10 top tips for looking after your garden roses

Rockingham Castle head gardener Richard Stribley in the rose garden.
Rockingham Castle head gardener Richard Stribley in the rose garden.

Keeping roses looking, well...rosie, can be tough with so many pests and erratic weather patterns challenging their upkeep.

In this article, Rockingham Castle’s head gardener, Richard Stribley, offers his 10 top tips to care for roses.

1) Spend time researching the right roses for your garden. It can be down to personal choice but, for example, there are some climbing roses which grow to 30ft and others eight foot. If you have a small wall, you want something to fit that. Research the varieties and types of roses you want for the area you have.

2) Make your selection of roses based on your garden’s design, space and colour scheme.

If you have a red colour scheme don’t put in colours that will clash with it. Pick your colours according to what you have in that area. You can get soft pink or very hard pink roses, for example.

3) Water your roses adequately. Roses love water in the summer when they are growing.

4) Make sure you feed your roses at regular intervals. You generally feed after pruning in March time and every month from then: March, April, May and June. You don’t generally feed after June as you can encourage too much soft growth in the winter months.

5) Put down a good mulch around the plants. We like to use a spent mushroom compost, horse manure and good garden compost. That helps keep the moisture in and around the plants. If you can get hold of it, use spent mushroom compost. We put on a four inch layer as it is totally ‘sterile’, there is no weed seed in it. Put that down and you won’t get any weeds in your rose beds.

6) Throughout the rose- flowering season, make sure you deadhead regularly. That actually stops the rose from producing seed. Instead of producing the seed it will produce more flower and more growth. Do this unless you are trying to cross-pollinate varieties of roses.

7) Remember to pick up fallen petals and leaves from the ground. Keep the ground clear of petals and it helps guard against black spot and fungal marks.

8) Keep a good spray routine up every 10-14 days from the beginning of May through to September. This is to guard against black spot and aphids. Some people say the amateur product (bought from garden centres) doesn’t work, but we have done trials at Rockingham. As long as you follow the instructions, they work perfectly well. We say add in a bit of washing up liquid and that actually breaks down the gloss on the leaf of the rose and helps chemicals absorb better.

9) Prune your plants in the autumn by taking off the top third and then again in March when you would prune to three-five buds, outward facing. Taking the top third off reduces the height of the plant, so it doesn’t get blown around in the wind.

10) Remember prevention is better than treatment where pests are concerned. Think about the varieties of roses you choose. There are roses which are totally disease resistent. Some people go to a garden centre and think ‘that rose has a lovely smell’ and, before they know it, by July or August, the leaves have dropped off and it has black spot, while the roses in their neighbours’ garden have remained pretty.