This show to you how to take winter care in the Rose Garden
How good is your soil?
Nature will tell you. With a garden spade, dig down 30cm (or 1 foot). What's the soil like? If it's heavy clay with just a thin covering of darker soil, then you should think about incorporating some well-rotted vegetable matter (compost) and perhaps something to help the drainage. If your soil has good texture and is in good heart, then it will be better able to grow great roses. This is the time to fork in a dressing of lime, preferably Dolomite, which will help condition the soil for roses. If you find worms in your soil, it's a good indication of healthy soil. The more worms the better.
Traditionally roses were sold in mid-winter with bare roots. This was because roses were field-grown and dug up for sale in the winter. Now most roses are sold in plastic pots or planter bags, which means they're available all year round. Most roses are still field-grown so will have been heavily root-pruned when they are lifted. The root growth will be approximately the same as the top growth. As a consequence of this drastic pruning, you should expect them to take a while to acclimatise and for new root and top growth begin.
Be tolerant and allow a season before expecting the best from new roses.
Some roses are grown "on their own roots" which seems to confer substantial benefits. There is considerable evidence to suggest that own-root roses are tougher and more able to cope with drought and adverse conditions. Unlike budded or grafted roses, any suckers will be from the plant itself, not the dreaded rootstock.
When planting roses, make sure you dig a big enough hole and try to incorporate some good soil or compost.
If you are planting where roses have grown before, beware of specific replant disease. Just like farmers use crop rotation to ensure that the soil is not exhausted by continual growing of the same crop, we should try and give roses new healthy soil. When planting in previously rose-inhabited soil, to avoid SRD you should dig out and replace at least a wheelbarrow full of soil before you plant your rose.
Don't incorporate chemical fertiliser in the planting hole. Compost is great, blood and bone (slow-release and won't burn roots) is good, but keep away from conventional rose fertilisers at winter planting time.
Think about mulching. It's a great way of conserving moisture, suppressing weeds and making you garden look tidy. Remember that as mulch decomposes (bark especially) it leaches out nitrogen to feed the decomposition process. If you don't provide a supplementary source of nitrogen, you may see you mulched garden looking a bit pale and wan in the summer. Easiest way is to incorporate a handful of blood & bone per square metre when mulching. This has all sorts of benefits.
Holistic Rose Growing
Healthy plants don't need a lot of care. Tough plants thrive without much attention. Why therefore do we bother with plants that are inherently unhealthy?
Old fashioned roses, the sort that have been with us for hundreds of years are eminently capable of growing without care and attention. If they survived in Victorian times without today's hi-tech sprays, they'll survive today. Try them.
Select only roses that you know will do well for you. It sounds simple, but it's worth remembering. Have a look at the plants that do well in your neighborhood and consider whether that suit your garden style. Select from the large number of roses that 'do well' in your environment. Rugosas, for instance grow well in all environments. They are salt-tolerant and will even grow at the beach. Sally Holmes, the splendidly vigorous Hybrid Musk will grow almost anywhere and doesn't need spraying.
When plants are dormant and without leaves is the preferred time to prune. What happens if we don't prune ? Nothing much. Our roses will grow taller and our fruit trees will produce fruit out of reach. The quality of the blooms and the fruit will largely be unaffected. The sky will not fall in.
Pruning could be considered as man's dominance over nature. Before we discovered pruning, plants thrived. They flowered, fruited and carried on perfectly well. We prune for a variety of reasons, many cosmetic.
Modern roses unpruned will produce flowers higher up than one might like, but worse will have ungainly leggy growth with bare canes at the base. Pruning to ensure tidy plants and blooms where we want them makes sense. Even more sensible is the encouragement of new healthy growth. It is widely accepted that the best blooms and fruit are produced on young growth. For this reason, a process of renewal makes sense. Old growth should be removed to stimulate new healthy growth.
The more vigorous a plant or tree, the more likely it is to benefit from heavy pruning. Many old fashioned roses, climbers & ramblers will cope quite well without pruning, save for some renewal of old wood a few years after they are established.
As far as cutting to an outward-facing bud is concerned, treat this with a measure of contempt. Better to encourage new growth where you want it. Sometimes selection of inward-facing buds make more sense when shaping a plant.
Many shrubs, ramblers and patio roses will benefit from a routine winter 'shaping' with the hedgecutters. Don't feel obliged to lavish too much pruning care on your roses, they'll survive without it, despite what the experts say.
Winter Cleanup sprays
While plants are dormant is also the best time for winter cleanup sprays. The idea is to 'break the cycle', ensuring that in the spring there are no eggs to hatch or fungal spores left over from last season. Forget the evil sprays that damage you and the environment. Stick to the good old organic remedies. Lime Sulphur is a wonderful fungicide that will kill any overwintering fungal spores and go a long way towards inhibiting next summer's fungal problems. It smells so awful it must be good. Gets rid of lichen, too.
A fortnight or more after this, try mineral oil combined with copper. Oil smothers any eggs that will otherwise hatch insect pests in the spring. Copper is another organic fungicide.
Having cleaned up with these winter sprays, you shouldn't need much else. If you can resist spraying with insecticides, the natural predators in your garden will maintain the balance of nature and you plants will survive and may even thrive.
If you really must spray, bear in mind some simple rules :
- keep a separate sprayer for weedkillers. Roundup residue is not good for roses
- be sure to dress sensibly when spraying (rubber gloves, no exposed skin, mask)
- wash thoroughly after spraying
- don't spray insecticide when bees are visiting flowering plants
- think about 'holistic' sprays. They're kinder on you and the environment