Roses ad­vice

With their clas­sic beauty and heady scent, roses have a promi­nence in our gar­dens that tran­scends time and trends. Learn how to get the most out of them in their bloom­ing sea­sons

Period Living - - Contents - Words and pho­to­graphs Leigh Clapp

Get the most out of your blooms in 2019 and cre­ate stun­ning dis­plays

Roses are one of the most ver­sa­tile plants for any set­ting. With their wide va­ri­ety of colours, sizes and growth habits, they can be planted in ded­i­cated beds, among a jos­tle of other plants in bor­ders, draped over arches and walls, used as colour­ful ground cover, or se­lected for con­tain­ers.

Plant­ing con­sid­er­a­tions

Pro­vide roses with the right grow­ing con­di­tions and you’ll be re­warded by the re­sults. There are so many dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties avail­able that it is pos­si­ble to select ones for nearly any lo­ca­tion in the gar­den. Most, how­ever, pre­fer an open, sunny spot, with a min­i­mum of four hours’ sun­light, and all need a well-drained soil. Avoid ex­posed lo­ca­tions, too, as wind can dam­age blooms and cause evap­o­ra­tion of mois­ture from fo­liage.

To achieve the best re­sults, in­cor­po­rate some well-rot­ted com­post or ma­nure in the soil when plant­ing. Wa­ter­ing is im­por­tant un­til the rose is es­tab­lished, and then these deep-rooted plants can sur­vive on the nat­u­ral mois­ture in the soil. They are hun­gry, though, so be gen­er­ous with feed­ing each spring, and mulching with or­ganic mat­ter to re­tain mois­ture and sup­press weeds. The most eco­nom­i­cal way to grow roses is to plant bare-root spec­i­mens from late au­tumn to early spring.

Rose­bie Mor­ton grows some 30,000 roses across 17 va­ri­eties for The Real Flower Com­pany, which she set up with hus­band Matthew and col­leagues Tim and Mag­gie Hobbs in 1998. ‘It was my mother who in­tro­duced me to Rosa ‘Mar­garet Mer­ril’, the quin­tes­sen­tial English rose with an award-win­ning scent, which would be­come my rai­son d’etre be­hind my ca­reer,’ she ex­plains.

Grad­u­ally, through much trial and er­ror, Rose­bie ex­per­i­mented with var­i­ous roses in her own Hamp­shire gar­den, re­search­ing for­got­ten English va­ri­eties. She ad­vises:

● Know your soil, and look lo­cally to see what va­ri­eties of rose grow there.

● Buy lo­cally, or if by mail or­der do care­ful re­search for the con­di­tions in your area.

● Plant­ing care­fully will give roses a bet­ter start.

● Dig a good-sized hole and add ma­nure and all-round fer­tiliser with the com­post.

De­sign plan­ning

Cre­at­ing a ded­i­cated rose gar­den area, whether for­mal or in­for­mal in style, may be a more con­ve­nient way to care for your roses and dis­play their blooms for greater im­pact. A plan drawn to scale is help­ful when fi­nal­is­ing the de­sign. Sym­me­try with straight or reg­u­larly curv­ing lines suits a for­mal de­sign, and the larger the space the more elab­o­rate it can be. A geo­met­ric shape, such as a square, rec­tan­gle or cir­cle, is the sim­plest to di­vide into com­part­ments.

En­closed beds edged in buxus, myr­tle or privet, cre­at­ing a dec­o­ra­tive parterre, are a clas­sic choice, along with brick or gravel in­ter­sect­ing paths. Sen­tinels of stan­dard roses can line the paths as

guards of hon­our, or be used as cen­tral fo­cal points to draw the eye. In a more in­for­mal de­sign, cas­cade climbers over ar­bours and let old-fash­ioned roses bil­low out of beds edged in laven­der. For in­for­mal styles, colours may be har­mo­nious or eclec­tic.

Choice of blooms

It’s help­ful to be aware of the three main cat­e­gories of roses. Species or wild roses like to sprawl in a nat­u­ral style, are mostly sin­gle-flow­ered, and many have colour­ful hips in au­tumn, such as ru­gosa, glauca, moye­sii and can­ina.

Roses that date from be­fore 1860 are known as

old gar­den roses. These are char­ac­terised by large grace­ful shrubs are mostly sin­gle flow­er­ing, and are richly fra­grant. In­clude alba, gal­lica, damask, cab­bage and moss roses.

Mod­ern roses, which have been bred since the early 20th cen­tury, have char­ac­ter­is­tics of re­peat­flow­er­ing and a striv­ing for dis­ease re­sis­tance, vigour and flower qual­ity. These cover hy­brid teas, flori­bun­das, land­scape, climbers, minia­ture and David Austin English roses.

The di­verse and ver­sa­tile shrub roses, how­ever, do not fit any dis­tinct clas­si­fi­ca­tion. They can be wild rose species and also hy­brids, tak­ing the best of the old, com­bined with mod­ern traits.

With hun­dreds of roses to choose from, it’s easy to be beguiled. While re­peat-flow­er­ing roses will prob­a­bly be the ba­sis of your rose gar­den, in­clude ones that flower only once in June, as they are of­ten the most showy, tend to be health­ier and many are beau­ti­fully scented. Among these are gal­li­cas, some old roses and most ram­blers, with their cas­cades of bloom, in­clud­ing the pretty pale pink ‘Paul’s Hi­malayan Musk’ or creamy-white ‘Wed­ding Day’.

For a long suc­ces­sion of flow­ers, in­clude some spring-flow­er­ing flori­bunda that can bloom con­tin­u­ously from spring to au­tumn, or the pro­lific Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, which blooms spec­tac­u­larly once in May with sprays of small prim­rose yel­low flow­ers. Fol­low your dis­play with the first blooms in sum­mer and se­cond flushes late in the sea­son, and add ex­tra au­tumn in­ter­est from a few spec­tac­u­lar hip va­ri­eties, such as Rosa moye­sii and the ru­gosas.

Michael Mar­riott, se­nior rosar­ian at David Austin Roses, of­fers these tips to get the very best from your re­peat-flow­er­ing choices:

● Dead­head, es­pe­cially va­ri­eties that set hips, as set­ting seed saps en­ergy for flower pro­duc­tion.

● Wa­ter­ing well can en­cour­age flow­er­ing again.

● Hard prun­ing in late win­ter helps to en­cour­age the roses back into ac­tion.

● Feed dur­ing or towards the end of the first flow­er­ing to boost an­other flush.

● Hor­i­zon­tal train­ing of climb­ing roses en­cour­ages more flow­ers.

● Plant three of the same va­ri­ety close to­gether to form one fine shrub.

Echo­ing the past

If you wish to evoke the ar­chi­tec­tural style of your house, Michael Mar­riott of­fers the fol­low­ing ad­vice:

● Vic­to­rian times saw the tran­si­tion be­tween the old roses and the early hy­brid teas. Many of the English roses would be ex­cel­lent for repli­cat­ing this pe­riod with their of­ten strongly fra­grant flow­ers that look like the old roses, and with a much bet­ter habit and cer­tainly much health­ier, too.

● The Ed­war­dian pe­riod saw en­thu­si­asm for the hy­brid teas. They are very dif­fer­ent to the present day hy­brid teas, which have much more stylised flow­ers and very still, up­right growth. Some of the more mod­ern flori­bun­das are per­haps more like these early hy­brid teas. They would have been ➤

planted in neat, for­mal gar­dens, per­haps with stan­dard roses as well.

Cut kindly

What is com­mon to all roses is re­silience. A rose will not be killed by in­ap­pro­pri­ate prun­ing; the worst out­come is that it may not pro­duce any flow­ers that year. Prune the plants in Feb­ru­ary or March when they are bare of leaves, with clean, sharp se­ca­teurs. For spe­cific prun­ing in­for­ma­tion on each type of rose, look at the RHS web­site.

In gen­eral, re­duce the size of bush roses by around a third, give ground-cover roses a light trim, and cut back climb­ing roses after flow­er­ing to suit the struc­ture they are cov­er­ing. David Austin Roses are de­signed to be very for­giv­ing, if you are new to prun­ing, and they need to be cut to gen­er­ally about half their size, cre­at­ing a rounded shape. Wild roses, such as the ru­gosas, need no an­nual prun­ing – just cut away the dead branches from the un­der­side of the shrub ev­ery few years.

Good com­pan­ions

‘Roses aren’t that dif­fer­ent to peo­ple; they don’t like to be lonely but cher­ish their per­sonal space – they are happy planted in groups, but don’t over­crowd them,’ ad­vises Philip Hark­ness, fifth­gen­er­a­tion rose grower of Hark­ness Roses. ‘Roses are very so­cia­ble, won­der­ful mix­ers in herba­ceous bor­ders, and some va­ri­eties will form de­light­ful in­di­vid­ual spec­i­mens.

‘Per­for­mance is a vi­tal el­e­ment in any con­sid­er­a­tion for plant­ing,’ Philip adds. ‘There is no credit to be gained by spec­i­fy­ing a plant­ing plan that in­cor­po­rates va­ri­eties that re­quire con­stant fungi­cide treat­ment.’

Tra­di­tion­ally, the ground around plants was left bare in ded­i­cated rose gar­dens, with just mulch to cool the roots and feed the plants. In­clud­ing some com­pan­ion plant­ing, though, not only looks pretty, but also can help keep down rose pests and dis­ease. Good air cir­cu­la­tion is im­por­tant, how­ever, and roses don’t like too much com­pe­ti­tion. For a uni­form look, use one type of ground cover.

When plant­ing roses in among other plants in the bor­der, think about both when the roses are in flower and when they are not and you want to cam­ou­flage bare stems. Flow­ers that bloom at the same time and are clas­sic choices in­clude gera­ni­ums, pe­onies, del­phini­ums, irises, pop­pies, laven­der, nepeta, cam­pan­ula, lupins and clema­tis. If you choose rose va­ri­eties that re­peat-flower in flushes from June to the first frosts, this al­lows a suc­ces­sion of com­bi­na­tions with your an­nu­als and peren­ni­als that also keep bloom­ing, such as phlox, echinops, lilies, pen­ste­mons and salvias.

Ideas for per­fect pair­ings

● Sprin­kle the area be­neath the roses with alyssum or dwarf Vir­ginia stock seeds for a do-it-once so­lu­tion, as these frothy an­nu­als will self-seed.

● White erigeron and alyssum make a good foil for colour­ful roses.

● Sil­ver or grey ground cov­ers, such as cerastium, look el­e­gant in a for­mal scheme.

● Ice­land pop­pies un­der roses fill the space with colour in early spring, and then the roses come back into bloom.

● To keep in­ter­est over a long sea­son, un­der­plant the roses with low-grow­ing spring bulbs, such as grape hy­acinths or scilla, which will flower when the roses are not at their best.

● Al­chemilla mol­lis makes soft mounds un­der the bases of roses, adding tex­ture.

● Un­der­plant­ing with al­li­ums or salvias acts as a nat­u­ral fungi­cide, keep­ing roses healthy.

Far left: Beau­ti­ful David Austin shrub rose ‘Eve­lyn’ has shal­low cupped flow­ers, flushed soft apri­cot and pink with a rich, fruity scent Left: Rosa ‘Lady of Shalott’ was also bred by David Austin and has lovely deep or­ange blooms flushed with yel­lowy-pink, which re­peat­flower. Hardy and re­li­able, it is a great choice for be­gin­ners

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