Roses are looking fabulous at the moment. With heads of perfumed flowers, lush new growth and that heady fragrance as you walk among the bushes, they are paying back for the recent rain and any attention they’ve had over summer. Follow these tips to keep your roses healthy and flowering into autumn.
Lightly prune - Roses need maintenance mid-summer to keep them flowering into autumn. Once this latest flush of flowers is over – or now, if you’re roses aren’t looking rosy – it’s time to give your plants a summer prune.This isn’t the short-back-and-sides applied in late winter, but a lighter prune to remove spent flowers and encourage new growth.The idea is to prune as if picking a bunch of long-stemmed roses. Don’t just deadhead your plants by snapping off spent flowers. Wear gloves, get out the secateurs and cut the stems back to an outward-facing bud near the base of each stem, aiming to remove 20-30cm of old growth.
Follow up care - As a direct result of this pruning, roses put on lots of new growth. This draws on the plant’s energy reserves so it is important to provide extra food and water to fuel the new growth.If the soil is dry, water well, ensuring moisture seeps into the soil. Continue to apply deep soaks of water at least once a week while the roses are in growth and flower.
Water and mulch - After watering, spread a few handfuls of pelletised organic manure or rose food around each plant. Top this up with organic mulch, such as aged manure or compost.Mulch is essential around roses. Not only does it nourish the soil and feed the plant, it also retains soil moisture, keeps soil cooler on hot days and smothers weed growth. Expect to see your plants back in flower in around six to eight weeks from pruning.
Troubleshooting - We love roses but so do many pests. While keeping plants in strong growth reduces problems, you may encounter some of the following.Disappearing buds and shoots. You can thank Mr (or Ms) Possum for this unscheduled pruning. Once the new growth has hardened up, possums move on, so covering roses at night and applying deterring sprays (such as D-ter) may hold the possums at bay long enough for the growth to mature.Sticky clusters of pests on new growth. These are aphids, attracted by the tasty new growth encouraged by pruning. Check for ladybirds, which are a natural aphid predator. If they are present, or there are small birds in the garden, the aphid populations will drop. If there’s no obvious biological control present, either squash the aphids or spray with a registered rose spray.Bits missing on leaves. The culprits could be a type of grasshopper or a caterpillar. Search for the pest and either remove by it hand or apply an environmentally friendly pesticide such as Green Guard (against grasshoppers), or Dipel or Success (against caterpillars). If the leaf damage consists of half moons, neatly cut out, it is the work of the leaf-cutting bee. This is minor damage that doesn’t harm the plant and doesn’t need any control.