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How to grow perfect roses this November

Jackie French reveals the secrets of growing perfect roses, and tells us what to plant this month.

The six secrets of professional rose growers:

  1. Sunlight! The more heat and sun roses get, the more new growth they make – and thus the more blooms. This is why so many public rose gardens have gravel paths or well-dug garden beds to absorb and reflect heat to the bushes. Grow your rose bushes by a sunny wall or fence, but…

  2. Keep the roots cool with mulch. Roses need cool roots and hot tops. Mulch won’t just help keep moisture in and slowly feed the plants as it decays, it will also insulate the roots.

  3. Feed! Most professional rose growers have their favourite fertiliser mix that they know gives the best results – and every one is different. Sprinkle slow-release food each spring, or scatter organic rose food every fortnight on top of the mulch. Find the regimen that suits you (and your roses) best and stick to it.

  4. Prune hard and know when to do it.

  5. Either learn a lot about black spot, thrips, earwigs, flower balling and stem dieback, or choose hardy, disease-resistant roses that suit your climate and gardening ability.

  6. Love your roses. Loved flowers flourish because you’ll find the time to do the mulching, feeding, pruning – and a vast amount of picking for your own vases and for your friends.

Your rose questions answered

Are dark red roses the most fragrant?

No, though dark red Papa Meilland, Guinea and Mr Lincoln are strong contenders. Orange-red Fragrant Cloud, deep pink Secret and many others rival, or surpass, them.

Do all roses have thorns?

Rose thorns are curved – they tear your flesh, not just prick it. Luckily, there are a lot of thornless or nearly thornless roses to choose from: white and yellow Banksia roses, Crepuscule, Renae, the heritage Zéphirine Drouhin climbing rose, the ever popular Iceberg, and many of the glorious David Austin roses.

Do roses grow in a hot garden?

Yes – but only with much care. You need to choose varieties that tolerate not just the heat, but humidity. Try above-ground beds for better drainage and feed and prune often because roses grow faster in the heat; and learn about black spot. In hot but non-humid areas, look for roses sourced by the New Zealand Rose Society, such as Carpet Rose Sunset.

Can I grow roses in the shade?

Yes, but they will need at least a couple of hours of sunlight or dappled light to flower well. Look for General Gallieni from Matthews Nurseries and other roses labelled ‘shade tolerant’.

Can I grow roses in a pot?

Yes, but again, choose your rose carefully, make it a big pot and don’t forget to feed it. ‘Patio’ roses were bred to grow – yes – on a patio. Miniature roses, ground-cover roses and some smaller Floribundas, such as hardy Iceberg, grow superbly in pots by sunny walls.

Should all roses be pruned in winter?

Not if they only bloom once a year each spring – you’ll cut off the flower buds. Prune spring-blooming roses just after flowering. All roses respond well to a bit or a lot of trimming back after a flush of summer flowers.

November is the time to…

  • Gaze out at the flowers spilling over your garden… or if they aren’t, head to the garden centre for flower plants you’ll fall in love with.

  • Mulch, feed, feed, then mulch again. And water. Spring means growth, but plants need food and watering to grow most vigorously.

  • Plant every vegetable you like and a few more, such as celeriac or Jerusalem artichokes, just for the fun of trying something new.

  • Go for tomatoes, even if you plant nothing else. If you don’t have a garden, grow them in a hanging basket by a sunny window. There’s nothing like a home-ripened tomato drizzled with a little olive oil!

Words by Jackie French

Photos by Getty Images

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