Anita Morton - Growing Gardens

Choosing the Queen of Flowers

Its that time of year again the rose catalogues are arriving, filled with gorgeous, tempting flowers. Its time to be strong, avoiding untried varieties and delicate types, and choosing only the best and fittest.

Roses are quite adaptable plants, but there is no getting around the fact that our hot, humid summers are a trial for them. Fungal diseases are a fact of life and anyone who wants to grow the Queen of Flowers will have to deal with them. In my experience the best, most disease-resistant roses are the old-fashioned types like Albertine, the Banksia roses and David Austens English roses.

However, if you want roses for cuttings, the Hybrid Teas have long, strong stems and the best range of colours and forms. This group varies hugely in disease resistance. When selecting varieties, choose those with leathery foliage strong leaves are a hint that the plant has had a recent gene influx from one or more of the species roses such as Rosa rugosa. Generally, the closer a rose variety is to the natural form, the more disease resistance it has.

Careful selection is important, but even more critical is the planting site. All roses love light and air, so site your rose in the most open, airy place available. Try not to hem it in with other shrubs the most suitable planting companions for roses are bulbs and small annuals. In other words, the classic rose-bed!

Garden hygiene is also important. Remove and replace the mulch each year with fresh, disease-free material. Prune out all spindly and diseased wood each winter, cutting the rose back hard even if the plant never loses its leaves. Strip off leaves with black spot as soon as you see them and burn all waste material or put it in the rubbish bin.


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