I'm in love with my roses. No, seriously. It is getting silly. I keep wandering past the window to get a glimpse. At this point in time, the roses that are rambling, climbing or just enjoying a little hybrid tea time are in full glory. My current favourite is the latest to flower and for me, the most simple, elegant little bloom of the lot: Rosa 'Seagull'. Ignore the fairly unattractive name - this rambler is a serious charmer and has been enjoyed by gardeners for well over 100 years. Perfect for our old garden.
Now as much as I love them, I do think roses are characters with a high maintenance persuasion. They look good then throw a strop and promptly erupt in mildew. Or blackspot. Or black fly. In fact, pick a pest or if you are really lucky you can get all three!
And then as the season matures, I start getting twitchy... How do I prune them again? Can't quite remember what side of the bud to snip from...
If you are enjoying roses now, but haven't got a clue what to do with them when all the flowers and the fuss die down, here is a rundown for you, and a reminder for me (courtesy of our Mum; the most ruthless, merciless rose pruner you are likely to meet... Honestly, Ninja):
Now: At this time of year, all you need to worry about is deadheading: a wonderful pastime. Snip off the heads of dead, or dying blooms as they start to fade to promote new growth and extend the flowering period for as long as possible. Don't just take the heads - go down to 'something'; a new leaf, a bud or 'join' to help promote new growth. It also means you won't be left with a load of headless stalks. In a month or two: Rambling roses flower just the once in the early part of the summer. To keep them contained and manageable, they need to be pruned soon after the flowers fade. They are generally very susceptible to downy mildew. This will be really obvious in a wet summer as a very unattractive grey mould starts to appear on the new leaves that have grown during this time. Pruning back hard to one or two buds from where the new growth starts not only keeps the rose in shape, but helps control the mildew. Mildew spreads rapidly, so get rid of any unwanted stems either by burning them, or burying them under a load of other muck in the compost bin.
- One pair of sharp by-pass cut secateurs
- One pair of by-pass cut limb loppers,
- One small pruning saw
- One pair of stout, long leather gloves. Or a quick hand. Or impenetrable skin.
During the winter: Between the end of November and second week of March is probably the best time of year to prune Hybrid teas and Floribunda roses. Head for the obvious first: removing broken branches, anything that looks a little sickly and diseased, or dead. Take out any branches that are rubbing together and causing an injury. Roses are tough old girls and it's very difficult to kill one off by pruning, as mistakes simply 'grow out'. Ideally leave four or five strong branches evenly distributed around the main stem.
Hybrid teas produce three flushes of large single flowers on a stem in a growing season. To achieve quality blooms don't be afraid to cut theses back hard. Secateur off with a sloping cut about 5mm above an outward facing bud. The slope need to run away from the bud. You can be a little more gentle with the floribunda types , cut these to an outward facing bud say about 25mm from ground level on the 4 to 5 main branches that are hopefully evenly distributed around the main stem.
Climbing roses are usually very vigorous, they need a stout support system on which to grow. Laterals need securing to trellis or wires securely fastened to walls. The main briers need to be secured to the support system. The more horizontal the main briers are situated the more flowers will be produced. The laterals can be cut back to any bud to a length of 12 to 25 cms, this can be done and will need to be done throughout the growing season. Strong growing laterals can be 'promoted' to main brier status and used to replace the older wood, helping to keep the rose rejuvenated. Hmmm, replacing an old stick for a younger model... that old chestnut!
Early Spring: The last treat for your roses is to give them a good mulching of organic matter. Horsey poo is a popular choice and adding a good dose in and around the base of your bloom before the Spring really gets going will give your rose the best start to the season.