The rose is probably the most popular plant in most English gardens. It is also one of the oldest in cultivation with fossil evidence of having existed 35 million years ago. It was grown 5000 years ago in Chinese Gardens and 1000 years ago the Romans planted Roses for medicinal purposes, perfumery and to produce “confetti” for celebrations. In England in the 15th century it became a symbol of political power in the War of the Roses between the Lancastrian and Yorkshire factions of royalty. Roses were planted in large numbers in France in the 18th century when repeat flowering varieties became popular. These are the ancestors of our modern varieties today.
We grow Roses in many different ways for the vibrant colours and perfume they add to our gardens in summer and autumn. Roses can be grown to decorate many places whether for a mass display on their own, an addition to mixed shrub and perennial borders, against walls or fences, over arches or pergolas, as standard small trees, as ground cover or a feature in pots on a sunny patio.
Roses are available in a vast array of colours and many have names that highlight occasions like wedding anniversaries and birthdays so make excellent living gifts for gardening friends. Most varieties also make good cut flowers for the house.
Roses will grow successfully in many different soil types but prefer heavy clay to lighter sandy places. It is advisable to add organic material like peat and farmyard manure and a mycorrhizal compound to help the plant to establish a good root system easily.
It is important to plant roses deeply to prevent wind rock which reduces the vigour so dig a hole that allows the soil to cover the graft at the base of the stem by two inches. It is better to plant roses between October and March when the plant appears dormant above ground but it will start to grow roots in the winter months ready for the top rapid spring growth. Most roses need a sunny position. When planting new roses dig farmyard manure into the planting hole to improve the soil structure and mulch the ground surface with bark to retain moisture and smother weeds.
It is important to prune roses to produce the best display. It is essential to use clean sharp secateurs. Do not prune in frosty weather.
Prune Bush and English Shrub Roses by half in November to prevent winter root damage and again in March to 3 outward facing buds. If you cut the plants back by half again after flowering feed with a good rose food and keep watered for about 4 weeks you can enjoy a second flush of flower in early autumn.
Miniature and Patio Roses should be only lightly trimmed in early spring.
Climbing Roses are pruned to maintain their shape so train 4 to 5 long stems horizontally to encourage flowering shoots along the stem. If you are growing over an archway wind the stems as laterally as possible around the upright posts for a lot more flower before training overhead.
Rambling Roses need severe pruning. Cut out the old stems that have flowered and tie in the new ones maintaining a horizontal plane to promote flower buds.
Ground Cover roses can be reduced by half immediately after they flower and will often flower again in the autumn.
Most old varieties of shrub rose flower once in a season on old stems so only need light pruning to remove any diseased or damaged branches and to prevent congestion.
To keep roses free from disease it is important to maintain vigorous growth so feed generously and give plenty of water in dry weather. In November feed with bone meal which is slowly released during winter and from March until June feed with rose food or fish blood and bone. Also put a good layer of mulch around the base of each plant in February to help control any fungus spores in the soil. It is advisable to spray roses when the leaves have grown in spring with a fungicide to control mildew and blackspot and an insecticide if aphids are seen in early May.
There are so many wonderful roses that I cannot begin to recommend varieties. Instead here are a few photos of real specialities.