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Barbara Lea Tay­lor’s rose he­roes.

Roses need their sec­ond big feed at the be­gin­ning of this month. Fork it in around the dripline and be gen­er­ous.

This will be the roses’ last big feed and, apart from top-ups of liq­uid ma­nure and per­haps treats of an­i­mal ma­nure, it will have to last them through the rest of sum­mer (and au­tumn for some of them). So give them a bucket of what­ever you choose – not a measly hand­ful. We are in­clined to be far too miserly with our feed­ing. A hand­ful forked in around the dripline is not enough for a big strong plant. Try a buck­et­ful and see what hap­pens. I am not talk­ing about com­mer­cial rose fer­tiliser here – stay with the in­struc­tions – but other de­lights such as com­post, an­i­mal ma­nures, sea­grass (well-washed) and mush­room com­post.

Don’t blame your­self if your roses stop flow­er­ing at the end of sum­mer. For some roses, it’s their nat­u­ral cy­cle while oth­ers are pro­grammed to keep on flow­er­ing into win­ter. But they do ap­pre­ci­ate fort­nightly liq­uid feeds in the early morn­ing or evening ( just never in sun­shine).

To ward off black spot, spray with half skim milk, half wa­ter, and add shop-bought fish or seaweed fer­tiliser strictly ac­cord­ing to the in­struc­tions. Do this ev­ery fort­night and with luck it will also keep the pos­sums away – they hate the smell.

Spray­ing to erad­i­cate weeds has killed more roses than any ne­glect.

Just a whiff of killer spray waft­ing on the breeze can do it. And the same goes for laven­der. Ever won­dered why you lose plants from your laven­der bor­ders? Speak to your spray­mas­ter, who will say, “But it couldn’t pos­si­bly have gone that far!”

Yes, it could – and did.

When I first came to Akaroa, I was taken to a gar­den which had this ab­so­lutely gor­geous rose.

The outer petals were large and cop­pery red suf­fused with pale yel­low and cream, but the petals changed colour with the weather and could be apri­cot, pink or ma­roon. It was a Tea rose on a large, strong bush but no-one could tell me its name. I was given a small plant which grew into a big bush, strong and healthy, and I even­tu­ally learned it was ‘Gen­eral Gal­lieni‘, bred in France in 1899 and named for the Gov­er­nor of Mada­gas­car who served with dis­tinc­tion in France’s colo­nial wars. He re­tired as Mil­i­tary Com­man­der in Paris in 1914, only to be called back a few months later when war was de­clared. He saved Paris from early German oc­cu­pa­tion by launch­ing a counter at­tack on the German army which was march­ing to­wards the city.

My fa­ther served in the Bri­tish army in WW1 and although he didn’t talk much about it – none of them did – I re­mem­ber the story of Gen­eral Gal­lieni. So I was de­lighted to have the rose, and you will be too. Spe­cial­ist rose nurs­eries may have it in stock but you will prob­a­bly have to or­der it and be pa­tient.

Jan­uary is a ho-hum month for roses.

Those that flower only once are tail­ing off and those that re­peat bloom are pulling them­selves to­gether for a big ef­fort in Fe­bru­ary.

My favourite rose this year has to be the en­tic­ingly named ‘Mid­night Ram­bler’, listed as a pa­tio climber. Both the bush and the flow­ers are small­ish but per­fectly formed. The flow­ers are deep­est dark­est pur­ple and, like a lot of pa­tio climbers, the bush is tall enough to min­gle with the clema­tis and cre­ate a thor­oughly sat­is­fy­ing com­bi­na­tion. It’s nice to have a rose that picks well – most of them don’t – and is easy to ar­range in a small vase.

We don’t pick our roses nearly enough, for­get­ting that it en­cour­ages the bush to bloom again. Cut just above a five-leaved growth bud if you can.

I have of­ten men­tioned one of my favourite roses, ‘Sou­venir de la Mal­mai­son’. My two climb up and over a pa­tio and have kept it full of flow­ers and per­fume through spring and again in au­tumn for more than 20 years. It’s a glo­ri­ous rose but it does have one fault: the buds are so large and packed with petals that they “ball” in pro­longed wet weather which means they turn into big, brown, soggy lumps – which is what hap­pened this very wet spring. I was sur­prised at how large and plen­ti­ful the soggy lumps were – so fin­gers crossed for a dry au­tumn.

‘Sou­venir de la Mal­mai­son’. ‘Gen­eral Gal­lieni’. ‘Mid­night Ram­bler’.

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