The War of the Roses in the Herb Garden

For the last year of so we have had a rambling rose on the wall of our front garden, the rose is aptly named Wedding Day because it was the rose we gave away to family members at our wedding. This was such a thug at Andrew's parent's house that they kindly asked us to take it back and since then it has been on our front wall catching unsuspecting ramblers and bin men as they walk past. It has become somewhat of a battle to keep it in place and over the last year is has threatened to swamp the rest of the herb garden. This war of the roses has seen us tackle it monthly with secateurs, we have the scratched hands to prove it and the torn clothing that have caught on the thorns. The rose catalogues describe Wedding Day as having small thorns, that is true but they are everywhere on the plant and in us. In the short journey from the car to the front door it inevitably leaps out at us with menace, and in several cases has stolen our shopping, scarves and house keys. So enough is enough and we have decided to dig it out.  

The War of the Roses in the Herb Garden

There was a collective intake of breath then. You've seen the photo, marveled at its beauty - sadly that beauty is fleeting - and started to feel rather malignant towards us approaching this rose with a spade. No plant will be harmed in the writing of this post. We have plans for Wedding Day, it will be dug up and then will be replanted into the hedge at the bottom of the garden where it will be given free rein to do what it does best, ramble. However, the removal of a rose from the herb garden got us thinking how we could improve the space. Carol does not take well to change in the garden, she laments every time we grub something up, she wants things to stay the same but gardens develop and the herb garden is still a new garden. What else can go? Well, we have a compost heap that we placed in the front garden and that is on the list to go because that's rather a useful planting space for another rose.

Roses from David Austin

This rose is the emblem of herbalists across the world. In the UK it was often used as a sign outside certain shops. We are talking the Apothecary's Rose (Rosa Gallica), the petals from this rose bush are still used today to scent people's homes but is also great for skin too. We haven't moved the old Wedding Day rose yet or the compost heap but time for ordering bare rooted roses is running out. We like bare rooted plants because they're cheaper, easier to establish and transport, and less likely to transmit soil pests into your garden. You can do one of two things when receiving a bare rooted rose, (1) you can heel them in; this is the act of digging a trench and placing any bare rooted plants in the trench, covering back over with soil and gently pressing them down with the heel of your boot. (2) You can plant them in a large pot and use good compost to fill it all up. This is a job for Andrew, after his fall and recuperation he's itching to do some gardening, he has secateurs to hand and a bucket of water. The water bucket is there for the bare rooted rose bush. It's just been through the British postal system, once the envy of the world. Say no more. The plant itself has been pulled from the earth, wrapped in plastic, placed in a paper sack and shipped to us. The poor rose is thirsty, give it a good soaking, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Let it drink it up. 

How to plant roses

Your pot may not be big enough to take all the rose roots, you can with the secateurs prune off some of the thicker roots, do not take them off completely and do not cut off fibrous roots - these tiny roots bring in much of the water and nutrients to any plant. You can remove up to a 1/3, and in some vigorous roses, 1/2 the root length. The best practice is to see whether the root ball comfortably fits into the pot or else get a bigger pot. Fortunately, we didn't need to remove any of the roots because we had a big pot waiting. It was simply a matter of filling up the pot with a good quality compost. We are using peat free Dalefoot Composts for this as they hold moisture well, are rich in nutrients and encourage a really good root run due to their friable structure. You want to plant any rose so that the main rootstock is below the soil level (this is the nobbly bit where all the stems are coming from). Burying this rootstock below soil level stops any rocking in the pot and open ground when it is windy but also prevents the roots from drying out, encourages further roots and shoots to develop. Make sure you tap the pot on the ground as you go to get all the soil around the roots, we add a little mychorriza to promote root development but this is optional. Regardless of whether the rose has been pruned before shipping to you, it is a good time of year to prune roses back hard.

Prune roses now

Cut above a node at a 45-degree angle, this stops any rain from sitting on the cut. A node is simply the point on the stem that is 'bobbly' (similar to the nobbly mentioned earlier) - this wonderful technical term simply means that if you look at any stem you will discover that the stem has rings at intervals up it's length, when you run your fingers along the stem you will feel these rings bobble up, hence 'bobbly'. Nodes are fantastic things, packed full of cells that generate roots or branches/stems depending on how you prune them.

Water new plantings

When you have pruned the rose bush, water well. Yes, we know we soaked it in a bucket but this watering actually knocks the compost down and allows you to add more if needed. Then just pop it somewhere sheltered and wait for those fat buds to erupt.


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