Roses in June

It has only just become possible to imagine that we will have roses and stuff this year what with the weather and all (I am writing this 26th april and again we have a north east wind and a frost forecast for tonight). It seems unlikely but when you are reading this your roses should at least be in bud and the month ahead should be full of their colour and scent .

It remains to be see how our winter will effect  roses this year : At the moment those against sheltered walls or in a sheltered corner are doing OK if a bit reluctant, those on north and east walls and those in exposed places are looking pretty battered. Not only has some of the new growth been knocked off by the wind but  the new growth has also been dessicated and if a rose is not planted deep it is likely to rock in the wind damaging roots. A drying wind rips the moisture from the new soft growth and  from the surface of the soil, some shoots will have been killed by this and a secondary prune may be necessary.

Roses can be very robust plants and planting and watering them deep, then applying a good thick mulch will certainly help them establish well and stand up to what the weather can chuck at them in subsequent winters.

The best and cheapest way to buy roses is as bare rooted plants in winter when they look  no more than a collection of sticks, however this isn’t the way most of us do it:

We are totally seduced by the sight of a healthy rose in leaf, bud and flower at the garden centre- it is usualy the flowers that do it and they have done since Flora transformed a dead nymph into one, Cleopatra strewed her bedroom with petals and Marie Antoinette just couldn’t get enough of them; in her garden at Chateau de Malmaison  she collected hundreds of roses  and without knowing it  left us the legacy of the modern rose- a hybrid  of the tough and scented European roses and the repeat flowering roses newly arriving from China and asia that she was privileged to obtain.

The rose has been associated with women from the year dot  too , from the innoscent ( white) the  english rose( pink and soft) to the femme fatale ( redly perfectly seductive) and all in between.

Roses are such queens of flowers and their scent so alluring that they do deserve abit of thought before they have you entirely in their spell  and you end up with a monster rose for a small garden  or worse – just nowhere to plant it-  because it was irrestistible and had to have it ( It happens to even the most sensible of us).

It is not my intention to get  too horticultural about roses  – instead indulge in the thrill of choosing them and finding a place for them in the garden – with just a little preparation.

So,where are you going to plant it? Measure the space, check you have wires on the wall- put a cane in the border and cut it off at the height you want your rose to reach, visualise your rose ,take a glass of something drinkable into the garden and sit and observe- is the planting place shaded, is it sheltered or wind blown, is it height you need in that spot or something low and spreading,observe roses in other peoples gardens – knock on doors and ask what the rose is if you like it – be brazen( most people remember the name of a rose they have chosen). If you are going to cloth a new obelisk or fence with a rose take some string and tie it to the bottom- spiral it round the obelisk, train it  up and horizontally along the fence to where you want it, then undo it and measure the string – you may be surprised how much ‘height’ you need from a climber to train it this way.

What do want it to do? Scramble up a tree, climb a wall, make a good single specimen, cover the ground,sit beautifully in your border with other plants, smell, flower repeatedly, or give you one to be waited for marvelous burst of colour, give you a show of hips in autumn, blend with an existing colour scheme or stand out like a beacon?

Prioritise- you will probably get a few of your must haves from one well choosen rose. Take your specifications to the garden centre with you, staff will always help make a suitable selection if you find yourself being distracted, once there, by the sweetie shop laid out before you.

On the other hand- you could just throw the home work on the fire and be damned – go for it .


Tip. Plant roses deep in a large hole back filled with well broken up soil mixed with garden compost or well rotted manure- fim in gently with your foot when the hole is half filled and again when it is full, water deeply and mulch – water deeply once a week this season to get it established. More water less frequently is far better than a little water often.


‘’It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important’’

Antoine de Saint- Expupery ( The Little Prince 1943)

 Kate Hickmott

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