Alexandra Campbell starts a rose-tinted rebellion
Alexandra Campbell decides it’s time to start a rose-tinted rebellion.
THIS year I decided we need more roses in this garden. Although roses remain the UK’S most beloved and popular flower, they haven’t been fashionable for a while.
Some gardeners and garden designers say that the rose is a beautiful flower but an ugly plant. Others point out that roses are particularly vulnerable to pests and diseases, such as black spot or aphids.
But roses lift the spirits in summer, so I shall brave the fashionistas and fungal diseases and plant more.
November and February are the best time to plant bare-root roses, although you can plant containergrown roses at any time.
You can buy diseaseresistant roses, and most newer varieties have some disease resistance, but the RHS says that “fungus (e.g. black spot) is genetically very diverse, so resistance bred into new varieties usually fails to last because new strains of the fungus arise to overcome it.”
A rose with inbred disease resistance will take a few years to fall victim to the new strains, so why not take the risk? Nothing lasts for ever, after all.
This year I planted a new rose called “Burgundy Ice”. It flowered vigorously all July. I then pruned it and have enjoyed a second lavish display of beautiful dark red blooms from late August through to midOctober.
I will be very happy to get just a few years of such abundance, although many roses last for decades in good health.
If you want roses that will survive anything, then species roses are a good choice. They’re the original wild roses from which garden roses were bred, and they’re very resistant to disease.
They usually have single flowers, tend to be thorny and are wildlife-friendly, with beautiful rose hips.
It’s not easy to search for species roses as such, but rose growers such as David Austin Roses and Peter Beales (www.classicroses.co.uk) have easy “how to choose your rose” forms on their websites.
Species roses usually come up under “single flowered” or “disease resistant”, and then you’ll see the word “species” in the name or description.
I have a Rosa glauca species rose, and have also grown Rosa rugosa Roseraie de L’hay, a popular species rose.
Species roses can be quite sprawling, so if you want a more formal rose, search the disease-resistant categories on the websites and then plant it well.
Everyone knows rose replant disease, which happens when you replace a rose in the same spot where another rose has grown. But you can avoid it.
Dig out the soil where the former rose grew so that the hole is about 18 inches larger than the root ball was, and replace with a mix of new soil and well-rotted manure or compost.
When planting roses, use either rose fertiliser or mycorrhizal fungi (such as Empathy Rootgrow). Don’t use both, because there are ingredients in the fertiliser that stop the mycorrhizal fungi working.
Mycorrhizal fungi work as an extension to plants’ roots, and help increase the way they take in nutrients.
If your rose is grafted, then the knobbly bit where the rose root has been joined to the main stem must be above the soil.
Once you’ve planted your rose, follow the pruning instructions (they’ll be on the label, or ask the rose grower). Then, in spring, add rose fertiliser and cover with compost or well-rotted manure.
A well-fed, well-planted rose will resist disease better. Water thoroughly two to three times a week in the first two summers to let it get its roots down.
Meanwhile I have just ordered three “Harry Wheatcroft” roses. These are 1970s carnival-striped red and yellow hybrid tea roses, and have completely fallen out of fashion. That should have the rose police choking over their cucumber sandwiches. ■