Year after year, the rose tops the poll for the UK's favourite flower, yet it seems our love for growing them is diminishing. From the 1960s and 70s, when we planted around 60 million a year, the numbers have fallen to around a tenth of that figure.
So what’s gone wrong? The plants are actually better than they were then, in terms of disease-resistance and general health, because newer breeding means that growers can introduce qualities that were not available then. Scent had also fallen by the wayside in favour of bigger and better blooms, but when customers complained, the breeders began to reintroduce fragrance and many of today’s varieties have wonderful scent. The new David Austin rose “Emily Bronte” is a fine example of this.
Planting and pruning are always a bugbear of the rose. Read three books and you will usually get four different ways to do both, but it can be de-mystified very easily.
Hybrid Tea roses are best cut down every spring to a strong outward-facing bud about six to eight inches from the ground. Aim for a goblet shape, so there is good air flow through the bush to reduce the chance of fungal infection. Multiflora (Floribunda) roses need little more than dead-heading of spent flowers and the application of the four Ds Rambling roses also need the four Ds and dead-heading. Climbing roses flower best if their stems are trained horizontally, so training them along wires when they are young will bring benefits as they age. Pruning should consist of trimming side shoots back to 2-3 buds from the main stem.
This is a frequently-spouted piece of advice that always marks out the non-trained gardener. Washing up liquid is designed to remove grease from your plates and it will strip the oils from plant leaves just as efficiently. This leaves them unprotected and exposed to the elements, which will damage them and possibly kill them. Without the leaves that produce essential nutrients from sunlight, the plant will struggle to survive.
It is advice that stems from the days of using insecticidal soap on plants, but this had a very different formulation to today’s washing up liquid.
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