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The summery days and wintery nights are ideal for a good start to the rose season.
Roses which have not yet been pruned will have started sprouting and that makes it easy to determine how far to cut back and which twigs to remove.
Corrective pruning can also be carried out on roses that were pruned in July. You will quickly see which stems could have been shortened even more or removed.
The ideal space between stems is a secateurs width. This allows enough space for stems to shoot and flower.
It is also not too late to prune and espalier climbing roses. They are not cut back like bush roses. Instead, remove the stems and branches that make the climber too dense and spread out the remaining long canes, tying them as horizontally as possible onto supports, be it a fence or trellis, V shape or spiralled on a pole.
If the roses were not fertilised after pruning, now is the time to do it. Ludwig’s Vigorosa provides complete nutrition in the right proportions. It contains Epsom salts, lime, most other microelements and, very importantly, humic acid. Scatter the granules around the bush and water well to dissolve them and carry it to the roots.
The sunny days have awakened everyone’s enthusiasm for gardening, and there has been a lot of talk on social media about companion plants for roses. There are pros and cons.
Groundcovers act as living mulch and their evaporation also improves humidity at the level of the rose leaves and blooms.
White Alyssum is superb and is highly scented. Other suitable groundcovers are Ajuga, that has dark foliage and small spikes of blue flowers in spring, silvery Stachys (Lamb’s ear) and echeveria (rock rose).
Be careful of Australian violets and ordinary garden violets because they form a dense mat of roots and more water is needed to reach the rose roots. Constantly check that groundcovers are not growing right up to and into the rose bush.
Low growing summer annuals that can be used as a border for roses are alyssum, begonias, impatiens, bedding salvia and verbena. Plant them in front of the roses and not in-between.
Taller plants easily intrude and even grow into the rose bushes, so that the leaves don’t get enough sun, and this causes defoliation at lower levels.
The hairy leaves of perennials like foxglove provide a breeding place for spider mites. Delphinium is a better option. The foliage is lighter and airier and the white or shades of blue blooms, contrasts beautifully with the softer colouring of the roses.
Lavender enjoys the extra water and nutrients, but then grows too rapidly. However, tall rose varieties that grow strongly above the companion plants, are a good option for creating an interesting landscape that mixes roses with other plants.
There is also a lot of talk about bee-friendly gardening. To make your roses garden bee-friendly, don’t use any insecticides and include roses with single or semi-double blooms or with very prominent stamens for easily accessible pollen.
Strong smelling garlic is often mentioned as a favourite companion plant for roses, in order to repel aphids. But, on its own, it is not enough because the strong-smelling foliage is way below the flowers which are the target of the insects.
For a corrective pruning demo, watch the YouTube presentation on www.ludwigsroses.co.za
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