‘Of all the flowers, methinks a rose is best.’

The Two Noble Kinsmen, The Winter’s Tale.

You may or may not agree, but roses do seem to have a timeless beauty and for centuries have been a favourite flower to grow in the garden. Their enduring popularity is probably because there is a rose to suit all situations, with colours, scents, and sizes to fit any space. If you are thinking of adding a new rose to your garden, then now is the time to buy them.

At this time of year roses are sold as bare root plants; the roses are dormant and can be dug up at the nursery and then sent in the post with no soil or container. This is ideal because it keeps costs down and is also a more sustainable option with savings on plastic, compost, and transport.

It can look at bit disheartening when a ‘stick’ arrives in the post, especially if you’ve paid between £10 -£20 for it, but have faith - these little sticks are going to grow like magic. Many people agree that planting in the dormant season is beneficial to the roses, giving them extra time to establish a good root system. This can be really noticeable in the first summer, when a bare root planted early is more resilient in dry spells, compared to a container rose in full leaf, planted directly.

Bare root roses are sold between November and April and when they arrive in the post it is best to plant them as quickly as possible, but first to rehydrate them in a bucket of water for 30 minutes. Prepare the ground where they are going to be planted, removing weeds and large stones, to give the roots the best chance of delving deeply into the soil, and dig a hole about 40cm wide by 50cm deep (16” x 20”). Remember to break the soil up at the base of the hole and add a spadeful of well-rotted manure.

It is then time to remove the bare root from the water and sprinkle the roots with Mycorrhizal fungi (this stuff is amazing! A quick science lesson: the fungi attach to the roots and take sugars from the plants but, in exchange, the fungi strands act as extensions to the roots, gathering extra nutrients and moisture from the soil. This boosts plant growth and flowering and makes the plant more robust to drought.) Place the rose in the centre of the hole and replace the soil that was dug up, making sure the stems are just below the surface. Carefully firm the soil around the rose with your foot and water well.

Originally published in Focus magazine

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