Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When can you plant roses?
A.Roses can be planted all year round, we sell field grown roses from November to late-February and containerised roses throughout the year (depending on stock). We recommend the traditional period of November to February as the best time to plant roses and achieve good results, as well as saving you money.
Q. What is a field grown rose?
A.A field grown (or bare root) rose is simply a rose grown in a field, dug up and sold without soil around its roots when it is dormant (November-February). A containerised rose is a field grown rose in a pot which, when established, allows planting when it is actively growing.
Q. What is the difference between a hybrid tea and a floribunda?
A. Nowadays, it is more difficult to describe the difference between the two as the flower shape and quality of the floribunda improves, but basically a hybrid tea rose produces a long stem bearing one good quality flower which makes a good cut flower. A floribunda produces a cluster of slightly smaller flowers on each stem but they make a very colourful display. There is no difference in heights and both types mix in well together.
Q. What is a shrub rose?
A. A shrub rose is a general term for an enormous amount of rose varieties. In broad terms they include the old fashioned varieties, specie roses (nature's own roses before we began hybridising them) and modern varieties which have a wider, taller or laxer habit of growth than bush roses.
Q. What is the difference between a climber and a rambler?
A. Climbers have stiff, upright growth, usually repeat flower from June until October. They are ideal on walls, fences, pergolas and arches. Ramblers have a lax habit, most (with some exceptions) produce a glorious display once a year and are good for growing into trees and hedges, pillars, pergolas and arches.
Q. Are there any climbing roses suitable for growing on shady walls?
A. Climbing roses generally need sunshine, although some will tolerate shady conditions. They include: Adelaide d'Orleans, Alberic Barbier, Albertine, Climbing Iceberg, Dans de Feu, Goldfinch, Handel, Kathleen Harrop, Leverkusen, Madame Alfred Carriere, Maigold, May Queen, Meg, Morning Jewel, Summer Wine, The New Dawn and Zepherin Drouhin.
Q. My climbing roses are 10 ft (3m) tall, but the bottom six feet is devoid of leaves – what can I do about it?
A. This is a classic problem with climbing roses which is why it is important to train them horizontally as well as vertically. This is described in How to Grow.
Q. Are there any roses that will grow into trees?
A. Several varieties of rambling roses make excellent subjects for climbing into trees. For a small tree, varieties that are suitable include Alberic Barbier, Albertine, Alchymist, American Pillar, Climbing Cecile Brunner, Felicite et Perpetue, Frances Lester, Francois Juranville, Madame Gregoire Staechlin, Sanders White, Kew Rambler, Leontine Gervais, Paul Transon, Seagull and The Garland. For large trees, suitable varieties include Bobbie James, Kiftsgate, Paul's Himalayan Musk, Rambling Rector, Treasure Trove and Wedding Day.
Q. Can I grow a clematis through my climbing rose?
A. Clematis grow very well with roses but choose carefully. A Montana variety will swamp most roses. Remember that clematis need pruning hard every year and it can be a prickly operation removing dead clematis bits from the climbing rose.
Q. When should I prune roses? (For climbers & ramblers see How to Grow)
A. Some people will say November, others say March, but we say any time between these two months. Make sure it's not frosty at pruning time and complete pruning by mid-March in southern England and early April elsewhere.
Q. Can you grow roses in pots?
A. Roses grow very well in containers . Always use John Innes No.3 compost and a slow release fertilizer, such as Osmocote. Make sure the pot doesn't become waterlogged in winter.
Q. Why don't modern roses smell like the old fashioned roses?
A. It's a myth that modern roses don't smell like old fashioned roses. This has been increased by the advent of florists roses which are different varieties to our garden roses and have been bred to have a long vase life and long straight stems – but no scent! In the 1970s, rose breeders bred roses for their colour, size and disease-resistance. Scent was considered less important, leading to the introduction of many new varieties with no smell. This attitude has changed in the past twenty years and much more emphasis is now placed on scent. On a final note, 200 years ago people were saying modern roses don't smell like old fashioned ones!
Q. I'm looking for old fashioned roses that flower all summer and autumn – what can you suggest?
A. Most old fashioned roses have a single big flowering session during the year, but by careful selection and a bit of cheating you can have flowers all summer. Firstly, when choosing old fashioned roses select from the following groups: Rugosa, Hybrid Musk, Hybrid Perpetual, Bourbon, China and Portland – these all will repeat flower. Secondly, (here's the cheating bit!) many modern roses look old fashioned, these include the English roses and some of the bush roses.
Q.Will planting garlic with my roses keep aphids away?
A. For many years planting certain types of plants with others to prevents pests and diseases (known as companion planting) has had its advocates. For some people it works, for others it doesn't – but it's worth a try. Tagetes (marigolds), chives and lavender are said to work.
Q. Do I have to plant roses in a bed by themselves?
A. Roses don't have to be grown in beds by themselves. They look effective grown thus but it can increase disease incidence. Roses combine well with herbaceous plants as well as shrubs. In shrub borders they add colour at a time when most shrubs have finished flowering.
Q. I have planted a border with ground cover roses, how do I prune them?
A. Pruning ground cover roses is simple – just trim/prune to required height and spread using a hedge trimmer, shears or secateurs. In our experience we find it best to reduce by about half.
Q. I have been told that a rose with seven leaves is a sucker – is this right and how do I deal with it?
A. This is partially true but do not rely on this as a guide. A sucker will originate from the base of the plant or further away, have pale green leaves, green stems and few thorns. They look totally different to roses and are not common now. Some people tend to worry too much about suckers – we have had climbing roses returned to us after two or three years because, according to the customer, they just send out suckers from the base which they pull off and the rose fails to climb. After inspecting the plants in question, the so-called 'suckers' are actually the rose trying to climb!
Q. How do I prune a standard rose?
A. Pruning standard roses is simple, just prune as a bush but not as hard.
Q. How do I keep roses flowering for as long as possible?
A. The simple answer is dead-head them – either by snapping off between finger and thumb or pruning to the first leaf. Remember it is important not to dead-head roses that give a good crop of hips.
Q. Do I need manure to grow good roses?
A. No, you don't need manure. Roses are very hungry plants (they need to be with all the flowering they do), manure will supply some of the nutrients they need but rose fertiliser, or blood, fish and bone, will supply much more. Some people make the mistake of just giving their roses manure but they need extra feeding as well. Manure, garden compost and leaf mould will improve the structure of the soil (dry soils will hold more water, wet soils will drain more freely) and make excellent mulches, which roses love.
Q. How do I choose new roses?
A. Choosing roses is a personal thing. Some people remember their grandparents' favourite roses, such as Whisky Mac or the Duke of Windsor and want to plant up a bed of them because they once were the best varieties. But, despite being good in their time (1960s and 1970s), they are now old, have lost their vigour and disease resistance and don't flower so much (it happens to us all eventually!). So, we don't always advocate being guided by old books and fond memories of yesteryear. Choose today's equivalent of these oldies and they will perform a whole lot better. Our online catalogue and paper catalogue give our opinion on how good a rose is, but this is only a guide, it can vary from area to area. Take advice from nurserymen and visit rose gardens, but most of all have fun choosing.
Q. How do you propagate roses?
A. We propagate our roses by T-budding, which is inserting a bud of the chosen variety into the neck of a seedling rose (rootstock). This bud then grows into a bush and lives on the rootstock's roots. However, for most people, taking cuttings is the easiest option, although not all roses perform well from cuttings (especially hybrid teas and floribundas). In November take a 30cm (12 in) pencil-thick cutting of the current year's growth and insert two thirds into a sand lined trench on the north side of a fence or hedge. Then wait for one year and hope for the best!
Q. I have a shady garden. Can I grow roses?
A. Most roses need at least half the day in sunshine. Some will tolerate shade, these include varieties from the Alba group, Rosa glauca and a few other specie roses. I have seen Iceberg growing and flowering in heavy shade.
Q. I want to cut roses for indoor decoration, any tips?
A. When cutting roses for floral decorations it is best to cut early in the morning before the sun has risen or in the evening. Cut stems should be immersed in water up to their necks. Place these in a cool shady room until you are ready to use them. A sloping cut should then be made just below a bud and any leaves that would be immersed should be removed. Arrange in water to which a flower life extender has been added. Do not crush the stems.
Q. I want to have a rose named for me. How do I go about it?
A. Having a rose named for you or a friend can be expensive. A rose which has commercial potential would cost from £10,000. When it comes to naming a rose, a good commercial rose could be a financial disaster if it doesn't have a good name. A much cheaper route would be to contact a member of the Amateur Rose Breeders Association (ARBA) and buy a seedling rose which can then be propagated. ARBA can be contacted at the Royal National Rose Society, telephone no. 01727 850461
Q. Why are there so many new varieties of rose?
A. Every year there seems to be masses of new roses launched. When a rose comes on the market it has to be something completely different or an improvement on an existing variety. Usually, new roses are healthier, more free flowering and generally easier to grow than their forebears. With these goals in mind, rose breeders set out to offer customers new varieties with these qualities, so it pays to look out for them.
Q. Where can I buy good quality roses?
A. We always aim to supply good quality roses and are members of the trade body The British Rose Growers Association (BRGA). If you're looking for a grower near you or a special variety of rose, buy a copy of Find That Rose which lists all members of the BRGA* and the varieties they grow.
(*Available from the editor, 303 Mile End Road, Colchester, Essex CO4 5EA)
Q. I've been told you can't plant roses in the same place that roses have been grown previously. Is this true?
A. If you've had roses growing for 10 years or more in the same spot, dug them out and replaced with new roses, the chances are the new ones will not flourish. This is due to rose replant disease. The cause of this is not well understood but is thought to involve nematodes. If you are replanting roses it is a good idea to change the soil. For each new rose, dig a hole approximately 45cm square and replace it with soil that hasn't grown roses before. The old soil can be used for growing anything apart from roses.
With large beds of roses it can be quite a job and an alternative to replacing the soil is to grow a green manure crop such as tagetes and dig it in whilst in flower. This is supposed to remove rose sickness but there is only anecdotal evidence as to its efficacy. Another useful product against rose sickness is Rootgrow, a beneficial fungus which adheres to the rose root and rapidly expands to allow the plant access to moisture and nutrients from a wider area of soil thereby increasing the early vigour of the rose.
If you don't want to dig out your soil, we recommend a product called Rootgrow, which is a 'friendly fungi' that can be sprinkled in the planting hole. This helps the roses overcome any re-plant problems.
Q. What can I do about blackspot? (The Million Dollar Question!)
A. Blackspot is probably the most off-putting aspect of rose growing, however there are a few simple steps that will prevent it.
Choose blackspot resistant varieties, there are lots of them and we are happy to recommend them – but please note they are resistant not immune. If your neighbour has blackspot-infected roses, so will you, only at a later date!
Keep your roses well fed with a proper rose fertilizer at least twice a season, but if you're on poor sandy or chalky soil feed monthly, from March to August.
Try to avoid watering in the evening, water in the morning, trying to keep the leaves dry or, better, invest in a watering system that uses a seep hose. Evening watering encourages the growth of fungal infections as the leaves will remain damp overnight.
Prune to heights as mentioned in How to Grow.
If you use a fungicide, make sure that you use different ones as blackspot builds up resistance to such products in a similar way to bugs and antibiotics. Suitable fungicides include Multi-Rose Fungus Fighter, Rose Clear 3 and Dithane. Alternatively, Greenacres Horticultural Supplies make a product called Wettable Sulphur and this is very effective in treating blackspot. However, it will take a year for you to see results.
Finally, it's important not to get stressed out by blackspot as nothing in nature is perfect.
Q. Which roses are best for chalky soils?
A. Many roses will grow successfully on chalky soils but they do need feeding much more regularly than those grown on other soils. We recommend a monthly feed with a good rose fertilizer while they are actively growing. Choose a vigorous variety and you should not have too much trouble. Remember to water well during dry periods but not late in the day as water left on leaves overnight can encourage disease.