Resilient Roses

By Andy McIndoe

Roses may like a warm summer, and undoubtedly the blooms are at their best without heavy rain on the petals, but like most plants they struggle in drought conditions.

At the best of times many varieties can be temperamental creatures. Even those described as disease resistant suddenly succumb to blackspot and mildew. Late summer is good time to review the success of roses, after the demands of the first flush of flowers and hopefully just before a repeat performance. It is also a time when some will need a little help.

Rosa rugosa hips

Roses like clay soils with the addition of plenty of organic matter, they also dislike dry conditions around their roots. For those who garden on light sandy soils Rosa rugosa and its hybrids are unbeatable. Their heavily pleated bright green leaves are reliably disease free and most have the benefit of large, colourful hips after the flowers.

A native of the seashore the species is well adapted to poor, light soil. Rosa rugosa from seed raised stock makes an excellent hedging plant and suits naturalistic planting. The simple single blooms are wonderfully fragrant and highly attractive to bees and pollinators. Some may be put off by the strong cerise pink blooms displayed by many plants, however few can resist the silky pure white flowers of the lovely Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’.

Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’

The large tomato-like hips that follow the flowers remain atop the stems into winter and will be enjoyed by wild birds. Rosa rugosa is also deer and rabbit resistant, unlike other roses which are the first garden plants to be devoured by the creatures.

There are numerous names cultivars, both single and double flowered. The pale pink, single Rosa ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’ is a reliable compact plant which flowers freely and fruits well. Pruning and maintenance is minimal. It lacks the fragrance of the species.

Rosa ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’

The double-flowered, crimson-purple Rosa ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’ starts to bloom early but the flowers dwindle as the season progresses. However it is wonderfully fragrant, forms a large bushy plant and maintains good foliage.

Rosa ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’

Rosa rugosa ‘Hansa’ is more compact and blooms freely through summer. The double blooms are open in the centres revealing golden stamens and the fragrance is powerful. It deserves wider planting.

Rosa 'Hansa'

Some modern rose varieties have Rosa rugosa in their breeding. David Austin’s ‘Wild Edric’ is a superb, strong growing plant, excellent for an informal hedge. The semi-double blooms of cerise-purple have centres packed with golden stamens. It is fragrant, free-flowering and healthy. Another David Austin variety with Rosa rugosa in its parentage Rosa ‘The Mayflower’ is a compact shrub with very double, deliciously fragrant blooms of warm pink. Tough, reliable and healthy shrub it is ideal for a shot of summer colour and fragrance with other shrubs and perennials. It is also shade tolerant.

Rosa ‘The Mayflower’

The disease resistant and reliability of many roses varies greatly with growing conditions, however some seem to perform regardless. Rosa ‘Bonica’ is a modern shrub rose with an incredibly long flowering season, often blooming from early summer right through into winter.

With fresh green, healthy leaves and a well branched growth this makes a good shrub perfect for the mixed border. The clusters of loosely double clear pink flowers are produced continuously through summer and autumn and are remarkably weather resistant. Rarely does it show any signs of disease and also blooms well in semi-shade.

Rosa 'Bonica'

David Austin’s Rosa ‘Kew Gardens’ is perhaps not entirely disease free but is certainly tough and resistant. The sprays of creamy single flowers are produced with great continuity; if they are left on the shrub later in the season they develop attractive hips.In a border with other shrubs it is more reminiscent of a good Hydrangea paniculata than a rose.

Rosa ‘Kew Gardens’

Another single flowered rose, Rosa ‘Rosy Cushion’ forms a broad mound, perfect for ground cover. Flowering freely and continuously with pretty, single dog-rose blooms it suits informal planting and is ideal for banks and slopes.

Rosa ‘Rosy Cushion’

Some ground cover roses are just too rampant, smothering everything in the vicinity and presenting a real challenge to maintenance. The Flower Carpet series are the exception. Well known and widely planted in Europe they bloom freely, are trouble free and easily maintained. The original Rosa Flower Carpet is a strong pink; not the most refined shade, but a great performer.

Mounds of shining leaves persist into winter; flowering is almost continuous. Tolerant of pollution and poor soil it is often seen on road embankments. Rosa Flower Carpet White is more sophisticated and less vigorous. Good dark green foliage and loose clusters of pure-white semi-double blooms. It performs well with some shade and makes a great planting partner for green and white variegations.

Rosa 'Flower Carpet White'

Keep them healthy and blooming

Notes on Planting

If a rose develops disease, or produces weak and straggly growth do not be afraid to cut it back, feed and revive at any point in the season.All roses should be fed generously after the first flush of flowers has passed. Use a rose fertiliser, or a slow-release that is high in nitrogen and potash. Chicken pellets, seaweed and organic manures are great in addition, but no substitute for a balanced rose food.

Watering after feeding and during dry weather is very important. In areas where disease is an issue watering in dry weather and feeding twice a year is more effective than spraying.

Andy McIndoe

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