They may seem like fragrant, fragile flowers but despite the delicate petals and romantic reputation roses are hardy survivors.
One of the most versatile plants in the garden, they can be planted as standards, trained up a wall, used as hedging or grown in window boxes.
The flowers come in a variety of brilliant and beautiful colours from vibrant crimson and deep red to pastel pink, orange, yellow and bright white.
Once they’re established roses are pretty tough but the key to growing disease-free blooms is managing and preparing the soil efficiently.
Opting for organic methods
Synthetic quick-release fertilisers create a quick burst of new growth that attracts large numbers of pests.
Organic methods ensure the proliferation of various natural micro-organisms essential for healthy soil and plants, plus attract beneficial visitors like bees, ladybugs and birds.
Skipping the chemicals also saves money as organic fertilisers can be up to 50% cheaper and the sprays are mostly homemade.
TIP Organic sprays also help deter pests and make roses less prone to drought.
Buying the plants
The best time to plant roses is when they are dormant in winter.
Buy them as bare-root plants that come wrapped in plastic or hessian and look like a bunch of sticks.
They are cheaper than the potted plants sold in spring and autumn, and don’t need time to adapt to garden soil so establish more quickly.
Select a specimen without green shoots and check the bark of the stem is not shrivelled or dried but soft, smooth and greenish in colour.
To get started prepare the soil.
Roses thrive in a well-drained, fertile soil with a pH of 6.5 that contains about 10% organic matter and the substance known as black gold.
They need six hours of sun a day in a spot with good air circulation and protection from winds, and 20 litres of water a week until established.
TIP Avoid planting into beds where roses have previously been grown.
What is black gold?
There are two natural ingredients found in compost that are so rich in nutrients they’re called black gold by gardeners.
- Black is for humus, the end product of compost, that provides the soil with carbon.
- Gold is for glomalin, produced by a fungi called mycorrhiza, that keeps the soil rich in nitrogen.
Black gold feeds the essential micro-organisms, provides a stockpile of nutrients and keeps the soil pH level healthy so roots become stronger, enabling nutrients to be better absorbed by the plant.