Buying roses: Where, when, why?

What rose books say

I hope you, the reader, are not reading your first ever rose book in preparation for planting your first ever roses. We are not going to give you the basics – every other rose author has already done this. We’re dealing with specifics of buying roses here. So take it as said that you’ve got your sites sunny but sheltered, your soil nutritious and your holes deep. You’re doing well if these things are all true, even halfway true should be fine.

Time to buy your roses. All the books say the same – when buying roses it’s really important to buy your plants in optimum health, preferably bare rooted from a reputable nursery or alternatively freshly potted from a good garden centre.

Buying roses on a budget

Well and good, but what say you’re on a tight budget? The rose bushes we’re talking about here cost quite a bit each. What say you want quite a few? What say you think you might like that rose but aren’t really sure? Our advice to you is, don’t be afraid of getting your roses out of the bargain bin. Tough creatures that they are, very often when set free from their root bound, hungry plastic bags and given a bit of real dirt, they go VROOM! And if not immediately, well maybe a few months or so later they gain vigour and really start to do well.

Of course, it doesn’t always happen this way, occasionally they stay weedy all their lives. Sometimes they even die, but this is the exception and not the rule. And I have to say, just because you paid full price for an obviously healthy plant, that is no guarantee that it will thrive, or indeed, live. It may be a case of a plant being 2000% cheaper.

We have roses in our gardens that we bought nearly dead for 50c which are now huge triffids, and others that are no longer in our gardens owing to their demise, for which we paid $20.(update 2017…you’d be lucky to get a rose for this price now, except from grassrootsroses!) Personally, we get more enjoyment from a rose growing healthy and happy that we saved from certain death, than from one which cost plenty and was going to be bought by some other nice person anyway.

Don’t get us wrong, if you can afford to buy roses that are in optimal health, your success rate should certainly be higher, and often it is necessary to order new or unusual specimens for your collection. However, it’s surprising what you can find in the “Manager’s Specials” !!!

Planting roses for impact

There’s another thing I would like to mention here about the choosing of roses. If you read around a bit, you will probably soon learn, that when purchasing David Austin roses, it is suggested to buy at least 3 bushes of each variety, and plant them closely together to make an impact.

Whilst we agree wholeheartedly that this is a marvellous idea, how practical is it for the average gardener? Most rose books are written by famous rose growers or nurserymen, or at least by someone with a famous garden open to the public. The sort of people to which a “small” garden means just 1 or 2 acres. This book is written by two ordinary, not-a-bit-famous people, who don’t really know much about professional gardening, and just happen to like roses a lot.

Choices for small gardens

Our gardens, while not small, are not really gardens at all, in the professional sense of the word, but rather spaces we create and fill up with roses we fancy (and other things in between the roses of course). The thing is, lots of the people we know think that a quarter acre garden is huge. So, while this book is not exclusively for small garden owners, we think they should be taken into serious account. What all this is leading to, is to let people know that it is just fine to get just one bush of each variety.

There are a few varieties that really look pretty yuck when planted alone. We have mentioned these in the rose index. But in general, especially with the added vigour they have in our climate, it is just fine to get one of each.

Grouping by colour?

Don’t make the mistake I did a couple of years ago, and try group planting different varieties of a similar colour. I did it in an attempt to do what I was told. I didn’t have more than one or two of each variety. We have been trying to collect all the David Austin’s available in NZ. We couldn’t possibly afford 3 or 5 of each variety. The result was great for the first spring, while the bushes were all starting off. However, quickly the more vigorous varieties robbed the weaker ones, and a lot of moving ensued. So, in this book we advocate the planting of single bushes, and will instruct which ones look better in this unprofessional regime.

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