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’.