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Refreshing the rose garden

June is the month to take a long hard look at the roses and how they performed over the past season.

We would all like our roses to look like these. But what if they don’t?

As the roses start to go dormant it is easier to see the roses that are doing well and those that aren’t. It could be that they haven’t flowered or grown as well or suffered from  pest infestations, scale or fungal diseases. Usually these are signs of an unhappy rose.

To get your roses back on track for the next season, diagnose what went wrong and take steps to remedy it. Here are some pointers from rose grower Ludwig Taschner:

Not enough sun

Roses need at least six hours of sun a day to thrive. If they are receiving less, consider cutting off low branches from trees or big shrubs. A better option is to move the roses to an area that receives more sun.

Not enough water

We have just been through a very hot summer which has put a strain on the roses. Roses that don’t get enough water to their roots cannot thrive. With the high price of water, every drop has to count and there are ways to make the water go further.

Get water to the roots by filling a 2-litre plastic bottle sunk next to a rose bush.

One easy method is to “install” 2 litre plastic bottles with the bottom cut off.

: Use an old 35cm diameter pot around the rose to retain water.

If you have an old 35 cm diameter plastic pot, cut off the top half and dig / push it into the ground about halfway down.

In a sloping bed, a concrete ring around a rose helps retain water.

If the roses are on a slight slope or edge,  a half concrete ring would do.

Compact soil:

Roses like soil that drains well, where the water goes easily down to root level. If the soil around the roses is hard, dry and compact it is difficult for the water to penetrate.

For a correct diagnosis dig a hole about 20cm away from the rose and go down to a depth of about 30cm. Should there be a problem with aeration (heavy, wet or dry soil) you can remedy it by digging in peanut shells, milled bark, crushed apricot pips or similar coarse material together with compost plus some compost to a depth of 30cm.

Dry, compact spoil 30cm deep.

Another solution is to take out the roses, raise the soil level by introducing such material and replant the roses.

Trenching around the roses is also very effective.

  • Dig a trench about 30cm from the roses. The trench should be about 40 cm deep.
  • Fill the trench with soil, organic material and a controlled release rose fertiliser like Vigolonger.
  • Water the trench very well. The water will sink easily to root level and if the trench is watered regularly and deeply, the rose roots will grow into the trench.
  • The improved aeration and water supply will yield quick results. By adding Vigolonger, the roses will have food available to last the full season.


Root competition

The most successful, long term solution to root competition is to lift the rose, plant it in a container and sink it back into the ground so that the rim of the container is level with the soil. The container can be lifted every winter to check that the drainage holes are still clear.

Here is Ludwig’s  my step-by step guide for transplanting roses:

Prune off a third of the growth. Dig a circle around the rose, about 30cm from the stems. Push the spade in deeply and at a slight angle in order to cut the roots anchoring the rose.

Use 2 spades to lever out a rose for transplanting.

Once the roots have been cut, lever the rose out of the soil using the spade or two spades on either side of the rose. Do not pull the rose out.

When the rose is out of the ground, cut off broken or damaged roots.

: Replant rose with the ‘bud union’ (thickened stem) just below the soil.

Replant the rose at the correct depth with the bud union just below the level of the soil. Firm down the soil and water well.

Water every three days for about two weeks and then reduce watering. For more information visit Ludwig’s Roses.


Article and images supplied by Alice Coetzee. 


For more on gardening, visit Get It Magazine.

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