Paula Baxter, Millpond Flower Farm, Scotland.
We grow and cut a lot of roses on our flower farm in the Scottish Borders, beautiful, blousy, scented glories that fill a room with colour and perfume. When we have visitors to the flower farm they always comment on how healthy the plants are and ask how we get them to perform so well. Most people who have a garden also have a rose or two but they often underperform or look downright sickly. Getting them to produce lovely flowers starts with a couple of simple steps.
Roses are thirsty plants. They like moist soil around them at all times. We generally don't get to choose our soil (and as ours is heavy clay, I certainly wouldn't have chosen it!) so we need to work with what we have and make sure it works for the plants that we have. The best way to keep soil well hydrated is to use a mulch. Clear the weeds from around your rose bush and water it well, at least a full watering can. Then apply a good covering of mulch to the surface of the soil. You can use any available mulch material such as straw, wood chip, sheep fleece, etc. The aim is to prevent evaporation and keep the roots of the plant nice and moist. Roses need well watering if it hasn't properly rained. A good soaking every 5-7 days is better than a trickle every day.
A rose bush starts the year as a woody stump. It needs enough food to grow long stems and leaves, topped with large fleshy flowers. And to do this it needs lots of food. A well fed plant will grow strongly and develop quickly. A weak plant will be susceptible to pests and diseases, using its resources to fight them off rather than developing flowers. We make our own feed by submerging leaves such as comfrey and nettle, seaweed and a bit of manure in a barrel and leaving it to ferment. When it smells really really bad it's ready. If you don't have enough space to allow you to make the food and also enjoy your garden, then a proprietary rose feed would also do the trick. We feed our roses weekly, from April to October and they reward us with buckets full of vibrant blooms.
Follow these two simple steps and you'll see the results in your vase!