This week: roses aren’t just for Valen­tine’s Day says

Hannah Stephen­son

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GREEN SPACES - Wendy Tob­bit is the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust me­dia manager. Her col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly

Nest boxes should be put up where they won’t catch the sun too much, a site where the en­trance faces north or east is best, and then they should stay dry, shel­tered from the pre­vail­ing wind and rain.

To help the birds feather their own nests you could make a nest­ing bun­dle for them, and hang it up where you can watch from in­doors as the birds pick off their favourites.

sim­ple nest­ing bun­dle is made from re­cy­cled nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als such as moss, dry grass, bits of coir mat­ting, straw and wool rolled around a stick with small branches to hold the ma­te­ri­als to­gether.

Even dog and cat fur will make very good nest­ing ma­te­rial for birds.

If you al­ready have nest boxes up in your gar­den, spend a few min­utes clean­ing them out. Take care be­cause you may find hi­ber­nat­ing but­ter­flies or bees, and you won’t want to disturb them.

But as soon as they’ve gone, you can clean out the old nest­ing ma­te­rial and the box will be ready for this year’s young fam­ily.

Down­load the nest box mak­ing in­for­ma­tion sheet from: gar­den­ing-wildlife

AI’M not want­ing to put a damp­ener on ro­mance, but I re­ally be­grudge my hus­band pay­ing a for­tune for roses on Valen­tine’s Day when the same money could have gone on a living rose that I can plant in my gar­den and en­joy for years to come.

In­deed, roses may not be in bloom nat­u­rally in Fe­bru­ary, but they will pro­vide you with plenty of colour and scent in the sum­mer months if you give them a lit­tle TLC and plant them where they’re happy. It’s also now a per­fect time to or­der bare-root roses to plant dur­ing the dor­mant sea­son so they can get a head-start for sum­mer.

There are so many types of roses but if you want to plant them among other spec­i­mens in beds and bor­ders, then English Roses by David Austin are prob­a­bly your best bet, they are re­peat-flow­er­ing, re­li­able and of­ten dis­ease re­sis­tant (although al­ways check on the la­bel or ask some­one if you’re not sure). Many are good for cut­ting although per­son­ally I can’t bear to cut my own roses. I would much rather they flour­ish in the gar­den.

Good red roses are dif­fi­cult to breed. The chal­lenge is to get a good com­bi­na­tion of both fragrance and health and dark red roses in par­tic­u­lar are sub­ject to burning in the sun. But if you have your heart set on one, look out for ‘Darcey Bus­sell’, a com­pact, bushy va­ri­ety which flow­ers all sum­mer, pro­duc­ing clus­ters of rosette-shaped flow­ers of deep crim­son and a fruity scent. It’s ideal for a smaller gar­den, a nar­row bor­der or even a large pot.

I al­ways find red quite a hard colour to match, pre­fer­ring the pinks and pas­tel shades of other English roses in­clud­ing the fra­grant ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, which I grow up an obelisk in my mixed bor­der with Clema­tis ‘Nelly Moser’, a beau­ti­ful pink and white-striped hy­brid. To­gether, they pro­vide a stunning dis­play in June and be­yond.

Roses are hun­gry feed­ers, so make sure you add plenty of or­ganic mat­ter such as well-rot­ted ma­nure or com­post to the soil be­fore plant­ing, dig­ging a hole much big­ger than the roots so that they can eas­ily spread out and make sure the sur­round­ing soil is cul­ti­vated, not com­pacted, or the roots won’t spread. When planted, the base of the stems should be about 3in (7.5cm) be­low ground level. Newly-planted roses will also need to be kept well wa­tered when they are try­ing to es­tab­lish. Add rose fer­tiliser in March or April, at the start of the grow­ing sea­son, and again in June to re­peat-flow­er­ing va­ri­eties and mulch them with com­post in spring.

All roses need four or five hours of sun­shine a day dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son to thrive, although some can take more shade than oth­ers. Avoid ar­eas where there are over­hang­ing branches and dry places where there would be too much com­pe­ti­tion from the roots of other trees and shrubs. Climb­ing roses such as ‘Tess of the D’Ur­bervilles Climb­ing’ should do well on an open north­fac­ing wall.

Shorter com­pan­ion plants can be used around them, al­low­ing the roses to dis­play their beauty to the full. Avoid us­ing in­va­sive peren­ni­als or shrubs which might over­power the roses. In­stead, go for light, airy peren­ni­als such as lady’s man­tle ( Al­chemilla mol­lis), whose soft rounded leaves and lime-green flow­ers make a colour­ful base to your rose bushes and don’t take away the glory of the rose flow­ers. Pale pink va­ri­eties like ‘ Eglan­tine’ can be eas­ily part­nered with deep pur­ple peren­nial salvias or peren­nial gera­ni­ums such as ‘John­son’s Blue’. Cop­per-coloured spec­i­mens such as ‘Pat Austin’ make a good match for soft blue nepeta un­der­neath.

The taller English Roses will add height and struc­ture to the mixed bor­der with­out the need for stak­ing, while the more com­pact va­ri­eties are per­fect for the front of the bor­der. It is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to plant roses in small groups in the bor­der as this will cre­ate the most pleas­ing ef­fect.

If you need to fill in space, good an­nu­als which will com­bine well with roses in­clude love-in-a-mist such as Nigella ‘Miss Jekyll’ or the feath­ery Cos­mos bip­in­na­tus, with its large sin­gle flow­ers in white, pink and pur­ple.

And then, of course, we come to prun­ing - but that’s a story for an­other day.

Darcey Bus­sell rose named af­ter the bal­le­rina

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