If you have fallen under the spell of roses, then (with apologies to Oscar Wilde) it is the beginning of a lifelong love-affair.
Growing roses is easy, so don’t let yourself be put off by those who fuss about cutting stems at a perfect angle, worry about getting the leaves wet, and shake their heads while saying, don’t do this and don’t do that…
Just get the basic’s right, which means planting your rose where it gets enough sun (at least six hours), enough air (plants not crowded together) and enough water. But more about watering later.
As the daughter of South Africa’s rose expert, Ludwig Taschner, roses have been my life and I get enormous joy out of designing and planting beautiful rose gardens. My dad has been growing huge, healthy and beautiful roses for almost 50 years, and he is still passionate about them. How does he get it right?
Here are his 5 mantras’ for growing beautiful roses:
1. Don’t make a 10c hole for a R100 rose
The lifespan of a rose can be 20 to 30 years or more. Give the rose a good start by taking time to prepare the soil well before planting. When making a hole, dig out the first 30cm of top soil and put it to one side. Loosen the soil in the hole by a further 20cm. Add compost or Ludwig’s growing mix to the bottom of the hole and work it in. Enrich the top soil by mixing in compost, or Ludwig’s growing mix, Vigorosa or Vigolonger controlled release fertiliser and additives like peanut shells or milled bark. Shovel it back into the hole and water. Leave overnight.
2. Rose-roots like water in motion
This means that roses like soil that drains easily so that water reaches their roots. Water is not absorbed by hard, compact soil. To check the quality of your soil, push a garden fork into the soil next to the rose. If it goes in easily, the soil is okay. If it doesn’t, then you need to aerate the soil. Work in compost and other coarse material (like peanut shells) into the top 30cm of soil. The best time to do this is in July but it can be done at any other time if you take care not to overly disturb the rose roots. Getting enough water to the roots is also very important if you want the roses to flower well. In spring and summer, roses need deep watering (40minutes) at least twice a week (more in heat waves) and once a month in autumn.
3. Leaves, leaves, leaves … are essential for a healthy rose
They provide food to the roots, shade the stems from the sun, and keep the rose cool. The only reasons for losing their leaves are Black Spot, a fungus disease that causes the leaves to drop, and Red Spider Mite, that sucks the nutrients out of the leaves. Defoliated roses can develop canker from the sun, that is ultimately a killer. Black spot develops during rainy weather when the leaves stay continuously wet for six hours or more. To prevent it, spray with Chronos as soon as the rain stops. Red Spider mites develop when the rose is water-stressed. A sign of mites is when the leaves turn a mottled yellow and drop off. Spraying with Ludwig’s Insect Spray on the underside of leaves should prevent infestations, provided the roses receive enough water. To control an infestation spray with Ludwig’s Insect Spray at double strength at five-day intervals until the infestation has gone.
4. Hungry roses are not healthy roses
It is easy to spot a hungry rose; the leaves a light greenish yellow and sometimes look chlorotic (yellow with green veins). That means they lack nitrogen and become very susceptible to black spot (despite spraying) and insects. Healthy dark green leaves are also more efficient in making food for the roots, which means good growth and flowers. From spring to April fertilise once a month with Vigorosa which contains a balance of nutrients for flowers and leaves. Apply 30g to established rose bushes and double the amount to larger shrub roses and climbers.
5. Don’t worry, be happy, the rose always sorts itself out
What seems to worry rose gardeners the most is pruning the roses in July. Here is the good news. You can’t prune wrong and even if you do (in your own mind) you won’t kill the rose. It will sort itself out. The reason we prune roses is simple; to remove old, dead branches/stems, to provide space for new stems to grow, to reduce the height of the stems and for a neat looking garden. If you are still worried sign up to the email newsletter Talking Roses (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more advice and news of free pruning demos throughout South Africa.