How can I grow better roses in my garden?
Roses are arguably the favourite flower of the western world. They are after all our undoubted symbol of love, with every prospective Romeo bearing gifts of red roses on Valentine’s Day. We also love to grow them in our gardens in spite of the obvious challenge our harsh climate presents to these rather delicate plants.
There are, however, some simple rules that can be followed that will help to ensure that you obtain plenty of satisfaction for your rosarian efforts.
Top rose varieties for the garden
There is a tremendous range of options when it comes to rose types and the more popular ones are as follows:
Miniature and patio roses are perfect for those with small gardens and are ideal for container culture. Both types have compact growth habits less than a metre in height generally with miniatures having very small flowers and patios with somewhat larger blooms.
Climbing roses have stems that just keep elongating indefinitely. The thorns provide loose attachment to whatever support they can find so providing a good strong trellis is the best way to create the shape you are after. Certain popular varieties such as Iceberg come in a climbing form as well as a shrubby habit.
Hybrid tea roses are taller plants and are really better suited to larger gardens. They provide the classic teardrop flower buds that are so well loved as a cut flower. They are, however, rather straggly plants that require a lot of pruning to really look good in a garden situation so only take them on if you are prepared to caress them to their best.
The best advice regarding varietal selection in a country as vast as Australia is to rely on local advice from fellow gardeners, your Mum or the obvious, a local garden centre.
Pests and dIseases of roses
Pests and diseases present a challenge, particularly in humid climates, where fungal diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew can run rampant in the warmer months. It is important to seek local advice and try and chooses varieties that are naturally resistant to such problems to begin with. If you are really averse to spotty leaves you may need to resort to a spray program with one of the many products available for rose diseases. Aphids are the other major problem. These small green or brown insects cluster on the shoot tips like little fat ticks, sucking away at the sap. Whenever you notice a problem use a strong blast from the hose to blow them away.
How do I prune my roses?
Pruning is very important in allowing your roses to reach their full potential.
Roses flower at the ends of their branches as each flush of new growth matures through the warmer months of the year. Therefore each bit of new growth you can encourage will reward you with flowers within a few months. This makes pruning very simple as these are very forgiving plants that can cope with a lot of shaping from your secateurs.
Most roses respond very well to being pruned back hard in the wintertime when most have lost al their leaves. Simply remove any shoots that are looking dead or tangled and try and always cut just above a healthy looking bud that is facing in the direction where it will have room to grow and flower without interfering with other new shoots. You can happily remove up to 75% of the old growth if you really want your rose to make a fresh start and become a lot more compact. This can be done to roses of any age, and is particularly good for any old plants that may appear to be past their use by date due to a long-term lack of TLC.
It is also very rewarding to prune your roses lightly and regularly throughput the warmer months of the year as each flush of flowers comes to an end. To put it simply, as each new shoot grows up and flowers it can be cut back by trimming behind the dead flower/s, making way for a fresh new shoot that will grow away and flower itself within 2 to 3 months. At the same time give the plants a feed with a handful of fertiliser, preferably slow release sprinkled around the base and watered in well. In this way, if you give your rose a light trim in the weeks before Christmas you should be rewarded with a lovely gift of roses for Valentine’s Day!
Mulching is one of the keys to having sensational roses in hot, dry climates. The best way to do this is by providing a rich layer of organic mulch in a 10-15cm thick layer on top of the soil around your rose. Well rotted manure or lucerne hay or pellets is preferred by the rose professionals as it not only keeps an even level of moisture and temperature around the roots but slowly feeds them at the same time as the organic materials rot down. These types of mulches should be added to every 6 months or so as they rot down and the resulting humus washes down to enrich the soil around the roots.