Tuesday, 19 March 2013

English Roses - treat them like royalty !

I fell in love with English Roses many years ago and bought several, which I then proceeded to murder slowly ... I knew no better ! They are relatively expensive to buy, and are real investments for the garden. My expensive mistake was not to research their likes and dislikes. I have one which survives, a 'yellow 'Graham Thomas', hanging on grimly next to the summerhouse, in deep shade. I now know most of the things I did wrong.

My main mistakes - the first roses were planted in semi-shade which over the years became deeper shade.They don't like a lot of shade. I planted them in grass with just a tiny little planting circle around them. They like space and air and sun. I raked in a few handfuls of fish, blood and bone every spring and left them to it. They like well rotted manure every season. I don't recall watering them in the first couple of seasons. All new plants appreciate watering in times of drought.  They all grew leggy and I don't think they ever saw a pair of secateurs. They should have been pruned every year once established. I also crowded them with other plants and I have learned that they like space around them at least while they are establishing. I never checked them for disease or bugs. Shameful... I have plenty of excuses though - kids, work, dogs, life...

But now I have done the research, and I have learned from bitter experience. This time I will get it RIGHT !

So, in late February this year I researched bareroot English Roses online and found a cracking nursery selling good quality plants at half the price of container grown ones. I had a very happy couple of days browsing the choices and finally ordered for the ones I wanted. Late winter is the ideal time to plant, if the ground is not frozen.

When they came I immediately unpacked them and put them in a bucket of water until I was ready to plant. Then I got this :

How beautiful is that? Four year old, beautifully well-rotted horse manure and it was FREE !  I know my roses will thank me for using that ! All the books say 'use well rotted horse manure' and I used to
think 'Dream on ..." but not anymore!

I researched planting online and found conflicting advice about the level to plant the Graft union (big fat knobbly bit where the graft is made between rootstock and cultivar). Some advised below the soil and some advised at soil level. In the end I went with the RHS who advised 'soil level 'planting, as research has shown more chance of rose dieback if planted below soil level. 
I dug BIG holes , big enough to spread out the roots and to add lots of  manure. I also put a couple of handfuls of bonemeal in the bottom too. Then I backfilled and watered .

Give them space
Give them sunlight (although some can cope with a bit of shade)
Check regularly for disease and aphids etc & treat if necessary
Feed regularly  & use well rotted manure if poss
Prune between 1/3 and 2/3 annually

So this is what I've got:
Charles De Mills (Gallica)
Geoff Hamilton

A Shropshire Lad
Well, I'm sure you've got the idea and don't need to see photos of every rose I planted! I now have a short run of hedging using 'Charles De Mills' and then individual specimens of :

St Swithins                        (pink)
Winchester Cathedral       (white)
William Shakespeare       (crimson)
A Shropshire Lad             (peachy pink)
Teasing Georgia                (yellow)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles  (crimson)
Abraham Derby                (apricot/ pink)
Rosa Mundi  (Gallica)       (bi-colour pink)

I think I have done all I can to make them healthy and happy, but only time will tell.
They are all showing leaf buds which should indicate that they are all rooting well.
Hopefully I will be able to post photos of beautiful blooms as the season progresses.

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