Roses are really easy to grow. These fabulous garden plants give so much back in return; beautiful flowers, wonderful fragrances and a five or six month flowering period. To keep your roses healthy simply follow a few basic rules. If you get it right your roses should flower twice in one season – repeat flowering.
As roses flower over such a long period they do appreciate a feed so apply a good quality granular rose fertiliser in late March/early April and again in late June/early July. Be sure to scatter the fertiliser around under the bush, over the roots. If it looks like being dry for some time scratch it into the surface and water it in well to wash the nutrients into the soil.
Deadheading (the removal of dead flowers) will keep your roses tidy and encourage quicker repeat flowering. It is a good idea to look for varieties that drop their petals cleanly so that dead heading is not too much of an issue, but it can still leave rather unattractive stalks and some varieties will set hips that will inhibit repeat flowering. Gently snap the dead blooms off multi-headed varieties and once all have gone cut back the stem, with secateurs to the first full leaf (one with either five or seven leaflets).
Roses love plenty of moisture at the roots so an occasional good soaking will encourage stronger growth and quicker repeat flowering. If possible water in the morning when the leaves are more likely to dry out quickly. If you water in the evening they are more likely to stay wet overnight which is the best way of encouraging blackspot. A good layer of mulch will help to not only conserve moisture in the soil but also, vitally, help keep the soil in good health too.
The best way to avoid pest and disease problems is to choose a rose variety that is naturally as disease resistant as possible and to grow them as well as possible. Roses grown in amongst other plants are much more likely to stay healthy than if grown together in a rose garden. Roses look beautiful mixed in with other plants and grow well with perennials, annuals or flowering shrubs as long as they don’t grow right under and round the base of roses. Plants like hardy geraniums (cranesbill) and lady’s mantle (alchemilla) form a fairly impenetrable barrier as far as water is concerned and can take the lion’s share of nutrients leaving little for the rose. Give your roses a foliar feed every few weeks for the very best results. Healthy plants are less affected by pests and diseases.
All that remains now is pruning which is really easy. You can safely forget the usual advice about outward pointing buds, cutting at an angle and at a specific distance above the bud. Start off by cutting out any dead or diseased stems and anything that looks particularly weak. All bush (Hybrid Teas and Floribundas) and shrub roses (English Roses, Hybrid Musks and other more informal varieties) should be reduced in height by between a third and two thirds. Generally the bush roses are pruned rather harder than the shrubs but it very much depends on what you want the rose to do in that position, if you want it to stay shorter prune it harder, if taller prune it more lightly. Once the rose has been in the ground a few years cut out one or two of the oldest stems each year to encourage new young growth from the base. Climbers are simply pruned by reducing last year’s flowering shoots to about 3-4”/7-10cm. Any strong young shoots should be trained in and if it is getting rather overcrowded cut out some of the oldest stems.