A GARDEN OF ROSES
Last week we were looking at large shrub roses and this week we shall look at bush roses.
I have been in love with roses from childhood. A garden with a rose bush was very special as they were quite expensive to buy when wages were still quite low as work study and bonus had not been invented. As a young apprentice gardener I had managed to get a few bushes of what was popular at that time, i.e. Peace, Ena Harkness, Queen Elizabeth and the new vermilion rose Super Star. However rose breeders were bringing out numerous new varieties every year so I had to stretch my budget a wee bit further. My council house garden in St. Mary’s was big enough for a fair few, but as apprentice gardener wages were quite meagre I decided to buy 100 rose rootstocks and bud my own. I got over 70 bushes, which for a first effort at budding was quite good. I had not yet had any training in budding, but had a very good book with pictures. However I had to source my stock of buds for new varieties from a wide source of locations around Dundee and beyond. Enough said!!!
The Rose Bed
I now always have a rose bed or border in my garden, and try out new varieties as space allows.
I do not separate my hybrid teas from my floribundas as there is great merit in both types.
Over the years you always find favourites that you stick with. In the past, breeders wanted the best colours and a perfect hybrid tea shape but now we have plenty of these so demand is for a return to scented roses and healthy disease resisting foliage.
Pests and diseases
However many of our favourites were a wee bit susceptible to blackspot, mildew and rust so breeders have been trying to introduce vigour, strength and disease resistance into their new varieties. Not an easy task as the blackspot fungus continually mutates to form resistance to chemicals, and our wet weather has not helped to keep diseases down. There are suitable chemicals for rose pests and disease control, but you need to spray regularly and your time and chemicals are wasted if the rain washes the chemical off not long after spraying.
I no longer tolerate diseased roses, so unfortunately many of my favourites have been dug up and dumped. I had always liked Blue Moon, but it had to go, and my best scented white Margaret Merrill is only just hanging on. Iceberg is also a good white but has little scent and needs a sunny year to get the best from its flowers.
My rose favourites
E.H. Morse has always been my best red as it is large, has a great shape, good scent and is quite disease resistant. National Trust is the perfect red rose but with no scent it is not top of my list. Fragrant Cloud, Alec’s Red and Ingrid Bergman have all got shape, intense colour and strong fragrance. Evelyn Fison is an old but very reliable red floribunda.
Dearest is top of my pink floribunda list, but Rose Gaujard, a very old variety, is also very attractive though it does not produce a lot of flowers. Congratulations and Blessings are both excellent pinks and Wendy Cussons, a deep cherry red is strong, disease free and has a strong fragrance.
Piccadilly is the most popular red and yellow bicolour, and often my first rose to bloom. Foliage is shiny and very healthy.
Alexander is now top of my vermillion colour and for a bright orange try, Doris Tysterman or Dawn Chorus. Arthur Bell remains my best yellow floribunda, and Margaret Merrill my best white.
Roses like a well cultivated clay soil rich in organic matter as they are gross feeders, but once well established go easy on fertiliser otherwise they may respond with too much vigour at the expense of flowers. They flower better in a sunny spot that is well drained but retains moisture. An annual mulch of compost is beneficial.
Prune in late winter removing old and weak shoots and shortening others by about half. Do not prune too hard as some varieties do not like it. Roses will still be just fine even if they are never pruned, or as I found out cut evenly to two feet with hand shears.
Plant of the week
Delphiniums are a very popular summer flowering herbaceous plant with huge spikes of
intense blue flowers. They can grow up to six or more feet tall and as the flower spikes are solid with flowers they need thorough staking. They are easily grown from seed from specialist growers such as Blackmore and Langdon of Bath. They are very reliable coming up every year as long as you keep slugs at bay as they will chew the young shoots.
Handle this plant with care as every part is very poisonous.