Peter Beales’ A-to-Z of rose-growing

Looking to brush-up on your rose-growing skills? The experts at Peter Beales Roses have compiled this handy A-Z guide of everything you need to know to create displays that are worthy of a gold medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

A – Award-winning: Look out for roses that hold a coveted Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit (AGM) – the hallmark of exceptional garden performance. AGM-winners have triumphed at trials and you know you’re picking a winner. Keep an eye open for varieties that have won the hotly contested title of ‘Rose of the Year’, too.

B – Bare-root: Field-grown and supplied without a container, bare-root roses come in a huge range of varieties. They’re usually available between November and March, while dormant. A traditional way of buying roses, bare-root plants establish quickly, putting down a strong network of roots that will power brilliant displays of flowers during summer.

C – Climbers: Keen to enhance fences, pergolas and walls with an abundance of blooms? Look no further than climbing roses. Many are vigorous and repeat-flower well, blooming through summer into autumn, transforming a dreary boundary into a horticultural haven. Find your perfect climber here:

D – Dead-heading: snip faded blooms or spent clusters of flowers away regularly using secateurs (weekly during summer). Plants will channel their energy into producing more flowers, keeping displays at the peak of perfection over a longer season.

E – Establishment: Roses will settle into their new homes when given a helping hand to establish. While autumn is the prime season for planting, containerised roses can be planted throughout the year, as long as the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged – and it’s best to avoid planting during periods of scorching weather or drought. If planting roses into the ground, fork in lots of well-rotted manure or garden compost. Roses appreciate soil with a pH of around 6.5 (slightly acidic) or neutral soil. Although roses have deep root systems, they’ll need to be kept watered while establishing if conditions are dry.

F – Floribunda: Put simply, floribunda means ‘many flowers’ – these are fabulous roses that bear clusters of blooms on each stem. Their brightly coloured blooms make these flower powerhouses a popular choice as bedding roses and many will bear an abundance of blooms from June until October. Browse a selection of fabulous floribundas here:

G – Ground-cover: Banish the sight of bare soil beneath shrubs with glorious ground-cover roses. These roses might be smaller, growing broad rather than tall, but they pack a punch for flower power. Technically known as procumbent roses, they’re ideal for filling beds with summer colour, keeping difficult-to-reach banks carpeted in colour and for growing in containers, too. More here:

H – Hybrid tea: These classic garden favourites tend to bear a single bud on the end of each stem which opens to reveal a single, glorious bloom (unlike floribundas, which produce clusters of flowers). Hybrid teas have one of the longest flowering periods of any garden plant, getting the show on the road in early summer and blooming until the first frosts of autumn. Browse the selection here:

I – Insects: Although roses are low-maintenance, generally hassle-free plants, greenfly and blackfly can sometimes infest foliage and flower buds. Ladybirds often descend to feast on these unwanted bugs, but if nature’s pest control is in short supply, aphids can easily be despatched by blasting them from plants using a hosepipe. Tackling infestations before they’ve built up makes it easier to rid plants of unwanted invaders, so be vigilant during the warm months.

J – John Innes: John Innes No3 compost, to be precise – because that’s what gardeners should fill large pots with when planting roses into containers. This loam-based growing medium is formulated for plants that will sit in containers for many years. Specialist rose composts mix 70% John Innes No. 3 with 30% multi-purpose compost or dried manure. Avoid planting into only multipurpose or rose compost, which are designed to be used for up to six months and will become compacted and depleted in nutrients.

K – the symbol for potassium: Look at any plant food and the packaging will state the NPK rating. K stands for potassium (also called potash) and high levels of K in fertilisers will encourage abundant flowering. Tomato food is rich in potassium and works wonders on roses growing in containers – give summer displays a boost by feeding roses in pots with tomato food once the flowering season is underway.

L – Label: Every rose is different, so check the label before buying for the mature height and spread to make sure you have enough space. By leaving 60cm between floribunda and hybrid tea rose bushes, plants will have room to grow without becoming overcrowded, and you’ll have easy access, to dead-head, prune and weed.  Shrubs should be planted further apart.

M – Moisture-retentive soil: It’s the holy grail for success with roses, combined with good drainage and a sunny position. Get these basics right and you’re in store for a fabulous display of flowers!

N: Nutrients: While roses will flower even when subjected to neglect, supplying plants with plenty of nutrients holds the key to abundantly healthy displays. Where roses are growing in border soil, feed three times using a general-purpose fertiliser: firstly in February ahead of the flowering season, then again in June/July after the first flowers have faded, with the last feed taking place in August. Roses in containers will thank you for a regular liquid feed throughout the growing season. Vitax and Westland are two brands that offer tailored liquid rose food, whilst Maxicrop liquid seaweed plus iron is favoured by the team.

O: Ornamental: It’s not just the flowers of roses that are wonderfully ornamental: certain types, such as species roses which have a more natural appearance, produce hips – beautiful ornamental seed heads that wild birds adore. Ease off dead-heading these roses in midsummer and marvel at colourful fruits as they form in time for autumn. Find out more about species roses and their hips:

P – Perfume: When roses fill the air with powerful fragrance, you know that high summer has arrived. Whether it’s the waft of tea, myrrh or classic fruity perfume, there’s a huge choice of blooms that’ll ensure your rose borders emit a delightful scent of summer. Choose from fragrant roses hand-picked by experts here:

Q – Quality: If you’re buying containerised roses at a garden centre, it pays to know how to spot quality plants. Foliage should be lush and green, with no sign of blackspot or disease. Check that shoot tips and flower buds are free from aphids, and select plants with signs of healthy, vigorous growth. Good garden centres should keep roses in top condition, with no weeds or lichen evident on the surface of the compost.

R – Rambler: Whether you’re looking for a rose that’ll grow up trellis or adorn garden arches, rambling roses will give a breath-taking display. Most ramblers flower once, from early to midsummer, but blooms are borne in such profusion that the clusters of flowers are a sight to behold. Some even produce attractive hips (colourful fruits) in autumn. Browse a top selection of rambling roses here:

S – Standard roses: With their tall stems topped by a sphere of foliage and flowers, standard roses bring elegance and formality to gardens. Their classic lollipop-shaped appearance works a treat when grown in containers as a focal point either side of a doorway or path, or to frame a dramatic view. Browse a selection of superb standard roses here:

T – Top dressing: While many roses grow happily in containers, compost can become depleted of nutrients over the years, leading to lacklustre displays. To give plants a boost, scrape away the top 5cm of compost every couple of years and replace it with fresh John Innes No.3 or specialist rose compost – it’ll help to replenish nutrient levels which encourage healthy growth and a profusion of flowers.

U – Underplanting: Keen to stop animals from using your borders as their toilet? Underplanting with very low-growing roses or perennials holds the key to carpeting ground beneath shrubs with a profusion of blooms. The Flower Carpet series is a brilliant, spreading, low-growing rose, with varieties available that bloom in a host of hues, from yellow to white, red, coral and pink. These low-maintenance superstars boast superb disease-resistance, too, and are perfect for underplanting tall standards and tall shrubs.

V: Versatility: Roses are some the most versatile garden plants – you’ll find the ideal rose for almost any garden situation. Whether you need a rose to grow in a container, climb up a trellis or arch, blanket the ground with blooms or scramble through trees and shrubs, there’s a world of choice and an array of colours and fragrances to suit all gardening styles.

W – Waterlogging: While roses are tough as old boots, they’ll suffer if their roots are constantly sitting in ground that’s prone to waterlogging. Dig plenty of well-rotted organic matter into heavy soil to improve structure and drainage.

X – Xylella fastidiosa: A mouthful to pronounce, plant health experts are battling to keep this new disease out of the UK. If you’ve read stories in the press about how Xylella has been causing wilt and dieback on popular plants in Europe, you can buy roses in confidence that they won’t be affected if the disease reaches our shores. Instead, it targets olives, rosemary, lavender and hebe, to name a few, but thankfully roses aren’t on the disease’s list of host plants.

Y – Year: Keen to know how to keep your roses at their best throughout the year? The experts at Peter Beales Roses have produced this handy, month-by-month guide to growing like a pro. From pruning to feeding and watering to pest control, you’ll find top advice on tending plants throughout the seasons:

Z – ‘Zephirine Drouhin’: Okay, so we struggled with the letter ‘z’ – so we thought we would inspire you with a look at Rosa ‘Zephirine Drouhin’, one of the most famous climbing roses of all time. Thorn-less and tolerant of poor soils, this remarkable rose was first introduced in 1868 and rewards with exceptionally fragrant, cerise-pink, semi-double blooms.

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