Tino Carnevale: Top tips for ensuring that everthing comes up rosy in your garden.
TINO CARNEVALE used to be of the opinion that every rose had its thorns and that the ubiquitous bloom was not for him but after a recent spate of successful blooming experiences, has had a change of heart
Ilove the way that new gardeners progress through an appreciation of different plants and feel I have recently crossed a bridge with my own. I have always had a complicated relationship with the rose but I now have two populating my garden and here I am writing about them. I should probably explain. While the genus Rosa is a truly amazing group of plants, my history with them has been pruning other people’s plants, involving much pain and loss of blood without the payoff of being around when they bloom. Many people wax lyrical on social media with phrases along the lines of ‘gardening is therapy and you also get tomatoes’ but I have lifelong scars that state otherwise.
The fact that they are one of the most ubiquitous ornamental garden plants is testimony to their appeal. They are tough yet they produce one of the most elegant flowers and the perfume from scented varieties is heady and sweet.
There are a gazillion different varieties
I am happy to say that I now believe that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet
of rose in every colour and flower form but it’s not something I have space to cover here, so rather than getting into the breeders and the lineage of the varieties I will have to settle for defining their habits. There are a number of different habits that will suit most garden situations. The main one you will see is bush roses which are usually bought over the winter when bare-rooted but are available all year round in pots. I suppose the appeal of buying at the moment is that they are in full bloom so you can see exactly what you’re getting. There are climbing roses and there are prostrate forms and as I mentioned before there are miniatures that have smaller leaves and flowers. Patio and standard roses are those that are grafted onto rootstock which has been trained into a single stem. There isn’t any real difference, just that a patio stands at around 60cm and a standard is slightly taller at around 90cm. They can be a bit pricey but they are perfect if you are wanting a formal look. As the name patio
rose suggests they are great in courtyards and pots, although I have cared for all these kinds of roses and all of them are quite happy with a confined root zone.
An open sunny position will provide you with a happy bush and more numerous and splendid flowers, they will also grow in part shade and I have found many of the miniatures to be fairly adaptable understorey plants. They love a deep rich soil but as I said they are tough and can cope with a range of soil types from clay to sand. No matter what the soil, I like to add a lot of organic matter when planting and to keep adding it in the form of mulch and of fertilisers like wellrotted manures in the spring.
As far as pruning goes, deadheading will help keep the plant vigorous as it won’t be putting effort into developing hips, it will keep the plant looking tidy and depending on the species you can promote more flowers. I trim any shoots that skyrocket during the summer especially if they are over a path or if it ruins the plant’s shape but the main prune is in winter. For this, depending on the form, I use the ethos of cold heart, sharp blade. A few tips when pruning roses – take out any dead or diseased wood first and try to prune some space in the interior of the plant to allow for air circulation. Make sure your tools and your cuts are clean. Your cut should be angled so water won’t pool on it and without ragged edges. Place your cut as close to a bud as possible without cutting into it.
Although growers have been breeding resistance into modern rose varieties there are a number of pests that just seem to be consistent with roses like unwanted sidekicks and this is especially true of older varieties. These are things like black spot, powdery mildew, mosaic virus, thrips and the whole colour spectrum of aphids. Many of these in most seasons will only affect the flowers and vigour of your plant but these beautiful battlers will tend to soldier on.
The rose is surely one of the most referenced flowers in poetry, music and fine art and although I used to be of the opinion that every rose has more than its fair share of thorns I am happy to say that I now believe that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.