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Coming up roses for springtime

Brian Minter shows you how to bring back the beauty and fragrance of roses to our gardens again.
Floral Carpet Rose

With our very cool, wet late winter weather, it’s amazing that our roses are bursting out with fresh foliage.    Now is the time to prune shrub, hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses.  We need to cut them back hard, approximately 8-12”, to force out fresh new growth, keeping the plant renewed and more compact.

In spite of roses being slightly acid loving, they still need an application of well-rotted manures or good compost like ‘Sea Soil’.  Fibrous manures, such as mushroom compost, are dandy and should be applied at least 4-6” deep around your roses.  If you covered the bud unions of your roses in winter with bark, sawdust or soil, remove it now and work it into the soil along with the manures / compost.  Roses are heavy feeders.  There are many organic and traditional rose foods on the market, but be sure they are rated low nitrogen, high phosphorus and high potash with micronutrients.  Roses should be fertilized every two to three months.

I am absolutely surprised to hear of aphid problems already on roses and would highly recommend simply washing them off with a gentle flow of water.  In terms of sprays, if you wish to stay organic, use Safer’s ‘Trounce’ every ten days as a foliar mist.  Going forward, to keep mildew and black spot in check, pick off any infected foliage and every ten days, alternate an application of old-fashioned garden sulphur with an application of a baking soda solution (8 grams per one litre of water) mixed with a teaspoon of Trounce to act as a ‘spreader-sticker’ so the spray adheres to the leaves.  It works!  I am also very impressed with the new biological organic fungicide ‘Natria’ which contains bacteria (bacillus subtilis) that feed on a wide range of fungi.

I’ve seen quite a shift in demand, moving away from the traditional modern rose varieties to the more versatile shrub roses and to ground cover and easy care, disease free, hardy, continuous-blooming varieties.

There are some interesting new roses out that are very disease resistant.  Bailey Nurseries Inc. has introduced a series of roses called ‘Easy Elegance’ that have great hardiness, attractive flower forms, compact size, recurrent blooming habits and yes, great disease resistance.  They are well worth a look.

I’m also very intrigued with the roses from the famous Kordes family, who have been growing roses in Germany for four generations.  Their whole series of hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas are very disease resistant, repeat flowering and many are highly perfumed.  They are branded as clean and easy, which they are in spades!   Although there is a wide variety of colours, ‘Grande Amore’ and ‘Beverly’ are reputed to be among the best red and pink roses available today.  If you love performance, then check out Kordes’ new ‘Parfuma’ roses.  They have smaller blooms but they are a powerhouse of colour and also have great disease tolerance.

‘Floral Carpet’ roses have been around for some time now and are mostly used as ground cover roses, but their continuous colour, tenacity and disease resistance places them among the best.   Mass plantings of ‘Floral Carpet’ are truly spectacular.

The newest series of ground cover roses, called ‘Drift’, have slightly smaller blooms, but are amazingly prolific, and with their shiny disease-resistant foliage, they look very promising.

Yes there are old-time favourites out there that we all appreciate, but today’s new roses are not only long and continuous blooming but also hardy and very disease resistant.  These are just some of the great ones on the market, and they are bringing back the beauty and fragrance of roses to our gardens again.

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