MONTY DON

Why buy scent­less, mass-pro­duced roses when you can treat your Valen­tine to a rose bush that will flower year af­ter year, says Monty Don

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - NEWS -

For­get over­priced high street blooms and treat your sweet­heart to a real rose bush, says our gar­den­ing ex­pert – it’ll flower for years to come

Have you booked the restau­rant and or­dered can­dles and a vi­olin­ist on the side? Made sure that roses and favourite choco­lates are avail­able? You mean you for­got it was Valen­tine’s Day on Tues­day? Or, even worse, you’ve never paid it any at­ten­tion since you got mar­ried – and that was more years ago than you care to re­mem­ber? Of course not. Heaven for­fend. You’re ro­man­tics to the core, each and ev­ery one of you.

But I con­fess that, as a gar­dener, it pains me to see so much money be­ing spent on so many mil­lions of rather nasty, scent­less, mass-pro­duced red roses. I un­der­stand that they are largely sym­bolic, rather than in­tended as the per­fect rose, but for the same money as the cheap­est dozen red roses you could buy the most ex­pen­sive rose plant avail­able that would en­rich your gar­den with scores of blooms for years to come.

And now, the mid­dle of Fe­bru­ary, is the ideal time to plant a rose, whether you buy one that is ‘bare root’ (that is, with no soil around the roots) or grow­ing in a con­tainer. It makes no dif­fer­ence if the rose you choose is a hy­brid tea, shrub, climber or ram­bler – this is the per­fect mo­ment and the tech­niques for plant­ing are the same.

The first thing to do is to se­lect the best site. Roses can live for a long time – I have some that are still go­ing strong af­ter 30 years. They do not like be­ing moved, so con­sider the best place where they will grow well and please you. Most roses like full sun­shine al­though a few, such as the beau­ti­ful ‘Sou­venir du Dr Ja­main’ need some shade and most will flower well as long as they get some sun dur­ing the day. But, if in doubt, a sunny spot is al­ways good.

If they are climbers they will need a wall, fence or struc­ture, such as a per­gola, to sup­port them. The ideal soil is rich but well drained – roses fa­mously thrive on clay soils but any ground with plenty of or­ganic ma­te­rial added will do.

If you have a bare-root plant, un­wrap it and place it in a bucket of wa­ter if you’re plant­ing it the same day. Earth it in on a bare piece of ground if you’re plant­ing later. ‘Earth­ing in’ sim­ply means cov­er­ing the roots in soil in a shal­low hole or trench where they will be fine in any weather. A plant in a con­tainer can be set aside un­til you’re ready, but wa­ter it thor­oughly at least weekly.

Dig a hole that’s a spade-length deep, putting the top­soil to one side. Never mix top­soil and sub­soil. Make the hole at least twice the size of the pot and ide­ally 60-90cm (2-3ft) in di­am­e­ter. Loosen the bot­tom and sides of the hole if they are com­pacted but do not add any com­post or ma­nure at this stage. Any rose – or in­deed any woody shrub, climber or tree – will start to grow quicker and bet­ter if you add my­c­or­rhizal pow­der to the roots at plant­ing. This pow­der, which you can buy from a gar­den cen­tre, con­tains fun­gus that acts as a con­duit so the plant has bet­ter ac­cess to nu­tri­ents and mois­ture in the soil. The con­tact has to be phys­i­cal between the my­c­or­rhiza, soil and roots so sprin­kle it di­rectly onto the roots rather than just in the hole.

Place the plant so the top of the com­post level in the con­tainer is just above the sur­round­ing soil level – or, if bare-root, the graft (the bump where the root­stock and va­ri­ety of rose are joined) is at least 2.5cm (1in) above the ground. Grad­u­ally back­fill with top­soil, firm­ing around the roots as you go but keep­ing the graft bump raised above the sur­face so that when planted it rests on a lit­tle cone of soil. This will avoid suck­ers be­ing pro­duced and help min­imise root rock – damage to the roots caused by wind – as the roots will grow faster and stronger. Wa­ter it gen­er­ously and mulch thickly and widely.

The whole process takes much less time than you think and the plea­sure that will re­sult – al­beit ad­mit­tedly not on this Valen­tine’s

Day – will last a life­time.

Monty with a rose plant and shop-bought roses

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