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Caring for roses

Roses are easy to grow and remarkably tolerant. It is only necessary to get a few basic points right and you will have good results. However they can respond well to some extra care and attention by being more floriferous and healthy. The following is intended to help you to make the right selection and give you a brief guide to planting and looking after your roses.

Choosing a Variety
Your choice of rose is very personal. Make sure that the dimensions of the rose suit its position, be aware that the size referred to in the website will vary depending on the soil type, local climate, fertility and moisture and the way you prune your roses.

Planting Position
Select a site with at least a few hours of sun each day where the roots of the rose will not be in competition with the roots of other plants, especially trees. The exception to this rule is the ramblers which grow well near to trees. In warmer areas some shade from the ravages of the afternoon sun can be highly beneficial.

Planting Distances
If you have the space Roses, Old Roses and other Shrub Roses look superb planted in tight groups of three of one variety. They will then grow together to form one dense shrub, which will provide a more continuous display and make a more definite statement in the border. We suggest planting approximately 18 inches apart within the group. Adjacent plants of neighboring varieties should be planted approximately 3 feet away. For hedges, plant fairly close together approximately 18 inches apart for maximum effect.

Soil Type
Roses will grow in a wide range of soils, but whatever type they do appreciate good soil preparation. The addition of a generous quantity of well rotted manure or garden compost before planting will help to ensure strong growth.

On arrival, plant as soon as possible. If they are unpacked but not planted ensure that they are soaked and wrapped back up securely. Never allow the roots to dry out at any time prior to and during planting. Before planting soak the whole plant in water overnight. When planted, the base of the canes (bud union) should be about 4 inches below ground level in cold winter areas and at ground level in mild winter areas. Water in well and mound the base of the canes with about 6 inches of compost, soil or bark chippings until the plants leaf out. We recommend the use of Root grow at planting time.

Regular watering is essential, the rose will be stronger, healthier and, most importantly, produce more flowers. Depending on your climate and the time of year it is recommended that deep watering should be done at least once a week and often more frequently.

Roses, especially the repeat flowering varieties, need a generous supply of nutrients regularly through the growing season although this should not be applied too close to the onset of winter. Slow release or organic fertilizers applied to the ground are the most effective; however foliar feeds are also valuable for a quick effect and to help keep the leaves healthy.

Mulching with organic matter (a very wide range is available) is a very important part of rose growing, helping to conserve water, keeping the ground cool and feeding the microorganisms and worms in the soil. It should preferably be well rotted and, if it starts to disappear during the season, be reapplied.

Growing in pots and containers
Roses look excellent grown in pots but be sure to choose varieties that are not too vigorous and select a pot that is as large as is practicable. The compost can dry out very quickly so do check they have sufficient moisture every day. Potting compost has limited nutrient content therefore feed regularly. In cold winter areas protect the rose well.

Healthy Roses
The best way to keep your plants free from pests and diseases is to choose disease resistant varieties and to grow them as well as possible. Depending on which region you are in and the varieties you grow, some spraying may be beneficial especially early in the growing season. As there are different chemicals and different laws in many of the states, it is best to seek local advice from your garden center, nursery or local rose society.

How to prune your roses

Rose Pruning

I offer as brief a synopsis as possible. Pruning should be done in the late fall or early spring. Take care not to cut too close to a bud; about a quarter of an inch above an outward facing bud, cutting down and away from the bud on a 45 degree angle. Too far above the bud allows dead tissue to develop disease; too close and there won¡¯t be enough stem to support the bud.

Now that you know how to prune, you need to know when. Generally we should prune Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, and Floribundas in very early spring. A good rule of thumb is to do it when the forsythia is in bloom. The first task is to eliminate suckers that have started below the soil. Most roses today are grafted onto rootstock that won¡¯t look anything like the rose you want.

Then we need to eliminate dead wood. Cut gradually back along the cane until you hit white healthy pith. Next we want to select three or four canes that will form the frame of the plant. Cut everything else off entirely. Now cut those canes back to between 6 and 12 inches. If the rose is healthy and in fertile soil, then leaving canes around a foot long should develop a good plant. If the plant has been neglected and gotten leggy, or if you are planting a new rose, then cutting back to the six-inch mark should encourage strong new canes from the base.

Never hard prune Floribundas as they don¡¯t break well from old wood. Climbers should have their laterals cut back to three or four eyes and any new canes breaking from the base should be eliminated (unless you want to develop a new cane). Species roses (and most shrubs) should be tip pruned each fall. This will encourage new growth from the base. In the spring cut out the laterals and the old canes, leaving the new canes from the previous year (the ones that didn¡¯t flower). Always cut dead or diseased wood and always use some judgment. If a plant doesn¡¯t appear vigorous then pruning it to a nub probably won¡¯t help it much. Use discretion.

Certain types of standard roses or pillars require special techniques. As always the dead wood must go, along with any weak or crossed branches. The rest should be cut back to six eyes or so and half that on laterals. On pillar grown roses you should grow the plant up on support. Cut back all the laterals and select canes evenly around the pillar. When the pillar is established cut out all old wood and select the previous year¡¯s canes.

Feeding and Care

Roses are hungry feeders. You should fertilize with a food that is a little heavier on the phosphorus (middle number in the three). Improving the soil is recommended to increase the water and fertilizer retention. While species and shrub roses will make do with most any soil, Hybrid Teas need a highly fertile and organic soil to do well at all. Manure, mushroom compost, or any other highly organic additives are a necessity for a good Hybrid Tea rose. A good organic mulch will go a long way towards improving the soil fertility from year to year, as well as increasing water retention. DO NOT use wood chips or a poorly composted bark product. These require nitrogen to decompose and will rob your rose of nutrients.

If you have been looking for a reason to start a compost pile, there is no better reason than mulching. Compost will actually add nutrients to the soil along with beneficial microbes. A quick scratch with a hoe will easily eliminate any weeds and keep the soil loose and fluffy. Roses detest any sort of competition so do not fall prey to the temptation of planting closely around roses. Dusting with rose powder is recommended for tea roses to keep off black spot and powdery mildew. These can be fatal diseases for your average Hybrid Tea rose, although not a big problem for your shrub and species roses. Many of the newer roses are bred specifically for disease resistance.

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