Friday 21 November 2014

Say it with roses: How to incorporate the classic flower into your garden

Get your maintenance programme right, and these flowers will repay the extra work.

Marie Staunton

Published 20/07/2014 | 02:30

Marie Staunton says roses are well worth the effort.
Marie Staunton says roses are well worth the effort.

There is no doubt they require a bit more care than most other flowering plants, but some roses are so worth the effort and love that you will lavish on them over the years.

Having said that, one of my favourites at the moment is one growing wild in the hedgerow that seems to thrive on neglect. The old hedge trimmers are wielded around November and it still puts on a fantastic display of flowers come summer of the following year.

Without a maintenance programme for speciality roses and those that are bred for scent rather than disease resistance, you might find yourself overwhelmed. I'm sure people visiting our garden are appalled at the amount of blackspot on some of our roses, but, look, I'm not going to kill every ladybird in the place because of a few black splodges on a few leaves. The rose still smells gorgeous and that's enough for me.

I do, however, tend to pick up and dispose of the infected leaves rather than compost them, which will only add to the problem next year.

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We have a hybrid tee rose called Rosa 'Alexander' and I had it stuck in the wrong place a few years ago. So, of course, I moved it and now it flowers beautifully at the back of the border, where its massive frame doesn't compete with less robust flowering plants. If you want a rose that will give good coverage to a wall, then take a chance on the one in the photo above. Rosa 'Wild Edric' is a tough, reliable rose, which can be used also as a scented boundary hedge. The flower buds are purple-pink, opening to form large, semi-double flowers of deep pink with shades of purple.

With the likes of these roses, an open shape isn't a priority, it's more about keeping it tidy, so take it back hard in February or early March. Shrub roses, standard and half standard, are the ones that need more care when it comes to pruning. An open shape allows for free movement of air and lets the sunlight into the centre of the plant to promote free flowering. Always prune at an angle so water can drain off the stem and be aware that if you prune to a bud that is facing into the centre of the plant then that is where the new growth will spring from. Not ideal if you are looking for the open shape, so just prune down to around 30cm or more to the bud that is facing outward.

Flowers aren't necessarily the only reason for growing roses. A good show of hips can be very appealing. Rosa moyesii 'Geranium', grown primarily for its wonderful hips and red flowers during summer is a great all-rounder, as is Rosa Rugosa (pictured). Creating a year-round garden is a challenge. Garden designers rely on roses like these to bridge that gap between summer and the following spring.

Marie's choice roses

Zéphirine Drouhin: a thornless deep pink Bourbon rose. Rosa 'Darcey Bussell': a stunning red-flowered, small shrub. Rosa moyesii 'Geranium': red single flowers with lovely golden stamens.

Ask Marie

Q How can I tell a rose sucker from the actual rose stem?

Marie replies: The easiest way is just to trace the stem that you have suspicions about back to where it came from. If it originates from below the graft union then it is a sucker so remove it as it will be far more vigorous and will sap the energy from the grafted rose on top. The graft union will look swollen. This is where the rootstock meets the scion or rose variety that they have grafted on to it. It is generally considered better to tear away the sucker rather than prune it out. Suckers will pop up from time to time, so just get rid of them as soon as you see them.

Email your questions to gardening@independent.ie

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