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Planting new roses

Choosing the site. The reputation that roses have for liking clay soils is no excuse for bad preparation and planting. Roses like good conditions — plenty of water, regular feeding, their pests and diseases kept at bay, not too much lime in the soil, and above all, a well worked site with plenty of organic matter added. They like a fair amount of sun, too, and although a very hot, sunny site can cause moisture problems and blooms which fade and ‘go over’ very quickly, there is also no point in expecting them to give of their best in dense shade, or planted under trees, because they will not.

Preparing the planting area. Dig the spot you have chosen for your roses very thoroughly and remove all perennial weeds. Add as much humus-forming material — well rotted manure or compost, peat, spent hops, etc. as you can get hold of. This will supply some nutrients, but mainly it will help to open up a very heavy soil and retain water in medium and light ones. If you are planting in autumn and early winter you can add some bone-meal, but from February onwards you should apply a proprietary rose fertilizer according to the maker’s instructions. Some experts recommend mixing up a planting medium of loam, peat and sharp sand, plus a handful of bone-meal or rose fertilizer according to planting time, with which to backfill the planting holes, or alternatively you can buy some bags of proprietary planting compost, but I prefer the whole site to be so thoroughly prepared that the soil you take out of the holes is good enough to be put back in again round the new roses. You should always do this preliminary work, whether you are planting bare-root stock during the dormant period or containerized roses at any time of the year.

Checking the new plants. Inspect the roots of bare-root roses and cut off any damaged or broken ones cleanly with secateurs. Shorten the roots of very strong plants by about one-third. This is not an excuse for you to dig a smaller hole, but to encourage the plant to make new fibrous feeding roots from the point where they were pruned off. Similarly, you should remove any branches which were damaged low down during lifting or transporting. If you are planting in the spring (or even if you are planting in autumn and winter in mild parts of the country), you can give the bushes their first prune before you plant them — then you do not have to bend!

The pruning of new HT, floribunda and patio bushes consists of taking out any weak, dead or damaged wood, and shortening the rest back to an outward pointing eye (bud) about 3 buds up from the base. Depending on variety, the wood that is left will be about 6-8 in. (150-200 mm) long.

This method does not apply to miniatures, shrubs, climbers and ramblers. Miniatures require little pruning except trimming back and the removal of dead wood. Remove just the green tips of young shrub roses — these will probably die off anyway. Climbers are inclined to lose their climbing habit if pruned back too hard, so just take off spindly, dead, and badly placed shoots and shorten the soft tops back a little to a bud pointing in the direction you want the climber to grow — usually across the wall or whatever support you are using. Rambler roses probably will not need anything doing at all, as they will most likely have been tidied up at the nursery, but if you like you can remove any thin and badly shaped or placed wood.

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