Wherever we look the cheerfulness of Spring is present: birdsong, blue skies, sunshine, rosebuds, an abundance of rose blooms, blossoms and flowers, greenery, bees and insects, with only remnants of winter remaining felt as the chill in the early mornings.
Some roses show off in magnificent colours, while others tease with slow-opening buds. I am enjoying the much anticipated gradual unfoldment of the roses this year and appreciate that it was not only the weather but also my overzealous pruning that has held back the full flush of colour. Overall, the garden landscape is the best I’ve seen, even though everything is not out yet. There is an improvement after the cull of non-performing roses and undergrowth removal. All the additions to and nurturing of the soil, plus the careful selection of hardy new roses and perennials together, have enhanced the garden’s appeal. It is early days, but I’m delighted by the lushness, the disease-free, healthy buds and blooms that greet and surprise each morning.
Our gardens are a reflection of the ebbs and flows of our lives and they tell a story of who we are. Sometimes, the garden, can fluctuate from being well-kept, neat, and weed-free then look sideways for a moment, and it can become a shambles. As the Spring invites more plants (and weeds) to join in the fun, it is a challenge to orchestrate everything in the burgeoning garden.
Trees, plants, lawns, pots and arches of roses demand attention for eco seaweed or fertiliser. Standard Roses must be staked, the Lavenders and Buxus could do with shaping, and the climbers require tying horizontally to produce more buds. The ever-present weeding and watering is a must, and there is more mulching to finish. Then there are the plant labels that, if not attached soon, will mean a return to guesswork. A good memory is handy, but it is easy to slip up and once roses are in bloom, any paper labels will deteriorate quickly from watering.
What is the most effective rose or plant label? I first tried the copper strips you write on with a sharp pen and attach them to the plants. Now, I use cattle ear tags hidden by foliage in summer but perhaps look a little odd in the bareness of winter in the garden. They work well and are hard-wearing and easy to use for roses. I have collected a range of other tags for various herbs and plants, ranging from metal signs in steel and copper, small slate hanging signs, and terracotta sticks for herbs. Plenty of choices exist on a range of sites like Etsy, Tagged For Life , Aussie Environmental and Green Harvest.
What heralds the real start of Spring in a rose garden is the moment you realise that the task of deadheading must be resumed. Once begun, it is on for the entire season, a worthwhile daily ritual that can be done a little bit at a time each morning to keep it under control.
Well, the party has started, and deadheading is the best way to keep the show on the road and to extend the bloom season. If spent flowers are removed, the plant’s energy can go into making more blooms rather than using energy to create seeds. It will also prevent rotting, keep the remaining roses looking perfect, and provides a chance to maintain the shape of the rose bushes.
The Flower Carpet roses, the Knockout variety and a few others do not need deadheading during the season because they are self-cleaning and do not produce rosehips. Once a cycle of roses has finished, these roses will rebloom throughout the entire season. Roses bloom from new growth, so any trimming will create new branching growth and increase the quantity of blooms.
The past week has sped past in a flurry of activity, and so much has been achieved from my long list of garden tasks. And just like that, the rural scape surrounding the garden is cropped, the lawns are mowed, the edges trimmed, and the rural weeds curtailed to a manageable size, creating the perfect backdrop to the roses as they come into flower. For the first time since the winter plans began the garden has started to look, like a proper garden rather than the work site it has been for many months.
Severe hot, dry conditions are predicted this year for summer, according to The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in Australia. Two significant weather events are expected to occur that will reduce the rainfall we experience this coming summer. The El Niño weather pattern is active over the Pacific for the first time in eight years, and the “positive” Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), has also developed. The El Niño pattern influences the climate of 60% of the world, particularly Australia and causes a reduction in rainfall and increased temperatures. So, it is looking like a hot summer ahead which is another reason to be grateful for the slow start to Summer.
Roses will thrive in extreme heat and hot, dry conditions as long as the essentials are followed.
Water is the most important aspect of rose care, but the experts suggest not to water roses daily. Roses will need at least 20-30 litres of water per week and more if a heatwave is expected. Try watering twice a week for young plants and once for well-established roses.
Water early in the evening to give your roses time to absorb the water before the next day of sun, but not on the foliage.
Roses are best watered before any expected days of extreme heat and will then need more water than usual. If you do not mulch roses, they will require twice as much water.
Potted roses should be watered daily in extreme heat or during midsummer until the water flows out from the bottom of the pot. Attempt to give potted roses some shade during the day, and do not place them against stone or brick walls as this will radiate more heat.
Treloar Roses suggests this bucket method for watering rather than using sprinklers if you do not have a drip irrigation system.
With a bucket that holds approximately 9 litres of water, puncture 4 or 5 small holes in the base.
Place the bucket directly next to the rose and fill it with plain water. Move aside any mulch so that the bucket sits directly on the soil.
Allow the water to drain from the bucket completely. This gives the plant a good deep soaking without the risk of runoff.
Mulch will significantly reduce evaporation, keep the soil and roots of the roses cool and maintain moisture for longer. Plus, it will feed the plants and increase microbial activity. Do not use pebbles, stone or rock as mulch. Whoflungdung by Neutrog- is a certified organic mulch and is a magic formula for the garden that adds a wide diversity of good bacteria to improve nutrient uptake and add nutrients to the soil. It is absorbent, so it will help retain moisture and restrict and reduce the growth of weeds. The difference in plant health in the garden between the plants mulched with whoflungdung and those without is extraordinary.
In extreme heat, roses will go into survival mode and slow the production of any rose blooms. To maintain rose blooms there are two options.
Remove or deadhead the blooms in Spring, and more will flower in January. Then, if you leave the next lot of spent blooms on the bushes and reduce the watering enough to keep them alive, they will go into summer hibernation until you can give them a trim and Sudden Impact for roses in Late February or early March, then they will return to strong growth.
Sudden Impact is an organic ‘fertiliser for roses recommended by Australian Rose Societies because it has a full range of plant nutrients in a slow-release form and water-soluble nutrients to maximise the performance for your roses.
Or keep the roses in flower and deadhead normally all season with lots of watering and Sudden Impact every two weeks in January. You can expect to have flowers in January, February and March, but they may be smaller than in Spring and Autumn due to the impact of heat. Some roses become bleached by the extreme sun, and at times, the foliage can burn, but rose blooms can become scorched in high heat and may need shade, especially darker-coloured roses.
Sudden Impact on the roses after Christmas will help with summer heat, and also either Eco Seaweed or Gogo Juice every fortnight as a pro-biotic for the soil and to help plants recover from heat, shock and extremes. If you have hibernated the roses, start heavy watering in February and then apply Sudden Impact followed by a trim so that you will have a flush of roses in about 55 days after the trim.
Disease & Pests
Hot, dry conditions may bring spider mites to the roses. This is one pest I have learnt about the hard way. A few years ago, in extreme drought conditions, I noticed several roses were withered and dying for no apparent reason. It was due to red spider mites that live on the underside of the leaves and are very difficult to see. They suck moisture from the plant, making it withered, parched and dry. Sprayed with Eco-Oil or Eco Neem regularly to prevent infestation. Also, it is a good idea to spray water upwards onto the leaves to remove the mites. Generally, fungal diseases and aphids are not an issue in hot, dry conditions.
Rose Notes, according to the Rose Society of South Australia.
Title quote by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Images this week October 2023 in the Rose Garden
All content Di Baker October 2023
Quotes as cited