Caring for Roses – The Rose as a Shrub

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Caring for Roses

We have become accustomed to treating roses strictly as plants for beds where we isolate them and where they thrive and look very lovely. I am not criticising this method for I grow many roses this way myself but I would like to put forward an idea (not a new one) that roses should also be considered as shrubs and allowed to grow their own way. The old-fashioned kinds and species, as well as some modern varieties are often called shrub roses.

The species also have among them some very striking members ideal for gardens which have space for them, especially informal or wild gardens. The lovely R. moyesii has fabulous single dark red velvety flowers but like so many of these species these are singleand do not live so long as the full petalled modern roses. It is possible to raise species roses from seed.

The tremendous number of variations and hybrids have resulted in so many names and so many forms that it is difficult without considerable study to define rose types accurately and I pity the poor amateur when I have so much difficulty myself! Even the definitive Royal Horticultural Society, Dictionary of Gardening remarks rather plaintively:

“in one recent classification no fewer than 48 classes are named and even then some groups which have distinctive horticultural characteristics are combined with others. So great a sub-division to a large extent defeats its own ends and rather tends to confuse than to clarify”.

I am inclined to agree!

The RHS. itself defines ten groups:

Tea-scented, Noisette Rose  Gloire-de-Dijon Hybrid Tea, Hybrid Perpetual, China and Hybrid China, Tea-scented, Noisette, Dwarf Polyantha, Hybrid Polyantha, Hybrid Musk, Penzance Briars, Hybrid Wichurianas.

The modern roses, hybrid teas and floribundas and those which Americans call grandifloras (the floribunda-type variety with great clusters of blooms as big as hybrid teas, such as Queen Elizabeth), usually do better on their own, not mixed with an assortment of plants, mostly because they dislike having the soil round their roots continually disturbed.

This is one reason why bulbs which have to be lifted annually are not good mixers and should not be used to make rose beds colourful in spring. Any hoeing carried out in summer to keep weeds down should be shallow. I use a modern hoe, almost oval in shape, with knife-sharp serrated edges, which skims the surface only and which I find to be an efficient tool for this purpose.

When to Plant Roses

The traditional planting time for roses is any time between November and early April; roses on sale in canisters may be planted in the summer months even when they are in flower.

Caring for roses is of utmost importance, and you should uncover them as soon as they arrive. If you cannot plant them because the ground is frosted, or for some other reason, then store them in a frost-proof place. While you do this, keep the roots moist by wrapping a damp sack round them or pack them into boxes or other containers filled with moist peat and let them stay until the weather is more favourable.

Choose a sunny open position to plant your roses. They do not grow well under trees. But watch that they are protected from wind or they become rocked which is not good for them.

Give the roses plenty of room. The bush types, including the polyantha and floribunda type as well as hybrid tea, should not be closer ever than 18 inches. You can give them a little more room if you wish. Climbers and ramblers need to be at least 2-1/2 ft. apart. If you are going to plant standards among your rose bushes put the standards 4-5 ft. apart. You can alternate a rose bush between them.

Hybrid Wichuriana - Fortunes Double Yellow If you intend making a rose bed, begin preparing the soil in October if you can. Roses like a deep, rich and slightly heavy soil. Try to get some well rotted animal manure and apply it generously. The ideal is one hundredweight of manure to roughly eight square yards! Failing animal manure, use rotted compost. If you can get only a little organic manure try to mulch with it annually. Add also four to six ounces of bone-meal to a square yard. If you are cutting the bed from a grass patch you can use the turves you skim off the top. Bury them under the soil as you dig placing the grass side downwards. Do not use lime.

Planting is just the start of caring for roses – when you plant, spread out the roots well as directed for shrubs and, as for other shrubs, go round and firm well after winter gales and at other times during the year.

Pruning Roses

When you plant the bushes, you need to prune them more severely than you will later on when they become established. Cut the shoots back to within three “eyes” of the base. This means three buds counted from ground level. It is not always easy to see that these are buds. Often they more resemble the eyes of a potato, hence their name. Usually the third bud or eye comes just a few inches above ground level. But it is worth going to the first or down to the second bud to choose one which points outwards from the centre of the bush even if this means cutting the stem very short. This will give you nicely shaped bushes later on for the shoot will grow out the way the bud is pointing.

You need to cut all types of bush roses this way, hybrid teas, polyantha or floribunda roses. The two latter should be cut right back the first year, and then in later years cut to about half the length of the strong shoots. In all bushes always cut away any weak or dead wood. General principle: prune to keep centre open, to get rid of dead and weak shoots, to keep growth within bounds and to preserve strength for the production of flowers.

For climbing roses it is best to remove any weak or unripe (soft) wood and trim the two or three longest shoots by about one third their length. As a rule these come from the rose grower pruned ready for planting.

Ramblers should have the flowering wood removed nearly to the base after flowering in August. This will encourage new shoots to break from the bottom and these should be trained in position in the autumn. These new shoots will bear the flowers the following summer. Try to “horizontalise” the growth of ramblers and climbers. This way they will bear more flowers. Train new shoots as horizontally as possible if you have to take them up to a certain height. Allow the top portion to run horizontally. When pruning climbers cut always to a bud pointing in the direction you wish the shoot to grow and tie in the shoot as soon as it reaches a convenient length.

Grandiflora Rose - Queen Elizabeth Caring for roses – standard roses should be treated the same way as the bush type. Cut the shoots back to within four to six inches of the base of the graft, the spot where the bush joins the main stem.

The main rose pruning is done in March, but there are some roses that can receive attention through the winter. All those we call remontant (those that continue flowering as long as they possibly can), bourbon, hybrid musk, noisette, rugosa, hybrid perpetual and hybrid tea, should have the flowering stems cut away so that they arc encouraged to keep on growing.

The most important thing is to see that its roots are cool and that there is food easily available. The second is to see that the rose does not suffer from pests and predators but that the foliage and flowers continue to grow, the leaves glossy with health. The third is that all faded flowers should be constantly removed, incidentally a form of pruning which everyone can understand. All these essentials are easy to ensure.

We must realise that if our roses are ill, one of the reasons is our method of growing them. We’re not looking after them properly! Good feeding, a protective mulch of grass clippings, or some other material, careful destruction of diseased prunings, proper pruning at the right time, all these will give you much cleaner plants and better blooms. When you feed, remember that too much nitrogen will give lush, tender and susceptible growth, so encourage strong healthy growth with a spring dressing of sulphate of potash, 3 ozs. to a square yard.

The classic rose fertiliser (Tonk’s) is obtainable made up from most garden stores or can be mixed yourself from: (by weight) 10 parts nitrate of potash, 12 parts superphosphate of lime, 2 parts sulphate of magnesium, one part sulphate of iron and 8 parts sulphate of lime. Apply in April at 4 ozs. per square yard. Several fertilizer companies have prepared their own specialised rose feeds, largely based on this formula but sometimes containing additional materials. Basic balanced fertilisers are almost as good and will save you money. If you feed thoroughly and correctly in the spring, don’t bother again unless you are growing for exhibition. If you’ve been less enthusiastic, a normal garden fertiliser two or three times throughout the summer will keep the plants growing and flourishing.

Protection from Pests

Caring for roses too involves protection from pests. Main pests are aphids, thrips, caterpillars; main diseases are mildew, black spot and rust. Two sprays can control all these: insecticides such as Lindane, Malathion, Sybol and fungicides such as Dithane, Tulisan, Hexyl Plus, Captan. Some can even be mixed (e.g. Sybol and Tulisan) to give complete control in a single spray. The comparatively new systemic pesticides are absorbed by the plant and give immunity against pest attack for as long as a month.

14. October 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Pruning Roses, Rose Care, Roses | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Caring for Roses – The Rose as a Shrub


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