Gardening / The ‘baloney’ of growing roses

“I don’t spray my roses and most of my plants get mildew or black spot or both. Does it matter? Fungal diseases never killed a rose.”

Roses… “Among the easiest and most rewarding of all plants, but they don’t have to be constantly watered, dead-headed, pruned and sprayed – just simply enjoyed”.

Roses… “Among the easiest and most rewarding of all plants, but they don’t have to be constantly watered, dead-headed, pruned and sprayed – just simply enjoyed”.

AS we go into spring with high expectations of a wonderful display of roses for the next few months, here are some new ideas on their care and attention.

My traditional advice and that of rose breeders is that now is the time to get on with pruning. However, in the article “Time to drop the myths about roses” in the English “Country Life” magazine, Charles Quest-Ritson says: “Almost all the traditional advice on how to grow roses is baloney”.

Quest-Ritson is an authority on roses and author of the Royal Horticultural Society’s “Encyclopedia of Roses”.

He goes on to say: “Roses are wonderfully rewarding and easy to grow, but they have a reputation of being difficult. All that mumbo jumbo about pruning and earnest advice about pests and diseases – that is where the trouble begins.

“I don’t spray my roses and most of my plants get mildew or black spot or both. Does it matter? Fungal diseases never killed a rose. “Life is too short to spray and we are not here to underwrite the profits of the chemical industry”.

I definitely agree with that statement given my constant appeal to gardeners not to use chemical fertilisers and sprays.

On pruning, he says: “I do not prune at any particular time and only prune when I think they are getting too big, not flowering enough or need opening up.

“That’s the key to pruning, just think of them as another shrub. “Take hybrid teas for example, I do dead-head them if I have the time and sometimes let them go for three or four years without a proper prune, whereupon they start flowering much earlier and produce many more flowers.

“I grow at least 1000 roses of every type and they don’t seem to suffer from my failure to apply the traditional rose wisdom of ‘pruning in late winter to within an inch of their life’.

The idea that roses are gross feeders dated back to the 19th century fashion for growing roses for exhibition… Roses are garden plants and I do not have the time to lug barrow loads of manure round the garden in winter. Roses respond to feeding, all shrubs do. I water them when I find time.

“So let’s abandon the myths; I know, I know, roses are among the easiest and most rewarding of all plants, but they don’t have to be constantly watered, dead-headed, pruned and sprayed – just simply enjoyed”.

I’m sure anyone growing roses to win prizes will strongly disagree. However, for the average gardener, I agree with all these sentiments.

AND on August 17 I recorded our first blowfly of the season, open to challenge of course.
Jottings…

  • Plant peonies and dahlias.
  • Start mulching all garden beds. I recommend Canberra Sand and Gravel’s Canberra Organic Mulchup to 75mm thick.
  • Prune and feed sasanqua camellias to encourage flower buds for next season.

Doings…

  • THE first of the Horticultural Society of Canberra’s flower shows are on September 13-14.
  • DSC04366The Orchid Society of Canberra’s annual spring show will be held at the Wesley Centre, 20 National Circuit, Forrest. 9am-5pm on Saturday, September 20 and noon-4pm, Sunday, September 21. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 concession, and children 14 years or under are free. Refreshments will be available.

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