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Jobs done in the garden now will ensure your roses have more blooms and are healthier next spring. Dropped leaves should be removed and disposed of by burning or putting them out with the rubbish. Don’t compost them.
Ground should be prepared for new or replacement plants, so if you are getting rid of a rose which hasn’t done well or is diseased, dig it out now. If a rose is to be planted in the same space, take out a barrow load of soil and replace it with fresh soil from another part of the garden. Don’t take soil from an area where potatoes or tomatoes grew last summer. Compost, either commercial or home made, can be mixed into the hole at this stage.
Choose the new roses you will be planting carefully. Make sure the plant has at least two or three plump, good sized stems, and has not dried out and become dehydrated. It is particularly important to choose a good new variety. There are so many now which are virtually disease free, with beautiful blooms. Ask for advice if you are overwhelmed by the choice in garden centres.
When planting a bush rose, dig a hole deep enough for the roots so the bud union will be at ground level. Standard roses should be planted at the same depth they were in the nursery, and it’s easier to put in the stake which will support the standard rose before planting
I like to place a handful of dried blood in the bottom of the hole, mixing it in well with the soil before planting. Dried blood helps the roots to grow well in the spring. If the soil is dry, pour in a bucketful of water after the rose has been planted. This ensures that the roots won’t dry out, and also washes the soil down.
Rose pruning can be a thorny problem, but it doesn’t have to be. The most important thing is to have the right tools for the job – sharp parrot beak secateurs, sharp loppers or pruning saw, and strong leather gloves so you can easily grasp any part of a rose bush without worrying about the thorns. There are commercial firms who sharpen tools, or you can do them yourself using a sharpening stone.
If you want to have a lively discussion, ask two or more rosarians when pruning should be done. In the colder parts of New Zealand, pruning can be done as soon as there have been three or four good, heavy frosts. Frosts stop the sap flowing, and make the plants dormant. In Christchurch, for example, I have always pruned on Queen’s Birthday weekend, as we’ve always had several white frosts by then and the roses never suffer any ill effects. The garden looks tidier, and the conditions at the beginning of June are pleasanter than at the end of July.
However, in the North Island, particularly in the northern half, pruning at that time would be disastrous as the roses would still be growing. The rule is that roses should be pruned when the sap has stopped flowing and they are dormant, or as close to dormant as possible.
Spray with lime sulphur will make the plants lose their leaves more quickly. It does make it easier to prune if you can see the nude branches, but you can prune with the leaves on. Lime sulphur is a good winter spray, killing most of the diseases and insects which overwinter on plants. However, make sure you don’t spray it anywhere near paintwork as it stains. Another good winter spray is copper and oil at winter strength.
Spraying can be done either before or after pruning, but the most important thing is to spray all roses in the winter. This can be the most important spray of the year.