We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. – Abraham Lincoln


Across the world The Rose symbolises an expression of beauty, love, hope, promise and new beginnings.  Roses are  simply delightful to have in the garden. The colours, the history and the tantalising perfume.  There is nothing better than  picking a basket full of fresh roses from the garden to enliven your home.

Where to start? I am no expert and my suggestions are based on my experience.

Basic Tips on Starting a Rose Garden.

Buy the very best quality, healthy plants, either bare-root roses in winter when they are dormant so are less expensive or if you are  more impatient and want to add roses to your garden, many nurseries and online stores sell potted roses. You can find many varieties through Australia’s most reputable rose growers and online stores. Try Silkies Rose Farm, Wagners, Treloars, or Rankin Roses,  Swanes and your local nursery.

Plan the garden first, plan and keep adding to the planning. As a wise Rosarian said to me when I started,   Do It Once Do It Right.   The decisions  made before planting on the choices of roses, the location, and design of the garden, the colour scheme and style of your garden will ultimately be the key to success. Read up and ask for advice when purchasing because there are so many people who have been growing roses for decades and are always willing to help.

Plant roses in full day of sunshine so 6-8 hours a day, although there are a few varieties that will tolerate some shade and still bloom and grow quite well. The 6 to 8 hours of sun a day is optimal.

Get to know your location first and where the sun is in your location. What length of time your garden beds are sunny each day before designing the garden. Just a word of advice though, in our area with hot dry summers some part shade from the heat of afternoon sun has meant better roses with no heat stress. Morning sun is always preferable.

Roses also like air circulating around them. I struggle with this aspect because by the time companion plants are added around the roses such as Nepeta, Lavender, Rosemary, and many other Perennial plants it is very easy for the garden to become over crowded especially in mid-Summer when all the herbs and perennial plants flourish and flower profusely.

Leave enough room for your roses to grow and to be able to get in for trimming, feeding and pruning. It is such a temptation to add just one more rose….

Preparation of the soil is the magic key to success. I prefer to lay down newspaper and layer on top whatever organic material you have such as compost, lucerne or sugarcane mulch, cow manure or sheep manure and other organic matter. This will stop the weeds, ensure protection from dry spells and the hot, mid summer sun. The worms will aerate the soil and do all the work for you. There are many methods for soil preparation but the no dig method has worked for me.

No Dig Garden Bed Method

  • Dig over the area once and remove major weeds or grass.
  • Apply cow manure, compost and dolomite
  • Add thick newspaper and leave an area free around the roots
  • Top dress with more compost or other organic material
  • Leave for as long as possible before planting

The above method gave me a weed free garden bed with masses of healthy worms underneath, strong healthy plants that continue to blossom despite high temperatures and dry conditions.

Try not to walk on the garden beds to minimise compacting the soil. For access I have placed heavy stepping stones in strategic spots so I can move in and out of the garden beds without compacting the soil.

Adding Eco Seaweed (suggested from Silkies Rose farm) or products like Seamungus ( bunnings) and water in well, will help with transplant shock and to nurture the rose plants to develop healthy new growth.

As  rose blooms die off deadhead them as soon as possible to promote new growth and also snip off any damaged foliage.

Stop and Smell the Roses
Walk through the garden and take the time to enjoy it every day and look closely at your roses to check that no new pests or problems have arisen. It is always best to try and treat them immediately. I cannot say I always do this but I do try to keep the rose garden free of dropped blooms and leaves, fallen or broken branches and weeds. Although at times a losing battle.

Evidently according to some, Beethoven or for that matter any loud music, classical or rock is said to be beneficial to plants.  Plants are supposed to respond to the vibrations and grow more fervently.

Phosphorus is also said to promote strong blooms and rose growers have been known to leave banana peels in the soil to provide phosphorus to plants. The bananas could also be buried or made into a liquid with a blender and added to the ground near roses.

According to the American Rose Society Alfalfa meal pellets or tea is another nutrient rich food for roses that will boost nitrogen, iron and calcium.

The most important thing the roses need is water. Water deeply every week in dry climate less if rain is adequate.

Once the rose garden is planned and planted  continue to water preferably not from overhead, fertilise a few times a year and mulch, mulch mulch.

Don’t forget to sit back and enjoy the rewards and stop to smell the roses.

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