A summer garden without a rose is almost impossible to imagine and, even in a small patio garden, it’s possible to include a rose; with breeders finding new and more compact varieties, you don’t need lots of space to grow them. These days there are patio and miniature roses that will even grow in hanging baskets.
The ‘Drift series’ of hanging basket roses are a breeding breakthrough. A cross between a groundcover rose and a miniature rose they’ve been bred to be disease resistant and repeat flowering. They’ll flower all summer and keep going year on year. The stems have very few thorns so they’re easy to handle and very easy to care for. Feed with a high potash feed or specialist rose food and keep a watchful eye out for aphids and they’ll give years of pleasure.
If you hanker after a more traditional rose try fabulously scented pink floribunda ‘Natasha Richardson’. It flowers from June until October and adds that soft cottage garden look to a border. Or for a shot of brilliant colour and a strong rose perfume go for scarlet hybrid tea rose ‘Tower Bridge’.
Everyone has at least one favourite rose, I’ve got loads but one of my absolute favourites is ‘Compassion’. It’s a climbing rose with large, beautifully perfumed flowers in a gorgeous warm pink and it’s a reliable, well behaved climber even in a small garden. .
Roses have something of an unfair reputation as being hard to look after but give them good soil and a yearly pruning regime and they’ll stay healthy and looking their best.
New varieties are bred to be disease resistant. But if your roses succumb to fungal disease such as black spot there are fungicides available to prevent further infection.
Mildew often occurs in wet summers when top growth is too crowded meaning air circulation is poor. It’s often a sign that the roots are dry while the portion of the rose above ground is in humid, still air. Pruning a rose to keep it open at the centre is one of the best ways to let air in and avoid mildew problems.
Aphids can be a problem on any plant, one day there are none and the next the stems are a horrid mass of grey or green. They breed incredibly quickly but a watchful eye will nip a small problem in the bud before it gets out of hand. Ants crawling up the stems are often a telltale sign of aphid infestation. The ants ‘farm’ the aphids for the sticky honeydew they produce and in return the ants protect the aphids from predators.
If you garden organically you’ll know that the birds can make short work of aphids, they’ll perch precariously on the stems and feast on pests! Ladybird larvae will do an equally good job, or you can just rub the pests off the stems as soon as you spot them. Aphids multiply at an alarming rate if left to do damage. If you’re keen to garden as organically as possible but still want to spray, use a fatty acid pest spray to kill aphids. Pesticides work well but be careful never to spray plants while bees and pollinating insects are flying and keep spray away from ponds and fish.