6 May 2015

Getting the best from roses


This week in partnership with the Allianz Garden Show Ireland 2015’s very own Gardening Guru, Geoff Stebbings from brings you some top tips in how to get the best from Roses.

Hopefully, with some luck, despite the recent cold weather, your roses are growing well. No other hardy shrub gives so much for so little. Sometimes people complain that they need pruning once a year, some are prone to blackspot and they sometimes get greenfly. But this is a small price to pay for a shrub that is colourful, fragrant and flowers for five months. Can you think of another shrub that does all that – and gives you cut flowers too! So I stick up for roses. But there are some key points that will help you have beautiful roses and they formed the basis of the rose garden I planted in 2013 with 300 roses in 40 varieties.

Choose the right roses
To make things easy for you and to avoid disappointment, choose the right roses. It is easy to get very romantic about roses and to plant the ones your mother or grandmother grew but many of these are very prone to disease and are tricky to grow these days. In the past few decades rose breeders have worked hard to make their new roses resistant to disease AND colourful and fragrant. You do not have to sacrifice anything you want in a rose because they are easy to grow. Some modern roses are so healthy they almost never get blackspot. The most famous of these are the ‘Flower Carpet’ roses but, I have to admit, these actually have little scent. But you do get incredibly healthy bushes that flower all summer and autumn. On the other hand you could choose ‘Tickled Pink’, pink ‘You’re Beautiful’, yellow ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ or orange ‘Easy Going’ and have colour and scent. Buy from a specialist grower to get the best varieties and do not be mean. Don’t buy a £3 rose in a supermarket but spend £10 on the best roses. After all they will grow and bloom for 20 years so it is not really extravagant.

Help them be healthy
Roses are heavy feeders but they are lazy and instead of searching for nutrients they want them delivered to them. So you need to feed them and you should do this in spring, just after pruning and again in July after the first flowers have faded. Use a rose food that can be sprinkled over the ground. It is also worth mulching the soil to keep down weeds, retain moisture and improve the soil. Roses need a sunny, airy spot and do not like too much competition but you can interplant them with low herbaceous plants or plants that have seasonal tall spikes such as delphiniums, lupins and foxgloves. Classic partners are lavender around the edge or catmint or hardy geraniums but the choice is almost limitless. Just try to pick plants that will grow below the roses and not compete for light or that have shortlived flowering stems that are taller than the roses. Lilies take up no space and will add to the grace and perfume of the roses. Keeping your roses well fed will help them fight off disease. Never use bark as a mulch under roses – it will remove nutrients from the soil and lead to poor growth and disease.

Prevent disease
Mildew and blackspot are the two worst diseases of roses, though they are not inevitable, even on older varieties. You can help reduce the diseases if you cut the roses back in November to remove all or most of the leaves which can carry the disease over from one year to the next. A spring mulch of compost will help cover fungal spores on the soil that might otherwise splash back onto the plants. But if your roses had blackspot last year you can be pretty certain they will get it again this year and that means you will need to spray. Fungicides, which control fungal diseases, cannot remove disease that is present, only prevent infection so it is no good waiting till you see the black spots, spray now! Ideally you should start spraying in April and spray every two weeks through summer. This is not as onerous as it may sound if you have just a few roses – buy a ready-to-use pack and it need only take a few minutes. If you leave blackspot to develop it will lead to affected leaves turning yellow and dropping prematurely. This will weaken the plants over time.

Of course, this is a worst case scenario and as long as you keep your roses healthy they should be well able to look after themselves and give you months of colour and perfume and be a delight for many years to come.

Antrim Castle Gardens. will be bursting with colour at this year’s Allianz Garden Show Ireland, this three day festival of flowers, food and fun awaits visitors to these magnificent gardens from 8 – 10 May 2015. The packed programme includes appearances by international gurus from the world of gardening and food, including the return of special Festival visitor, Monty Don, on Saturday 9 May. As well as the thousands of plants on display, the new Food Pavilion with local food producers, local craft, tea tent and show gardens, will be fun filled activities appealing to all age groups. Live music, garden theatre, a dedicated kids zone, a garden cinema, and much more.

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