How to grow your best ever roses

Time to stop and smell the roses!

Go Gardening - - Editorial -

Mo­sey out­doors on a warm sum­mer morn­ing, se­ca­teurs in hand. Marvel at the colours, in­hale the scents and wit­ness the bees buzzing hap­pily from flower to flower. It’s prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to feel stress or worry as you ab­sorb yourself in pick­ing a bunch of roses from your very own gar­den.

They’re the most loved, flow­ers in the world and sur­pris­ingly easy to grow. That said, there is quite a dif­fer­ence be­tween grow­ing roses and grow­ing re­ally great roses.


Choose well.

It may be love at first sight, but you’ll love your roses for longer if you en­gage your head as well as your heart when de­cid­ing which va­ri­eties to plant. As well as those to-die-for blooms, there are other im­por­tant at­tributes to con­sider - such as growth habit, fo­liage, dis­ease re­sis­tance and over­all per­for­mance. Go Gar­den­ing cen­tres stock a range of the most re­li­able va­ri­eties. You could also con­sult your lo­cal rose so­ci­ety for va­ri­eties that do well in your area. The New Zealand Rose Re­view pub­lished each year by the New Zealand Rose So­ci­ety is an­other place you can go for in­spi­ra­tion. This is avail­able at

Bear in mind that roses rate well for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, some may be fab­u­lous on a show bench but un­re­mark­able in the gar­den. Oth­ers may have the most eye-catch­ing blooms but no fra­grance. Choose a rose that fits its pur­pose in your gar­den. There are roses for pots, roses for walls, tall roses, short roses, even ground cover roses.

In­vest in top qual­ity plants.

Even the most out­stand­ing rose va­ri­ety may fail to pros­per if it’s had an un­lucky start in life. Buy healthy look­ing plants with no sign of dis­ease. Cheap spindly, bar­gain bin plants are usu­ally false econ­omy.

Give them sun­shine.

Most roses will grow and flower quite well in half-day sun, but gen­er­ally more sun means more flow­ers. On the other hand, a very hot clois­tered spot with no air­flow can be a dis­ease trap so make sure your roses are well ven­ti­lated.

Of course, this must be bal­anced with the need to pro­vide shel­ter from harsh, dam­ag­ing winds. Take care not to plant roses too close to trees as these will de­prive them not only of sun, but mois­ture and nu­tri­ents too.

Soil is ev­ery­thing.

Be­cause roses are longlived plants, it is well worth spend­ing time en­rich­ing the soil be­fore plant­ing. They per­form well on heavy soils that con­tain clay, as the clay par­ti­cles hold onto the sum­mer mois­ture and nu­tri­ents that roses thrive on. How­ever, it is im­por­tant that the soil doesn’t be­come wa­ter­logged. Rais­ing beds 15–20 cm above the ground level and dig­ging in plenty of com­post can sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove drainage. Con­versely, roses can strug­gle on light sandy soil but this also can be reme­died by adding or­ganic mat­ter. So, what­ever your soil, ply­ing it with com­post prior to plant­ing can only be good for your roses. Reg­u­lar mulching fur­ther en­riches the soil.

Plant with care.

Take ex­tra care not to let your roses dry out be­tween pur­chas­ing and plant­ing. When plant­ing container grown roses, care­fully re­move the container and try not to dis­turb the roots or you may dam­age the young feeder roots. Start with a gen­er­ous sized plant­ing hole (at least twice the vol­ume of the roots) then back fill it so that the plant sits with its bud union (that bump on the stem) just above ground level. Mix some sheep pel­lets or a scoop of slow re­lease fer­tiliser into the soil, and then gen­tly but firmly fill around the roots. Thor­ough wa­ter­ing af­ter plant­ing helps set­tle the soil snug­gly around the roots.

Wa­ter deeply.

Deep in­fre­quent wa­ter­ing en­cour­ages young rose roots to grow down into the lower, damper lev­els of the soil, whereas fre­quent light wa­ter­ing of the sur­face en­cour­ages shal­low roots, vul­ner­a­ble in dry weather. Newly planted roses will need a good soak about once a week in their first sum­mer. Once they’re well es­tab­lished, roses in the gar­den can cope with min­i­mal wa­ter­ing, but roses in pots need daily wa­ter­ing over sum­mer. If you have lots of roses, opt for soaker hoses or drip ir­ri­ga­tion in pref­er­ence to sprin­klers, as wet fo­liage in­vites dis­ease.

Cover the soil.

A gen­er­ous layer of or­ganic mulch is worth top­ping up ev­ery spring. This keeps wa­ter in and weeds out, while lift­ing the hu­mus level of your soil – and that means more nu­tri­ents and more wa­ter can be ab­sorbed by your plants. Main­tain a 5-10cm layer. Com­posted leaves, well rot­ted an­i­mal ma­nures - any­thing that once lived, is good for your roses. If us­ing un-com­posted bark or saw­dust as mulch, ap­ply fer­tiliser first as these raw ma­te­ri­als can gob­ble up the soil’s re­serves of ni­tro­gen as they de­com­pose.

Feed them well.

Feed your roses gen­er­ously and they’ll re­ward you with loads of top qual­ity blooms. Ap­ply con­trolled re­lease fer­tiliser or sheep pel­lets in early spring and again in sum­mer to sup­port au­tumn flow­er­ing. Roses also re­spond well to sol­u­ble liq­uid fer­tilis­ers ap­plied reg­u­larly through­out the flow­er­ing sea­son. Many gar­den­ers swear by fish-based fer­tilis­ers.

Lady of Meg­ginch Starry Eyed Gra­ham Thomas

Mary Rose

Flower Car­pet White

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