Roses are revered and reviled for their exquisite beauty and piercing thorns. Their beauty and fragrance make them a great addition to any garden. Unfortunately, roses’ high maintenance reputation causes them to be often underused. However, with a little research, properly planted and selected roses can be relatively low maintenance and a great addition to any garden.
Roses require at least 6 hours of direct sun preferably in an open area, to allow for good air circulation, with beds that are rich in organic matter and are well drained. When planting a rose loosen the root ball and soak in water, seaweed or Howard Garrett Juice before transplanting. Once the rose is established, soak thoroughly every 7-14 days depending on the season. Roses can tolerate moderately dry soils once established. Over-watering, too much shade, little air circulation, and poorly drained soils are often sources of disease.
Careful selection of rose cultivars ensures success. Antique and Earth Kind roses are disease resistant, but not completely disease free. They are not immune to diseases, they simply shed the infected leaves and continue to grow and bloom in good health. They may occasionally need help, but in general they are healthy and can overcome any health issues.
Another common problem for roses are pests. Aphids, thrips, and other insect pests rarely affect a healthy rosebush severely, but they can damage and disfigure the tender new growth, buds, and flowers. To help the rose overcome the problem, spray with organic insecticide (such as neem oil) and/or attract or release beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings.
Pruning seem intimidating to many, but in reality it is relatively simple. It is needed to maintain optimum rose health and increase blooms. Modern roses require a hard cut-back. Typically, they are cut back to approximately 1/3 of their grown during late January/early February. Old roses don’t require hard pruning. In fact, they can sulk and refuse to bloom if pruned too hard. A good rule of thumb is to remove all dead canes and clip back no more than 1/3 of the remaining bush. Avoid mid-summer or late fall pruning to avoid frost or heat burn.
Photo courtesy of tedkerwin
Repeat bloomers can be lightly trimmed several times a year, since they flower on new growth. Once a year bloomers are best pruned after their first and only bloom.
After pruning, feed roses with organic fertilizer and water generously. Water dissolves the fertilizer into a form the rose can use and it cleans any residue off the bush. One feeding in early spring and another in early fall is sufficient. If the rose is a heavy bloomer it might help to feed it one more time in late spring.
As with modern roses, remove dead, diseased, crossing, and small growth. Antique roses less than three years old should not be pruned. Deadhead throughout the blooming season to increase blooms.