Keeping it simple
At the events we attend we often get asked about how we look after our roses. The simple answer is – we keep it simple. We try not to intervene letting them do what they do naturally. We grow 6 different varieties of rose, particularly Rosa Damascena and Rosa Gallica officinalis which we sourced from the fabulous rose growers R V Rogers. These are hardy plant types set about 1 ½ meters apart, in clay rich soil surrounded by grass and hedgerows.
Through the year
Our roses don’t seem inactive for very long, perhaps that’s global warming for you. They are dormant in January, but you can still see the tiny green buds that were formed at the end of the previous summer season; in February we prune; in March we mulch with well-rotted manure and also feed the plants with our own mix, see below; in April we weed and keep an eye on the caterpillars; May and June the plants grow vigorously and burst into flower. At this point we do, of course, pick our blooms which has the benefit of encouraging them to grow more. By July a few flowers are still blooming and it’s a pleasure to leave them on the plant for the insects to enjoy and then for the birds to eat as hips later in the year. Through Autumn we leave well alone with maybe a bit of a prune if we are expecting snow as we don’t want it to break the branches.
Having tried many methods of pruning and tried out not pruning at all, we find that pruning is preferable and the old-fashioned way is best – by hand. Pete does that for us and has produced a video to explain how to do it.
We like to prune the well-established plants to keep them at a good height for picking, and to cut out straggly or unhealthy growth. Also, to reduce wind rock as we are sited on the side of a hill.
We only intervene if there seems to be an imbalance. We’ll water in an extremely dry period and when there is a glut of one sort of insect we will try to create balance. With greenfly in particular, we introduced more ladybirds which worked very well, with caterpillars we intervened ourselves by picking them off and feeding them to the ducks and chickens. Otherwise, we let the moles, mice, frogs and birds have a freehand – we believe a rich biodiversity is key to health.
Feed and Flourish
That said, we have found that black spot creeps in a little, especially if we have a damp winter, and we keep it at bay with our own formula of garlic greens, lavender and Epsom salts. We’ll save that recipe and details for another blog.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to put them in the comments and we will do our best to respond.
Though our roses only bloom in June, their fragrance and flavour can be enjoyed throughout the winter months and especially on Valentine’s Day with our Welsh rosewater in lots of romantic recipes such as our exotic cocktail Love Potion No. 5. If you don’t want to cook, try our Chocolate Rose Truffles made by Cathryn Cariad, Welsh Chocolatier.
Denise and Desdemona