This year, for the first time at the Garden Centre, we will be selling bare-rooted roses for a short period of time and they will be roughly half the price of their potted counterparts.
By the time you are reading about them, they should have arrived and we’ve a mouth-watering selection of hardy teas, floribundas and climbers. Ginger
Syllabub, Hot Chocolate and Ice Cream might set your taste buds going but there are also wonderful hues and shades that will delight your eyes – Burgundy Ice, Blue Moon, A Whiter Shade of Pale and Heart of Gold to name but a few. And, of course, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we’ll have some romantic reds – Deep Secret, Velvet Fragrance and Moment in Time.
I know that many of you don’t think of roses as very typical of our Mediterranean gardens yet roses have a long, illustrious and floriferous history in Spain. The genus rosa is believed to have originated in central Asia some 60 to 70 million years ago and, from there, spread over the entire Northern hemisphere. According to history it was those fabulous gardeners, the Moors, that
introduced the rose as an ornamental into Spain, as can be seen by traditional plantings in the Alhambra and Generalife gardens in Granada, thus starting a 1000 year history of the rose in Spain. But, according to legend, San Jordi bravely slayed a huge dragon that was terrorising the people and the blood of the dying dragon created a red rosebush. The feast day of San Jordi, in Barcelona, is annually celebrated by throwing red roses. Either version is full of romance and fascination – a fitting entry for the rose into Spain.
I always find that roses grow prolifically here and flower over an exceptionally long period, if you choose repeat flowerers. They’ll often grow much taller than in Northern Europe so, when you deadhead, it’s advisable to cut the stem down by about one third otherwise you could end up with a rose bush of tree-like proportions! Regular deadheading will increase flowering; remember that any plant that is allowed to go to seed will stop flowering.
Equally, annually prune your bush really hard, back to about 10cm, and now, early January, is the perfect time to do this.The thorny question of pruning is simpler than it sounds and - take heart – no matter how badly you do it, you will not kill your rose!
Conventionally, you always prune to an outward facing bud. Cut out dead, crossing, weak wood and any growing into the centre of the plant. Increasing air circulation avoids disease. With climbers, prune flowering shoots back to three buds, leaving the main framework (normally three or five stems) in place. Ramblers can be left alone, unless you want to shorten them back. But, above all, don’t worry about it all too much – lots of rose growers nowadays just take a hedge trimmer to their plants. No finesse but lots of flowers!
Most of the really old-fashioned roses have fabulous perfume with soft pretty looks but many are not repeat flowering and can be martyrs to disease. Breeders then went the route of repeat flowering, often big and brash, with good disease resistance and no perfume! Luckily, we can now have the best of both worlds; a melange of beauty, perfume, disease resistance and a long flowering period. Often these latest hybrids are softer, more flexible bushes too so we can easily blend them into mixed plantings instead of having rows of formal rose beds – great looking in their season but very bare and gawkish in the winter.
roses have fabulous perfume with soft pretty looks but many are not repeat flowering and can be martyrs to disease. Breeders then went the route of repeat flowering, often big and brash, with good disease resistance and no perfume! Luckily, we can now have the best of both worlds; a melange of beauty, perfume, disease resistance and a long flowering period. Often these latest hybrids are softer, more flexible bushes too so we can easily blend them into mixed plantings instead of having rows of formal rose beds – great looking in their season but very bare and gawkish in the winter.
One of my favourite combinations is acanthus with roses. The exotic jagged leaves of the acanthus pierce the ground as the roses are starting to go past their best. The lush winter greenery, made even more spectacular by the towering flower spikes in early spring, hides the bareness of the roses during the winter months. Then, as your roses are coming into full flower, the acanthus bows out, disappearing underground for the summer and allowing the roses centre stage. Billowing mounds of lavender interspersed with roses is a great and well-used combo too, both for scent and looks.
Before your roses go to bed for the winter, do give them a fungicidal spray. Although I find
compost, bark chippings, sawdust or rotted leaf litter are all useful - and feed them generously and regularly during the growing season. Strong plants are healthy plants.
Lorraine Cavanagh has lived in Spain for 26 years. A landscape gardener and writer, she’s always happy to give advice. Call and see her at Viveros Florena, 2km from Cómpeta, (Malaga), down the Sayalonga Road, or 15km up from the coastal motorway – have a free coffee or herbal tea in their tea-rooms.
Her book Lorraine Cavanagh’s Mediterranean Garden Plants has been nicknamed ‘the bible’. The new edition at €24.90 is now generally available throughout Spain.
Viveros Florena Discount Scheme: Every month for 1 week, always 13th to 19th inclusive, a class of plants will carry a 20% discount.
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