The importance of water
The rose bushes are now chosen, bought and planted. Now it’s time to look at rose care essentials. They say the most important thing for roses is water. That we would agree with. In this climate, this is mostly not too much of a problem owing to the fact that it rains a lot. Of course there is the occasional “drought”. like the one last January when it didn’t rain once for 3 weeks. No seriously, watering is helpful in those rare (getting rarer around here) dry spells. Not essential for survival, but helpful for continued flower displays.
Water is the one thing roses can’t live without. The other two bare essentials are sun and food. A rose would not die solely from lack of either of these but could become so weakened that disease would finish them off.
Roses are sun lovers
Sun is something roses like a lot, and all David Austin roses will do better planted in full sun. They will grow evenly and flower the best. However, this does not exclude planting them in other positions. it just means their flower production will be relatively lower, and their growth is likely to be more straggly in an effort to reach the sun. With some very tall growing roses, this can facilitate encouraging them to climb. For instance, one of my Jayne Austins planted in part shade has grown 10 or 12 ft up the peach tree. Jayne Austin is not usually touted as a climber! In general, in our mild climate, roses will prosper so long as they get sun for half the day, and will survive with a bit less.
Too much sun can have a deleterious effect on the flowers. The colours fade quickly giving a washed out look, and the blooms don’t last nearly so well. Deep red roses can be burned to a nasty brown almost on opening in particularly hot weather. These roses are often recommended to be planted in partial shade to alleviate this problem. This is something of a catch-22 situation, as the bushes will not flower so prolifically out of the sun. I guess it’s a matter of tossing up between quantity and quality. Out in the sun the spring and later autumn blooms should be safe.
Shade is more of a problem if it is caused by trees. That is to say, when the shade is caused by trees. it is likely that the rose bush will also be in competition with the greedy outer root system of the tree in question. Shade and competition together can prove too much stress for a rose for it to be able to prosper.
Which leads us to the third bare essential – food. Certain roses require more food than others. The amount they require usually coincides with their performance. Just as a top level athlete competing hard-out needs more calories per day than someone sitting in an office does, so too does a rose constantly producing glorious double blooms, need more than a bush that produces one flush of single flowers in the summer.
It is obvious therefore, that among a group of plants described as “gross feeders”. David Austin roses are really gross! Hungry enough in climates where they hibernate for several months of the year, so you can imagine their demands where conditions encourage them to grow and flower pretty much all year round!
Natural is best
The secret of rose care is keeping your roses happy. Feed, feed, feed. Home-grown poo is by far the most acceptable – sheep, horse, cow, chook, guinea pig – you collect it, they’ll love it. If you are unfortunate enough to have no access or no desire to access, any of this lovely stuff, you’ll have to make do with what you can get. Clean, pelletised sheep poo is available in all the garden centres, and any compost you can produce from household scraps, lawn clippings etc is good, especially if mixed with blood and bone.
Besides regular dressings of this organic bounty, (maybe 3 or 4 times a year) give your bushes some chemical fertiliser in between. The big difference in fertilising in this climate, is in the frequency you can apply it. You will read about the danger of fertilising your roses too close to winter, encouraging new, sappy growth which will be struck down by frost. If there are no frosts to speak of in your district, this argument obviously loses a lot of impetus.
We are of the belief, that if the roses are going to keep growing and flowering all year round, they should be provided with fertiliser accordingly, or they will get hungry. So any time you feel they deserve it, feel free to provide it. Just beware of over-doing chemical fertilisers, as this can lead to imbalances in the soil which may cause problems.