For beginning gardeners, the idea of planting roses in the depths of winter sounds a bit crazy, and for many of us older gardeners, the thought of mainly planting them in the flowering season seems like an equally insane idea!
I can recall when container grown roses first appeared on the market, and the lack of enthusiasm that garden centre staff had for the idea, thinking it a silly fad that would not catch on. We were wrong of course, and the rose planting season has long ago extended to cover most of the year.
I must be old fashioned but really believe it is better for most deciduous plants to be shifted during their dormant season, while they are at rest and can better cope with the surprise to the system that transplanting imposes on them. Rose planting is easy at this time of the year, provided a few easy preparatory steps have been taken.
The first step is to decide where the roses are to be planted. As a rule, they do best in new soil, so if you are planting into an area that has already had roses in it, it pays to remove the soil and replace it. This is due to an insidious disease called “rose sickness” which, although it does not normally kill roses, makes them grow in such an unhealthy manner as to make them ungardenworthy. If you are replacing soil in an existing bed you will need about a wheel barrowful of soil for each plant.
If you have the luxury of creating a new bed, make sure it is in full sun. There are a few (very few) roses that will cope with semi-shade, but most will need the maximum amount of sunshine, to help keep them disease free if for no other reason. Those that will do better in the slight shade are those whose flowers tend to get burnt in the full sun.
Soil type is important too. The best soil for roses is undoubtedly a slightly stiff loam. By that I mean a good garden soil that is not too light, as thin, sandy soils will dry out too much over summer, and the roses will fail to thrive.
If you have anything other than very rich loam, it pays to work in some compost or well-rotted farmyard manure. Ideally, this should have been done about a month ago, but if you have not had a chance to do it, it is still fine to do it now as long as the manure is not green. It is a good idea to try and keep the bed at the same level as the surrounding ground as elevating the bed will just make it drain more quickly, giving problems late in the dry summer period.