Choosing and planting roses

Rose expert from David Austin Roses, Michael Marriott offers tips and advice on choosing and planting roses.

David Austin Roses
The Lion Garden at David Austin Roses in Wolverhampton.
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Roses are one of the most valuable of all garden plants. After all what other plant can potentially offer beautiful blooms, a glorious fragrance, be easy to look after and flower for five or six months of the year? Depending on what variety you choose your roses can do all of this and much more.

Wide variety

Roses are so variable and versatile. They can grow anything from 20cm to 20m tall and have blooms 2cm to 20cm across. You can find a variety to fit just about every spot from the very formal garden to the most informal and everything in between. The only place they might struggle to grow is in the pond although round the outside they are very easy.

Simple rose care

Gardeners are often concerned about looking after roses, thinking that they are tricky and time consuming. But with a few basic rules they are in fact really easy. The most important thing to remember is to choose a tough, reliable variety (although of course it should be beautiful and fragrant too) and prepare the ground well. It is then simply a matter of applying some fertiliser twice a year, deadheading them (which is a delight anyway as it’s a good way to appreciate them at close quarters) and pruning them.

Choose carefully

Lady of Shalott
Lady of Shalott at Kew Gardens. Image: David Austin Roses

There is a huge range of roses on the market – some will give you little or no trouble while others are more challenging. Doing some research to find the best varieties for your position is, I think, part of the fun of gardening. Specialist rose nurseries are often the best source of advice and here at David Austin Roses, we pride ourselves in the service we give. If you see some beautiful roses in somebody’s garden ask them which variety they are and how they look after them. Gardeners are usually very happy to share their experiences.

Soil matters

Roses ideally love a deep humus rich soil that holds the water well. They’re not so good in sandy soils or heavy clay. The good news is that just about any soil can be improved by incorporating a generous quantity of well-rotted organic matter before planting. Hopefully you will have a heap of home-made compost in your garden, but if not then you can buy the equivalent from a garden centre which is often better as it will be very well-rotted and free of weed seeds. The better you can prepare the soil the happier the rose will be and the more it will repay your efforts by growing strongly, staying healthier and flowering more freely year after year.

Planting roses

planting rose
A rose planted at the correct depth.

With your chosen rose, soil prepared and hole dug you are ready to plant. Dunk the rose in a bucket of water so that the compost is completely immersed and leave it there for an hour or so – the compost must be soaked through. Let it drain thoroughly, then, by turning the plant upside down, carefully take the pot off and, if the roots are circling round and round inside the pot, tease them out. Holding the rose over the hole, sprinkle some mycorrhizal fungi over the roots, this will help create a better root system and help your rose resist drought and flower better. Some of the granules will stick on to the compost and some will fall into the hole.

Aim to plant the rose at the same level as it is in the pot – the bud union (the swollen part where the green shoots meet the roots) should be an inch or two below ground level. Push the soil back in, firming the soil as you go. Once planted create a small mound of soil around the rose about 18” in diameter so that, when you water, it doesn’t run everywhere. Mulching it well will help to conserve moisture and keep the soil cool. It is very important to water once or twice a week for the next month or so until the roots have spread out into the surrounding soil. Then sit back and enjoy the results of your efforts.

Michael Marriott

About Michael Marriott

Michael Marriott has gardening in his blood. He grew up surrounded by gardens and studied Agricultural Botany at University. Today he is technical manager and rosarian at David Austin Roses and the main source of knowledge on all matters relating to roses, having worked with them for over 30 years.
@DAustinRoses
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