Roses are a delight: they’re almost universally popular and a real garden classic. Many horticulturalists even believe that no British garden is really complete without a rose bed.
But when growing roses means starting from scratch, the process can be daunting. So we offer you this quick guide to starting and maintaining a rose garden.
Roses have an undeserved reputation as a difficult flower to grow. Undeserved, because eight times out of ten the struggling rose grower has made a poor choice when siting their rose bed.
Choose a bad location at the beginning and it will have a major impact on the quantity and quality of your roses, but with a bit of foresight and know-how it’s not difficult to become a successful grower.
It’s important to think about your site before you order your roses. Rose bushes love a well-drained area with a nutrient-rich soil: if your soil is poor, build it up in advance using compost. Additionally, it’s a good idea to pick a position that gets between six and eight hours of sunlight every day.
Something overlooked by almost every new rose grower is the amount of space rose bushes need to thrive. You should allow each rose bush its own plot measuring almost a metre in diameter, an allocation that has the additional advantage of making your rose garden easier to maintain.
So, when estimating how large your rose bed should be, allow as many metres as the number of rose bushes you intend to grow.
One of the first impressions you get of any rose garden is the range and juxtaposition of colours. So colour will almost certainly be one of the primary factors influencing your choice of plant. The next is undoubtedly scent: most rose fans favour varieties with the classic rich, heady rose fragrance, but some find a large concentration of heavily scented flowers overwhelming.
At some point practicalities must intervene, delightful though it is to plan your fantasy rose garden. If you’re new to rose growing you’ll probably want to concentrate on the more low-maintenance varieties, which means leaving fancy but temperamental hybrids for a time when you’re more experienced.
Shrub roses are a fantastic choice for the beginner, since they flower for long periods and are resistant to common diseases. They also yield a plentiful supply of fragrant flowers to cut for indoor arrangements.
This is touched upon above, but it’s worth re-stating in more detail. You’ll plant your roses in the spring, so autumn is the time to start your preparations. Once you’ve earmarked your plot of appropriate size, get digging – go at least half a metre deep – and add your compost plus any necessary soil amendments.
You should allow your prepared rose bed to overwinter under a secure layer of landscape fabric, placed to prevent weeds from establishing themselves in your rich soil. Come spring, all you need to do is work the area through with a garden fork to loosen up any compacted clumps. Then you’re ready for planting.
Once you’ve invested all the hard work of preparing and planting your rose garden, you’ll be frustrated if it doesn’t thrive. Proper watering is one of the key activities in growing healthy roses, and this means a weekly soaking at the base during the growing season. Avoid wetting the foliage when you water, as this will increase your plants’ susceptibility to fungal diseases.
The classic piece of rose care everyone seems to know about is mulching, which entails spreading organic or non-organic material over the soil around the rose bushes. This is an excellent way of keeping moisture in the soil, and mulching even gives some protection to your roses during winter. But don’t forget the need for fertiliser: special rose fertiliser should be applied to the soil during spring, together with a generous amount of well-rotted manure.
Once your rose bushes are established you’ll need to prune them, too. This is another springtime task, and is done with the purpose of improving flowering and improving the appearance of the plant. It’s another procedure with a fearsome reputation, but don’t be put off: pruning – like most of rose cultivation – is nowhere near as difficult as people think.
Have we managed to convince you that roses can be straightforward plants to grow? Excellent. Now start planning your rose garden!
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