Now that we are coming up to rose ordering time, I thought a post on planting your new roses and their cultivation and maintenance would be beneficial! In this post, I will be covering planting position; soil preparation; planting; and general maintenance. Pruning will be covered in a post in early July.
Like the real estate market, with roses, it is all about location, location, location! Here is what roses like:
Sun! At least five, preferably six, hours of it! The Soho Bed is in a perfect position!They don’t like too much shade nor overhanging trees, because of the shade the latter cast and the root competition. The rose hedges behind our vegetable beds have struggled, especially in front of the mulberry tree, which sends suckers out left, right and centre (see bottom photo)! Roses prefer northerly and easterly aspects in the Southern Hemisphere (southerly and westerly aspects in the Northern Hemisphere). Our garden faces east.Good drainage. So, heavy clay soils need to be built up with humus and animal manure to improve drainage and if these soils get water-logged in Winter, the beds can be raised to allow drainage at the root level.
Fertile soil. The best soil is a medium to heavy loam with a good clay subsoil. Lighter sandy soils do not retain moisture nor nutrients, so will need to be improved with lots of compost and animal manure and have extra watering in the Summer. Roses tolerate both acid and chalky soils, but prefer soil with a neutral pH (pH 7) or slightly acid (pH 6 to 6.5). To avoid rose replant disease, never plant a rose where an old rose has died. Always plant in fresh ground or new soil. The roses in the Soho rose beds at St Leonards, Victoria, were planted 1 metre apart. Good air flow between and around plants to avoid mildew and break up the heat concentrated at ground level in the Australian climate. Having said that, their blooms don’t like too much wind, so a hedge or windbreak can help in windy areas. Here are suggestions for planting distances between roses:
Hybrid Teas 1 to 1.2 m apart;
Standard Roses 1.3 to 1.5 m apart;
Floribundas 0.6 to 1 m apart;
Climbers and Ramblers 2.5 to 5 m apart.
The soil in the rose bed/desired location should be well prepared 2 to 3 months beforehand, so for Australia prepare the soil in April. Dig to a depth of 30 cm or 1 foot, using trench digging:
Remove the top soil;
Break up any subsoil in the trench with a fork for better drainage and to allow the long tap roots to penetrate deep into the soil;
Dress the topsoil with well-rotted compost, mushroom compost, leaf mould, peat, worm castings or cow or sheep manure and blood and bone and mix in well. The soil should be friable on planting. Add sharp sand if the soil is heavy or lime if the soil is very acid.Planting
Roses can be planted bare-rooted from Autumn to late Spring (June to mid-August in Australia, though a few weeks either side is negligible), while potted roses can be planted any time of the year. I prefer to buy my roses bare-rooted, as they are dormant when they arrive and settle in quicker than when they are disturbed during active growth (as when planting out potted roses). Here is a photo of my Souvenir de la Malmaison bare-rooted rose, which was planted in June 2016, and the same rose with lots of new growth a few weeks later. It has actually doubled in size since we planted it and has plenty of Autumn rose buds!
On arrival of your bare-rooted roses: Unpack them, check the invoice, and soak roses in a bucket of water overnight or at least several hours. If you cannot plant in their final position for a few days, heel them in to a trench and make sure there are no air pockets in the soil. Plant only when the soil is dry and crumbly and preferably not in wet weather. We had to heel our old Soho roses in down the bottom of the garden on our arrival at Candelo (first photo below), until we could dig a special bed for them. See the development of the Soho Bed in the photos below:Dig a hole at least 30 cm deep and 50 cm wide. It should be large enough to take all the roots, which should be pointed downwards and outwards. For bush roses, Treloars states that the graft or bud union should be 2.5 cm above the soil level (see first photo scanned from their catalogue, along with a diagram for planting a standard rose), though Peter Beales and Sally Allison both suggest burying the union 2 cm below the surface to anchor the plant, especially in windy areas, protect against frost damage and reduce suckering.Below are photos of the newly planted Soho Bed.Plant over a small mound in the centre of the hole. In the photo below, Ross is digging holes for the David Austin roses, before he dug the whole Moon Bed.Firm soil around the roots, ensuring there are no air pockets, and fill the rest of the hole to ground level without compaction. Here, Ross is planting our roses, which struck from cuttings from our old Armidale garden. They should grow well on their own roots.You can add well-rotted manure or a slow release fertilizer in the hole when planting, otherwise all other fertilizers are better applied to the surface soil 6 weeks after planting. We collect old cow manure from a friend’s dairy farm. The Grey Fantail loves it, as do the roses, as seen by the photos below. Pelletized or fresh manure should be totally avoided at planting time, as it will burn the new roots. Burnt soil and ash from a bonfire can be spread on the soil surface to provide valuable potash. Water in well.Every soil benefit from top dressing with a 3 to 5 cm layer of mulch to suppress weeds, retain moisture and nutrients and maintain the average soil temperature. Keep mulch at least 2 to 3 cm away from the stem to avoid collar rot. We used sugar cane mulch on the Soho Bed and when we ran out on the Moon Bed, topped it up with our old bamboo mulch. Pine needles or eucalypt leaves should be avoided, but here are some better suggestions:
2nd Cut Lucerne (less seeds);
Meadow Hay (lots of seeds);
Well-Washed Sea Weed;
Cow and Sheep Manure;
Sugar Cane Mulch; and
Mushroom Compost.General Maintenance
Treloars suggest 10 litres at the one session twice a week and more in Summer, but Ross doesn’t like to over-water, so the roots are encouraged to dig deep and become self-reliant. Having said that, they will need more watering in Summer. Water in the mornings, so the leaves dry quickly and any black spot spores don’t have time to germinate. Also water the plants at the base, rather than overhead sprinkling, again for the same reason.Remove any root stock suckers:
Do it as soon as possible to avoid competition for nutrients, but be certain, they do belong to the root stock and are not new rose growth! Check by scraping back the soil at the base of the sucker and find the original union of the rose and the understock. If the shoot is coming from below the union, it is a sucker and should be removed at the point, where it joins the root or at least to ground level. Pulling suckers from the root or using a spud or blunt instrument is more effective than cutting with secateurs. If you can nip a bit of the root stock bark even better, as this will ensure the root stock doesn’t reshoot in the same place. Common understocks today include R. laxa (strong roots and few suckers) and R. multiflora (vigorous roots), while R. canina was used in the past with dire consequences, as it was very prone to suckering and became a feral weed in some areas. Standard roses are often grown on R. rugosa stems, which grow straight and firm, but can send up root and stem suckers as the plant grows. See the sucker in the foreground.During Flowering:
Use a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content at intervals, especially towards the end of a flush, to encourage more flowering during the next flush and increased growth. We use Sudden Impact. Knights Roses suggests fertilizing in late February; September and December, while Ross Roses suggests a fertilizing regime in February and November. Dead-head blooms to encourage more blooms and keep the shrub tidy, unless you want the decorative hips, like Rugosas (photos below) or the once-flowering Species roses.Pests and Diseases
I love the Old Roses for this reason, as they are tough survivors and pretty disease- tolerant. Make sure the roses are well-aerated to discourage fungal diseases and use companion plants to encourage beneficial insects. There are sprays on the market or you can make home-made pyrethrum sprays, but I have not needed them. Sure, I get the odd black spot, but these days, I don’t worry too much as it’s not a major problem. I used to pick all the diseased foliage off and any dead leaves off the ground, but it’s a huge job and not worth defoliating your entire plant – after all, it’s the flowers you are interested in! Having said that, if I lived in a wetter climate and had more of a problem, I would definitely be addressing it! Here is a photo of black spot-infested leaves: But if you keep your plants healthy with plenty of nutrition, and especially if you grow old roses rather than the more modern hybrid teas, they should stand a fighting chance against any pests and diseases. Remember, do not replant a new rose in the same position as one which has died! My rose plants developed a small amount of black spot over the hot Summer months, but all the new growth is super-healthy with not a trace! The second photo is an enlargement of the first photo, showing the healthy new growth above the lower infected leaves, as can also be seen in the 3rd photo. Certainly not a major problem! Birds are also very important in insect control, so encourage the Silvereyes; Eastern Spinebills; Blue Fairy Wrens; Blackbirds; Grey Thrush; and Magpies.Pruning
A major subject in itself, requiring its own post later on. At the same time, I will look at propagation from cuttings and rose prunings! In terms of general maintenance though, cut back any dead or dying stems to avoid disease progression during growth. Here is the Moon Bed before (photo 1) and after (photo 2) pruning, as well as the pruned Soho Bed (photo 3). It’s always very satisfying, getting cleaned up over Winter!After Pruning
It can be beneficial to prick over the soil with a fork to a depth of 2 to 5 cm to aerate the soil and remove weeds. Dig in a long-term fertilizer and mulch with well-rotted compost or animal manure. This is my November Soho Bed last year in full bloom.That’s the basics! Now enjoy browsing those rose catalogues and choosing your new roses!!!