Caring for Roses Top Tips – From Feeding to Rose Pest Protection
Caring for Roses – Cultural Routine
Thinning New Rose Shoots
The great majority of modern roses are naturally free growing. Practically every eye left on the plants afterwill ‘break’, ie start new growth, and for that reason I often find it necessary to supplement with judicious thinning of the new shoots towards the end of April.
Surplus shoots, and particularly those growing inwards and so threatening to crowd the centre of the plant, may be pinched out between finger and thumb. Sometimes the bud to which the shoot has been pruned goes blind and refuses to grow. When this occurs the shoot should be pruned again to the first live shoot or bud, otherwise the stem above this will die. Such ‘snags’ of dead wood often provide an entry point for diseases such as canker and die-back.
Hoeing, Mulching and Feeding Roses
Hoeing should be done fairly frequently when thesurface is reasonably dry as it keeps down weeds and aerates the soil. The regular dressings of organic material are best applied as a mulch spread over the surface of the rose beds after pruning. This reduces the loss of moisture from the soil, and besides rotting down to provide food for the roses, it acts as an excellent weed barrier, enough to last until the plants are in full leaf and creating heavy shadow to suppress weed growth among them.
Horse manure containing a good deal of litter is the best material, but horticultural peat or spent hops will serve well, especially if supplemented by a scattering of a good all-purpose fertiliser or, better still, a specially blended rose fertiliser.
Whether roses are watered in dry weather must be decided largely by the available water supply. Established plants are capable of surviving a fairly prolonged drought but growth and flowering will be improved if the soil can be kept reasonably moist right through. If water is given, sufficient must be allowed to soak right down into the soil, and once started it should be continued at regular intervals until sufficient rain falls to replenish the soil. It is a mistake to water roses for a while and then stop while the weather remains hot and dry because roots will have tended to grow upwards towards the water and they will suffer severely from drought. Without any watering, the roots would have tended to grow downwards out of harm’s way.
It is surprising how spraying the bushes with clean water in the cool of the evening will counteract the influence of parching sunshine.
If large individual blooms are required, debudding must be practised. This is usually confined to hybrid tea varieties, most of which produce buds in clusters but not all in a cluster opening at the same time as in. To obtain quality each cluster must be reduced to a single flower. For preference the central bud, which will also be the most advanced, should be retained, and the others removed in their very early stage.
This should be a matter of routine and it is dealt with in detail under Top Tips for Rose Pests and Diseases.
Faded Flowers on Your Rose Bushes
These should be removed without delay as, if left, the later cropping may be reduced. At first the flowers may simply be snipped or broken off, but later, as the first flush of blossom declines and all the flowers on a stem have faded, the whole stem should be out back a full eight or nine inches to encourage the growth of strong new shoots to provide a second crop of bloom.
I always like to have some roses in the house and find that, by regularly cutting blooms with good long stems, this summer pruning is automatically achieved on the bushes used for this purpose and they are all the better for it.
I keep a close lookout throughout the season for suckers growing from the roots below the union of the rose and the rootstock. Despite the fact that there are several distinctive features by which suckers may be recognised, I often see them allowed to reach considerable size before being removed.
Briar suckers have small pale green leaves, and those of the rugosa stock can be identified by their rough crinkled leaves and dense stem covering of prickle-like spines. Suckers of Rosa laxa and R. polyantha, two other popular rose stocks, are both fairly distinct from the growth of garden roses, but whenever I am in doubt, I trace the stem back to its point of origin. If this is below the point of budding, recognisable on bushes, climbers and ramblers as a slight swelling or irregularity in the main stem just above the roots and usually below soil level, I then know that the shoot is a sucker.
Standard roses are worked high up on the main stem of the stock and so all shoots below the head of branches are suckers and must be removed as soon as these are noticed.
Autumn Care for Roses
Caring for roses is by no means finished once the blooms fade – the practice which I mentioned of cutting back by half, in the autumn, hybrid teas to be hard pruned in March, is equally sound for any other taller growing or large bush variety. Weakly growths can be cut right back and very long stems can also be shortened by a third or even a half to reduce wind resistance and so prevent the roses being pulled about by winter gales. All fallen leaves, petals and prunings must be carefully gathered and burnt. Left lying on the ground they are a menace, as the winterof several diseases may be carried on them and re-infect the trees the following spring.
For the beginner, caring for rose bushes may seem a little daunting, but with enough of the right research, and dedication, you will soon learn the ropes as it were and reap the rewards of the investment of your time and effort.