Perfect rose garden

ECT has a long history of supporting group travel for florists, gardeners and horticulturists and providing a connection to the world experts in each specialism. With this in mind we recently asked you – our social network followers – if any of you had some good questions for the rose experts at David Austin Roses. We have since gathered questions together from those looking to improve technique and posed them in an interview and these are the responses we received from the best in the business. We hope this helps all the budding rosarians out there!

Why do some Hybrid Tea Roses not produce roses but only produce luscious green leaves that rocket to the sky?

DAR: Hybrid Tea roses tend to flower for many months, but they won’t necessarily be in flower all the time. After the first flush, some varieties may send up long stems that should then produce flowers later in the season. This is more likely to happen in hotter climates. Summer pruning will often be helpful – this simply involves cutting back the flowering shoots when the flowers have faded by about 18″.

How do you properly train climbers to climb trellises without damaging?

DAR: Use string or special ties rather than wire which can damage the stems. Also make sure to leave room for the stems to expand as the plant matures. In later years, you can stimulate the growth of many more flowering stems by training a few of the stems out as near as possible to horizontal. Work with the younger, more pliable stems and take care not to force stems beyond their breaking point.

When is the best time to prune back your Roses and is it advisable to prune them right down?
DAR: In warmer climates do this in January and February.  In very cold winter areas, delay until spring is just starting (a useful tip is that this usually coincides with when the forsythia flowers).

[See our tips on pruning below as these vary depending on the type of roses being grown.]

How often would you give roses Rose Food and where around the Roses would you place it to get the best results?

DAR: Feed in spring and again after the first flush of flowering. We would recommend a good slow release fertiliser. Always read the instructions and follow those as different formulations have different requirements. It is important not to overfeed – for example, too much nitrogen can encourage luxuriant foliage rather than flowers. Spread the food over an area 3-4ft diameter around the roses.

What would you do with a Rose bush that produces big beautiful Roses on a weak thin stem, therefore not been able to hold themselves up?

DAR: Roses tend to improve with age as they mature and get stronger. Make sure the roses are getting enough water and the correct amount of fertiliser. Check they are not planted in too much shade, or are being overhung by branches of trees. Pruning shrub roses too hard each year may prevent them from building up a structure of strong stems.

It is worth taking time to distinguish between weak, thin stems and a nodding habit of flower. Though hybrid teas traditionally have upwards facing flowers, this is not the case for all roses – many Old Roses have this type of flower head as do some of the most popular English Roses. In practice, roses with nodding heads are great for flower arrangers as their nodding habit makes it possible to easily create Redouté-style arrangements. Some floral designers, such as Shane Connelly, who created the flowers for the recent royal wedding, will only use roses with nodding heads as he believes these create the most natural, graceful arrangements. As roses vary, check the habit of the rose before deciding which to plant if this an important factor for you.

Winter and Summer Pruning Tips

Winter Pruning:

Pruning is very easy. In areas with relatively mild winters, January and February is the best time. In regions with cold winters, pruning should be delayed until spring growth is just starting.  On all plants, remove very weak, old and woody, dead and diseased stems.

English Roses and other repeat-flowering shrub rosesshould be cut down by between 1/3 and 2/3 (see Figure 1, between dotted line 1 and 2) but only thinned a little.

Bush Roses (Hybrid Teas and Floribundas) should be cut down harder by between ½ to ¾ and thinning out some of the older main stems.

Non-repeating shrubs should be left alone or lightly pruned by no more than ½ (dotted line 1 on figure 1) and thinned very lightly.

figure 1

Climbers – The previous year’s flowering shoots should be reduced to three or four buds or about four to six inches and the strong, new stems tied in, cutting out older ones as necessary.

Ramblers should be left to ramble at will unless they need to be constrained, in which case prune like climbers.

Dead-heading is the removal of spent flowers. It encourages repeat-flowering and makes a tidier plant. Either remove just the dead flower or cut the stems down to the first full leaf.

Summer Pruning:

In warm climates it may be beneficial to summer prune by cutting back most of the spent flowering shoots about 18″, leaving just a few inches.  This can be repeated through the season as the rose repeat flowers and will encourage more compact growth and quicker repeat-flowering.