It's been a bumper year for roses. Hannah Stephenson looks at how we can make the most of our roses and offers some tips on rose care during the summer.
Everything is blooming in the rose garden this year, thanks to the mild winter and spring, with little in the way of frost, providing stress-free conditions for growing.
Varieties looking particularly stunning include 'Super Trouper', 'You're Beautiful', 'Aphrodite' and 'Lady of Shalott', as well as English old rose hybrids such as 'Gertrude Jekyll' and 'Darcey Bussell'.
While they once used to be grown on their own in dedicated beds, they're now grown in mixed borders with other shrubs and perennials, but given the huge variety of roses on sale you have to be careful what to plant and where to achieve the best results.
Compact roses with an upright habit are suitable for small gardens where beds are only 1m wide, so choose compact floribundas, patio roses and smaller English roses.
For larger borders you'll get a great effect planting less vigorous varieties in threes which will grow together to appear like one big shrub, while larger shrub roses are best planted singly further back in the border.
Good plant partners include clematis, which can climb through the roses and also enjoy the same conditions and similar feeds, while in mixed borders soften roses with airy specimens such as catmint or lavender, which look amazing beneath creamy rose flowers, or mix it up with lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and perennial geraniums.
If you want a longer season, it's worth looking for repeat-flowering shrub roses such as Portland or English roses from David Austin which combine the flower form of old shrub roses with the repeat-flowering quality of many modern varieties.
So, how do we keep our roses blooming?
By midsummer the first flush is usually coming to an end, so you'll need to tidy up shrub and bush varieties by dead-heading and removing clusters of faded flowers. When the flowers of floribundas and hybrid tea roses have faded, remove the whole truss, cutting the stem just above the second or third leaf down. This will help conserve the plant's energy to bear a regular succession of new flowering shoots. They'll need to be fed with a dose of granular fertiliser and watered thoroughly if the ground is dry.
Keep a look out for signs of fungal disease including black spot and mildew. They may need spraying regularly with a fungicide to keep diseases at bay and also look out for colonies of aphids on the stems, which will also require spraying as blackfly and greenfly populations can build up rapidly.
If you only have a small infestation, a sharp jet of water should dislodge the aphids, or you may be able rub them off the affected area. Otherwise, use an organic pesticide based on plant extracts, soft or insecticidal soap or plant oils.
Make sure that the area is kept well-weeded and that surrounding shrubs and perennials don't swamp them as they grow, cutting or tying back conflicting shoots and branches.
If you dead-head them now, repeat-flowering roses should bloom again in late summer providing you fed them earlier on in the season.
Many hybrid teas produce more than one flower bud at the end of each shoot. If you want large specimen blooms for garden display or indoor arrangements, you'll need to disbud, removing side buds by nipping out with the thumb and finger as soon as they are visible.
If you want cut roses for inside, don't take more than a third of the flowering stem with the flower and always cut just above an outward-facing bud, so that you don't weaken the bush. Don't cut flowers from newly-planted bushes in the first season as the plants need time to establish. Hopefully, a little TLC will lead to repeat-flowering blooms and a delicious heady fragrance during those balmy summer evenings.
Best of the Bunch
Unlike the annual blue bedding lobelia which is commonly used to fill in gaps in summer containers or cascades from hanging baskets, perennial lobelias are tall, elegant, striking plants with flowers in pink, red or purple. A particularly hardy type is L. siphilitica which forms sturdy stems growing to 1m and long spike-like clusters of sky-blue flowers. Many have a reputation for not being hardy, but L. cardinalis can tolerate cold. However, it pays to grow them somewhere sheltered in full sun and to give them a thick winter mulch. L 'Queen Victoria', a scarlet variety, is ideal for filling gaps left by early flowering plants.
Good Enough to Eat
Both the aromatic leaves and stems of coriander can be used to add flavour and fragrance to curries, salsas and other spicy dishes. Sow seeds in succession from March until August and you should have leaves from June until October. Seeds can be sown 2.5cm deep and 5cm apart, directly into beds of rich, well-drained soil in light shade to prevent bolting, keep well-weeded and well-watered and let some plants develop seed to save and use next year. Cut the flowerheads when the seeds are brown, cover with a paper bag and hang up to dry in a warm place. Good varieties for leaves include 'Leisure' and 'Calypso'.
- Reduce the length of wisteria tendrils by half.
- Water dahlias regularly and feed fortnightly, paying particular attention to young plants which are slow to grow.
- Go on slug and snail patrol in your garden, particularly after a heavy downpour, and pick off all those you see.
- Peg down runners on strawberry plants that you want to propagate.
- Feed late-flowering border perennials.
- Collect and sow or store ripe seeds before they fall.
- Plant autumn-flowering bulbs such as amaryllis, nerines and autumn crocuses.
- Summer-prune side-shoots of wall-trained plums and cherries, with the exception of Morello.
- Where roots are exposed due to watering, apply a top-dressing of John Innes No 3 compost to tomatoes.
- Buy winter varieties of spinach, which can be sown in August and September to crop between October and April.
- Top up ponds on a regular basis because water can evaporate quickly during hot spells.
- Thin oxygenating plants in the pond before they take over completely. Pull them out with a rake and leave them to dry out, to allow any wildlife hiding inside to escape.