Planting Roses

Reputed to be the world’s favourite flower, and there is evidence that roses have been symbolic to man from the beginnings of civilization.

Planting roses

Until relatively recently nurserymen grew their roses in open ground, traditionally lifting and selling them in autumn after leaf-fall.  Autumn was a favourite planting time for these bare-root plants since they were being planted into soil that had heated up over the summer, a season that was often seen as preferable to spring planting when the soil was colder after winter.

Nowadays most garden plants are container-grown prior to selling, and so with a good root-system that is well-established in it’s own compost, the plants are not immediately dependent on the soil into which they are planted.  Consequently, gardeners today can plant roses almost all year round, and it’s really a matter of working out when is going to suit you best.

Whenever you choose to plant your roses, it’s important to dig a hole about twice the volume of the container it comes in and work in some organic material such as farmyard manure as you back-fill, ensuring that the top of the compost in the pot is in line with the ground level.  Firm the soil well so the plant is stable in the ground.  Water in well to begin with and as required thereafter.  You want the rose to find it’s own moisture and as they are fairly deep rooted this shouldn’t be a problem in the medium to long term.  However, they have been wholly dependent on being provided with water up to now and so may need some irrigation to begin with, or during periods of strong winds or drought, particularly in the first year.

One important point to mention is that roses can suffer ‘soil sickness’ and new roses may not do as well if they’re planted where old roses have recently been removed.  But if you absolutely must have the new rose in the same spot as the old rose you’ve just removed, simply dig out a large pit (approximately 50cm wide and deep) and exchange the soil for fresh soil from another part of the garden.  The excavated soil should be fine for other plants, or for roses in due course, but for best results, introduce fresh soil if you’re replanting roses where roses have recently been grown.

Pruning roses

There seems to be a lot of mystique about pruning roses, but it’s really not that difficult.

The first thing to remember is that most modern roses are grafted – this is where the grower selects a rose that has good strong roots and grafts on a rose that has other particularly good qualities such as flower, scent or disease resistance, producing a plant that combines the best of all attributes.  You must keep the graft (it is usually just at the base of the main stem) above ground to discourage stems growing from the rose that has been used for the roots (known as the root-stock).  If you do find shoots coming from the rootstock, trace them back to where they are sprouting and pull them off.

We like to prune our roses well back in the autumn to reduce the amount of the rose that will be subjected to winter weather, but as with most gardening, there is no ‘one rule fits all’, and some gardeners swear by pruning in late winter or very early spring.  Whenever you decide to prune your roses, here are a few common-sense recommendations:

  • – Use sharp secateurs – a good clean cut heals quickest, preventing disease getting into the plant
  • – Angle the cut so that moisture (such as rain) will drain off quickly, allowing the cut to dry out and heal as soon as possible
  • – Cut off any dead or diseased wood, and dispose of it away from the garden – if you put it into your compost heap, you are allowing the disease to multiply in your garden
  • – Dead-head regularly

Recently, Kent & Stowe have re-introduced an old-fashioned, and in our view, eminently practical set of rose secateurs that allows you to cut the stem and hold it so you can get the cut stem out of the bush without dropping it or causing yourself too much injury!  If you’ve ever struggled to prune a particularly vigorous rose, you’ll know exactly what we mean!
Click here to see the rose cut-and-hold secateurs