Like everything else in South Africa, the December rose garden fits in quite happily with the holiday spirit.
The second flush of rose blooms usually occurs just before Christmas says rose grower Ludwig Taschner and it is possible to groom the roses in such a way that there are good cutting blooms as well as a show in the garden.
Ludwig’s advice is to take out the centre bud as clusters develop on floribundas and some hybrid teas,. This will allow the rest of the shoots in the cluster to develop better stems and it will spread out the flowering.
Hybrid teas can be disbudded in order to have one large pickable bloom per stem rather than three smaller blooms. Count the number of flowering stems on a bush, disbud half of the blooms and allow the others to flower freely. This will provide a display in the garden and for the vase.
If the roses were not finger pruned at the beginning of the season they can still be pinched back to stagger the flowering. Pinch off a third of the buds. This will also produce good long stems for the vase.
Water deeply twice a week and control pests with Ludwig’s Insect Spray every second week. Should there be heavy rainfall, add Chronos to the spray. It is a fungicide that prevents black spot. Fertilise towards the middle of December with Vigorosa.
Picking roses for the home
The best time to cut garden roses is early or late, rather than in the heat of the day. Have a bucket of water with you so that you can put the stems into water immediately after cutting.
Blooms which have opened on the bush – to a third or half open – last better in the vase than immature buds.
When cutting the stems to put in the vase make a long-slanted cut that is not easily blocked when drawing up water.
The bigger the wound the more water the stems take up. To get the balance right the length of the flower stem should not be more than double the height of the vase.
Chrysal flower food is better than vinegar and sugar for extending the life of the flowers. If you haven’t used Chrysal, change the water every two or three days, especially if you have not stripped off the leaves as the water becomes murky.
December is a good month to plant roses and the selection of new roses for the garden can be an exciting project.
Don’t let heat and water restrictions discourage you. Roses that are more drought-tolerant have specific characteristics. Generally, they will be spreading groundcovers or neat shrubs. The aspects to look out for are:
- Natural spreading growth that shades the rootzone and medium sized leaves that are leathery and have a resistance to fungus diseases. Semi-double flowers with firm leathery petals do not easily dry out.
- Relatively short flowering stems that flower after the development of six to seven leaves. Stems with ten to fifteen leaves take up much more water for a longer period before they mature. This does not mean that the water wise rose cannot be tall but it should build itself up with many short stems.
Water wise roses
Some examples of water wise roses are ‘My Granny’, ‘Rosy Cheeks’, the ‘Ayoba’ range, ‘Salmon Sunsation’, ‘South Africa’, ‘Deloitte and Touche’, ‘Not Simply Pink’, ’Bridget’, ‘Joburg Garden Club’, ‘Pink Profusion’, ‘Easy Does it’, ‘Memoire’, ‘Avril Elizabeth Home,’ and ‘Winter Sun’.
- Sink a two-litre cooldrink bottle without its cap next to the roses so that the opening is at root level. Cut off the broad base of the bottle so that it can be easily filled with a bucket, hose or watering can.
- Place roses in containers on a saucer containing bark chips so that the water drains through but not away. The bark chips keep the base out of the water but capillary action will draw up the water when it is needed.
- Mulching is a must to keep the roots cool and reduce evaporation. Pine needles make an excellent mulch because they allow the water to flow through easily.
Follow this check list for peace of mind when leaving the roses home alone:
- Check the irrigation system and fix any blocked nozzles.
- If you don’t have irrigation, arrange for a neighbour or the gardener to water garden roses at least once a week.
- Mulch the beds with a deep layer of organic material; this keeps the soil cool and moist for longer.
- Spray with Chronos and Ludwig’s Insect Spray before leaving to protect against insects, red spider and black spot.
- Pinch off the tips of young shoots and buds; this reduces the need for water and will delay flowering until you return.
Roses in containers:
Move container roses into the shade and place them on saucers to catch any water. Mulch the surface of the pot. Arrange for watering every second to third day or link them up to the irrigation system. Spray and also removed young shoots and buds.
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TEXT: Alice Coetzee.