Balling in high rainfall
When you live in an environment with very high rainfall, balling is a phenomenon worth taking into account. It only affects roses with lots of petals (a good reason to favour singles) and involves the fat, promising buds suddenly turning into brown rotten balls.
A multitude of petals does not necessarily indicate a likelihood of balling, they just do it, or they don’t. I can’t think of any David Austins which ball as badly or as often as some of the old bourbons. However, in the spring and early summer there are some which never quite manage to open completely. These are most often the very deep cupped blooms. They often don’t actually rot, but fail to open, and drop their petals directly from the half-open bud stage.
Susceptibility to balling
The degree of balling is quite important, as there is a big difference between rotten, brown balls of mush sitting all over a bush, and a bush covered in buds that look like they’re about to open and just don’t. Poor old Souvenir de la Malmaison, an exceptionally beautiful old bourbon, is the case always quoted when discussing balling. For all her bad press, we find, amongst her prolific bud production, she always manages to open at least some flowers, whatever the season.
On the contrary, Marechal Niel, an old noisette, seems incapable of completely opening one single bloom in our climate. He flowers constantly, and lucky for him, his scrolled, butter yellow buds are exquisite, but buds are his best shot, his worst being too horrible to describe.
Whether this habit stops you growing a particular variety depends on your patience, and the amount of roses you grow. If one of only a few fails consistently to open its blooms, this could be a rather major disaster. On the other hand, if you have lots, you may be able to overlook this unfortunate habit, and avert your eyes until the weather improves.
If able to place these roses in a sheltered position, protected from the worst of the rain, this can help. However, we do not think rain is the only culprit. It appears humidity also plays a part. Some of them stop balling in autumn, when the humidity is relatively low, even if it rains incessantly. Likewise, they can ball even in a very dry spring. In the rose index, we have mentioned if a specific rose is prone to balling.