Only one flower signifies summer for some gardeners – the rose. Garden designer Joy Grey tells us, roses are among our favourite garden plants and deservedly so.

They are versatile, produce vibrant colour all summer long and well into autumn or even winter, and many are deliciously scented. People often believe that roses look after themselves, but this is a myth; we need to lavish love and attention on these special flowers. And, it’s been alleged that the Prince of Wales is known to chat to his roses. Roses really are the most rewarding plants you can grow; however, it might take more than a few words of encouragement as you water them. Here are our top tips for the ultimate blooms.

Start with the roots

You can purchase roses already potted in soil or as dormant bare-root plants. Each type has its benefits:
Container roses: Container roses are great for novice gardeners because they’re easy to plant and establish quickly. They can be purchased at local nurseries throughout the growing season, allowing you to plant them when climate conditions are ideal, preferably on a cool and cloudy day.
Bare-root roses: One of the advantages of bare-root roses is the greater selection of varieties available. They are economical and can be purchased online. However, unlike container roses, bare-root plants need to have their roots soaked overnight in water before planting. And the roots should be kept moist for the first few months after planting. 

It is beneficial to add mycorrhizal fungi when planting new roses – both bare root or container grown. This will encourage early and strong root establishment.


At the beginning of the season, use an all-purpose, slow-release granular rose feed high in potassium. Draw a small circle around the base of the plant with the feed, making sure it doesn’t scorch the leaves. After the first flush of blooms, feed again to encourage a longer flowering season. 

Water wisely

Soil should be kept evenly moist throughout the growing season. The amount and frequency of watering will depend on your soil type and climate. It’s best to soak weekly rather than a little each day – this encourages the roots to go down looking for water Roses growing in sandy soils will need more watering than those in heavier clay soils. How you water is as important as the frequency. To keep roses healthy, avoid wetting the foliage. Use a soaker hose, watering can with a long spout, or a watering wand pointed directly at the soil.

Avoid Pests and Disease

People are often put off growing roses because they’re worried about greenfly, blackfly or black spot. When it comes to greenfly and blackfly, it’s best to let nature work its magic. Birds and insects tend to clear the flies within days. Black spot, however, is a fungal problem that needs chemical treatment, though prevention is desirable. Pick up and destroy fallen leaves.
When pruning, cut out any stems with black spot on. In late-winter, spread a thick layer of mulch around the base of the affected plant to prevent rain splashing soil-borne spores on to new spring growth. Be aware of Rose Replant Disease. Avoid planting new roses in the same place that roses have previously been grown. New plants will fail to thrive or put on good new growth unless special measures are taken.


Deadhead roses once the blooms are finished, and the petals crisp up. Use clean secateurs to cut below the spent bud, just above a new leaf, to be rewarded with bloom upon bloom as the season progresses.


Next season, you may need to lift old roses and replace them or replace the soil with lots of manure, so plan ahead and watch out for the very best roses. Try to see roses in bloom before purchasing by visiting rose nurseries or rose gardens during the flowering season. And, always ensure you select from a good quality breeder and seller as you don’t want to introduce disease into your rose garden.


The Grey Cottage, Goose Green, Gullane EH31 2AT
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