Jenny Williams, the gardener extraordinaire behind The Laundry Rocks blog, introduces us to her favourite roses and explains the best rose care techniques. Over to you, Jenny!
My love for roses started about ten years ago… after we had finished building some wide steps, with rather high retaining walls either side, outside the kitchen to our previous house. I wanted to plant something to frame the emptiness at the top of the steps. It needed to be something that gave me an abundance of flowers with lots of fragrance. After lots of thought and garden visits, I decided to use rose ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, a decision I’m glad I made because the performance and pleasure it gave, year on year was spectacular!
I was hooked!
When we came to move house, I made a promise to myself to find a space for a rose in every bed and border! Starting with Gertrude Jekyll, along with the many more that took my fancy, and to this day and over 50 roses later I have done just that!
Our Rose Maintenance
Last year we decided to start a strict pruning and feeding regime. As we now have so many roses, it’s important to us that they are looked after properly. All roses are hungry feeders, which makes sense as they produce such beautiful flowers in abundance.
Books on roses will tell you about all the pests and diseases that can affect them. Here are the main 4 methods we use to get the best performance.
PRUNE – MULCH – FEED – SPRAY
We begin our pruning in the early spring, aiming to be finished before the end of March. I find that if we have a warm early spring, the plant starts throwing out lots of new shoots that are vulnerable and easily knocked off while you are snipping away! I like to start by stripping away all of the old leaves from last year, followed by cutting out any dead and diseased wood. My aim is to end up with an open shape without any crossing stems and roughly halved in size. This mostly applies to what I call my boarder/shrub roses.
With the climbing roses, using a similar method to the shrub roses. I find it easier to start at the base and work your way up, trying to trace each stem from bottom to top and deciding which direction it needs to go, if there are too many stems coming from the base it can become congested, so try and limit the uprights to about 2-5 depending on the area it’s covering. Cut back the side shoots (laterals) back down to 3 shoots. Make sure your secateurs are sharp and clean. The cut you make should be at an angle just above a bud.
After all pruning is complete, make sure all old leaves that are on the ground are cleared and disposed of by burning or are binned! This is because any black spot that is present on the leaves can contaminate our compost. Next, apply a thick layer of mulch around the base, in the form of bagged organic farmyard manure or some well rotted local manure.
3- Spray and Feed
As soon as the leaves appear in early spring, we spray with foliar feed. Thereafter, we alternate that with doses of systemic fungicide, again in the spray form. As well as the above, we use a granular feed once the leaves begin to appear, and again after the first flush of flowers have faded. This will give the plant an extra boost of nutrients after working hard producing a good crop of flowers!
If we have a dry spell, usually after a weeks worth of no rain and the soil is beginning to look parched, we give each rose a whole watering can full of water, preferably in the evening when the sun has gone down (and the gin comes out!).
Throughout the summer months, when our roses are flowering their socks off, we try and dead head as soon as the flowers begin to fade.
I enjoy this job, especially if it’s on a beautiful warm evening, drifting from one, to the next, enjoying their scent and beauty whilst filling a bucket of colourful rose petals! It’s a quick and easy job, you can either snap the flower head off the stem or take some secateurs and cut back to two or three buds below the flower (or cluster of flowers). We have a handful of roses here that produce beautiful red hips, so I have to resist cutting their flower head off!
- Uncle Tom’s Rose Tonic
- Bayer Garden- Multirose feed
- Blood Fish and Bone
- Homemade compost, bagged organic manure or well rotted horse manure (if you live near a livery)
Most modern cultivated roses are more robust and disease resistant, so you might find the spraying unnecessary. Here we find, that because our garden is mostly walled, and there are so many roses to care for, its better to be safe than sorry!
Above from left to right are, R- Cheshire (an excellent healthy ground cover rose that flowers until the frosts!) , R- Winchester Cathedral (pure white repeat flowering) R- Pilgrim (we use as a climber, can be kept as a bush too, amazing fragrance!) R- Lady Emma Hamilton (my hubby bought me 12 of these for my 40th birthday, they are low growing with a stunning colour and fragrance).
Most of the roses we have carry a story behind them, or have been a gift. Almost all have a reason for their placement in a certain area within our garden. Taking lots of pictures is something I do a lot throughout the year, not only of the roses but of all other plants too. It’s a wonderful reminder of what works well, while providing me with a record for the future.
A memorable place we visited, where we enjoyed an incredible display of roses was at the gardens of Alnwick in Northumberland, it was there we fell in love with Rose ‘Winchester Cathedral’ amongst many others! It’s definitely a place I hope to revisit one day.
One of the many books we are using as a guide, and that I recommend having, is ‘Alan Titchmarsh How to Garden: Growing Roses’. It’s packed full of essential techniques, step by step diagrams and some nice pictures of his recommended varieties.
I could go on, and on about this favourite plant of mine, and I hope that if you don’t already own a Rose you might find a place for one in your garden…