few who answered in the negative there, you can happily go on your way and turn to the next page safe in the knowledge that this article isn’t for you. For those of you who are still with me, thanks. I hope I can justify your attention with some wise words about these colourful and scented shrubs.

Take a walk and I’ll bet the gardens you pass by will have at least a rose or two. So, why don’t more of us grow them? Could it be, that we are put off by the experts that seem to stress that they are tricky beyond belief to grow? They hold forth about hybrid teas, floribundas, standards, climbers, and diseases. Worse still, if that doesn’t put you off, then there’s the complicated and ‘thorny’ issue of pruning to master – it’s enough to send you rushing for the same old pack of hardy annuals when visiting the garden centre.

Fear not, I’m going to make it very simple for you by distilling the info you need to grow healthy roses into easy ‘bite-sized’ facts.

Choose the right rose for the position you want it to grow in.

Bush roses are just like any other shrub, they can be used in a border to create height, shape, colour and structure, so treat them like any other shrub.

Climbing roses usually are repeat flowering and produce strong self- supporting stems which allow them to be grown up walls or trellis, so they will do well in these positions and can even work well in north facing situations.

Ramblers are generally bigger and have long flexible stems, which allow them to be trained along wires or up trees, and they can be used to cover unsightly blots on the landscape, like the oil tank for instance.

Standard sounds a bit complicated, but it is a description that fits any bush or plant that has been grown into the shape of a lollipop with a long bare stem and a roughly spherical shape of leaf and flower at the top. These are great for container growing on your deck or patio. Smaller roses for containers that aren’t standards are also available. The key to getting the right rose for the right position and space available is to always read the description when buying them. That way you won’t end up with a monster rose getting out of control, or alternatively one that doesn’t grow big enough for its position.

The dark art of pruning

Approach this task early in the year, but not when it’s actually freezing. Arm yourself with sharp secateurs. Wear suitable protective clothing, thick gloves and safety glasses. Cut out any brown, dead wood, also remove branches and stems that grow into each other or inwards, leaving an airy clear shape of healthy green stems with outward facing buds. Diagonal cuts should be made 5mm above and downwards away from the buds to allow water to drain off. Long stems on repeat flowering shrub roses can generally be reduced to about a third of their length. Roses with clusters of multiple blooms can be safely trimmed back to about 40cm.

Throughout the blooming period I find deadheading, that’s cutting off flowers past their best, very therapeutic. Most roses will then produce more blooms to reward you for tidying them up. Look out for suckers, these are long wild shoots that grow from the lower parts of
the plant. They can be cut off at the base, they won’t ever flower and are a useless drain of the plant’s resources – hence the name.

Feeding and watering

Your plants should thrive as long as you follow these basics rules. Always keep the area at the base
of the plants clear of debris, like old dead leaves and competing plants. This will allow the air to move freely avoiding nasty pests or diseases getting a grip! Get some general- purpose high potassium plant food, either liquid or the stuff you can sprinkle around the base of the plant. Follow the instructions for the type you decide on.

Remember to water ground planted roses well every week and remember the ones that are in containers will dry out much quicker so every couple of days will help them do well.

I hope this advice will demystify the subject of roses and encourage some of you to have a go at growing these beauties.

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