Frequently asked questions
Q: What is the difference between a climber and a rambler?

A: Climbers generally have large blooms on not too vigorous, rather stiff growth and most repeat flower. Ramblers are in general, much more vigorous. They will produce great quantities of small flowers, although most do not repeat flower. There are exceptions to both these rules: for instance Malvern Hills and Snow Goose are repeat flowering ramblers whereas Cecile Brunner clg is a once flowering climber with small flowers.

Most climbers are best for walls, trellises, arches, obelisks whereas ramblers are generally better for growing into trees and covering pergolas or large structures such as garages or sheds.

Q: Which is the most fragrant English Rose?

A: Jude the Obscure is probably the most fragrant although it does depend on the day and your individual response to scent. It is certainly the variety that seems to delight most people. It has the most wonderful fruity fragrance which is often strongly citrus and sometimes distinctly guava, lychee or sweet white wine.

Other contenders for the title include Gertrude Jekyll (a perfectly balanced old rose fragrance), Lady Emma Hamilton (a deliciously fruity fragrance), Wild Edric (a blend of old rose and clove) and Jubilee Celebration (another lovely fruity fragrance).

Q: Which English Rose flowers most abundantly and over the longest time?

A: The Mayflower is the first to start blooming in the spring, the first flowers appearing here at the nursery in Shropshire in late May, it then continues to bloom with great regularity until the frosts stop it in October/November. Other particularly free and long flowering English Roses include the The Countryman, Mary Rose, Redoute, Winchester Cathedral and Molineux.

Q: My rose has got seven leaves. Is this a sucker?

A: No, while most of the hybrid teas and floribundas have just 5 leaves many of the roses belonging to the other groups have 7, 9 or even more leaflets. There are no hard and fast rules to distinguish a sucker but generally the leaves have 7 leaflets and are a rather pale green as are the stems which are often smooth with few thorns. If they flower they will have 5 petals and will be a very pale blush white. Suckers come only from the rootstock on which the garden rose is budded and so will only come from below the bud union. The young growth from some roses can be very vigorous and look out of character and rather sucker-like, so do check carefully before cutting these otherwise you may well ruin the plant.

Q: I have a Winchester Cathedral rose and some of the petals have turned pink. Have I discovered a new sport?

A: Sadly not. Winchester Cathedral and Redouté are both sports of Mary Rose and occasionally either of these roses can revert to their originals. The reversion can be anything from a fully pink bloom to the merest fleck on a petal and can be most attractive. If you'd like to keep the plant to one colour, simply prune the stem back to below the point that the sport originates from.

Q: My roses have a severe infestation of black spot. What can I do to control it?

A: The best way to keep disease in check is to understand that a strongly growing rose is more able to resist disease. To encourage your rose to grow strongly, we recommend that you follow the planting and care advice supplied with your rose. Combining roses with other plants, especially herbaceous perennials, will attract beneficial insects which will help create a healthy environment. Plant your roses in a good sunny position, with at least 4-5 hours sun each day. In hotter zones like Texas, roses may do better with just morning sun and a little afternoon shade to reduce the heat. Make sure the roses have enough space as good air circulation around the plants will help to prevent spores germinating.

Plant in healthy, rich soil and work in plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost. Mulching well helps to keep heat off the roots and retain the moisture and can also help keep blackspot spores from splashing back up to the plant when you water.

Feed and water well, but do not overdo either. Do not remove leaves from the plant even if they have some blackspot (unless they are absolutely covered with no green remaining). The leaves are vital to the overall health of the plant and to remove leaves unnecessarily will cause stress to the plant making it less able to fight disease.

If you wish to garden organically, try spraying with baking soda diluted with water and a few drops of horticultural oil. In the winter, during the dormant period, remove all foliage from the plant and from around the base of the plant. This will help to prevent the disease from being carried over into the new season.

Finally, take care to grow varieties recommended as being resistant to disease such as The Mayflower. When growing blackspot prone varieties, especially in very humid conditions, regular spraying with a good fungicide may be required to keep black spot away. Banner Maxx is the most widely recommended spray for keeping blackspot off roses. Spray every two weeks, being sure to get both tops and bottoms of the leaves. Try not to spray before a rainstorm which will wash away the spray before it has time to start working.

Q: My new rose has white powder on the leaves. What is this and is there a problem with the rose?

A: This is most probably powdery mildew, a common disease on many plants in the garden and often caused by dryness at the roots. It is most commonly seen on climbers and ramblers growing against walls where the soil is particularly dry, especially East facing ones.

The best way to prevent this happening is to give your roses an occasional good, deep soaking before the soil dries out, which may be as early as May. Mulching will also help to conserve the moisture in the ground. Apply this in April to retain what moisture is in the ground.

You can also spray to prevent it if desired, using Roseclear 3 (in the UK) and Banner-Max (in the US). Start spraying early in May but beware of late frosts which can scorch the leaves badly if you have just sprayed. There is much variability between varieties for resistance to powdery mildew. Blairi No2 and Dorothy Perkins are both very susceptible while A Shropshire Lad and Adelaide d’Orleans are highly resistant.

Q: I bought roses from you last year and followed your planting instructions but they have not flowered. Why?

A: The most likely cause is that it is a once flowering variety which will only start flowering in its second year in your garden on older growth. Most of the true old roses (gallicas, damasks, albas, centifolias and mosses), the ramblers and the species and a few other assorted varieties come under this heading. For the same reason that they won’t flower in your garden in the first year, they will also refuse to flower if you prune them too hard, so do cut them back relatively lightly.

Q: My new rose has very large, fragrant blooms but I am concerned that they tend to hang their heads. I thought that roses were meant to have upward-facing flowers?

A: All roses will take a few seasons to reach their mature shape and size. Large-flowered varieties in particular tend to get better and better over their first two or three years as the stems become thicker, providing greater support for their heavy blooms. Prune them back in winter by no more than a half, as this is important in enabling the stems to thicken. Feed twice each year with a slow-release, organically-based fertilizer.

Hybrid tea roses were traditionally bred to have upward-facing blooms. While there is, without doubt, a place for hybrid tea roses, David Austin’s aim in breeding has always been to increase the diversity in roses and to preserve the charming characteristics found in the old garden roses.

As a result, some of our favourite and most popular varieties have large, deeply-cupped blooms. These nod gracefully on their stems to face us, with a natural poise we so admire. In the garden they perform a similar role to peonies, but have a much longer flowering season. These include the magnificent shrub roses Golden Celebration, Abraham Darby and Alan Titchmarsh.

If you prefer upward-facing blooms, try Charlotte, Darcey Bussell, L D Braithwaite, Molineux, Port Sunlight, Queen Of Sweden or Sophy’s Rose. However we do encourage gardeners to try some of the roses with nodding blooms as the effect on the mature shrub can be really delightful.

Q: I have a problem with deer in my garden. Do you know of anything that can deter them?

A: Deer are very difficult to keep out of the garden and they do love a few rose buds and succulent young shoots. The most effective way is a deer proof fence around the whole garden but this may not be practical or affordable (although relatively cheap ones are available). Another possibility is to stretch strong fishing line across which the deer can’t see but can feel, but very importantly, don’t forget it is there when mowing the lawn! Repellex is a product which claims to make the plants taste horrible, making it effective against a wide range of animals.

Q: I think that rabbits might be eating my roses. What are the signs of this and how can I prevent it happening?

A: Rabbits can cause great damage to roses, nibbling away at the young shoots and preventing growth. It sometimes looks as though the rose is simply not growing, but a careful examination of the plants, along with a few tell-tale droppings, soon shows the true cause. In the winter they can strip away at the bark and they have favorite varieties that obviously taste better than others.

The best way to exclude them is a rabbit proof fence around the whole garden or at least the rose garden using 36”/1m wide chicken fencing that has the bottom 6”/15cm bent outwards and is buried to prevent tunnelling. There are various sprays that claim to be keep rabbits away but their effectiveness does depend on regular applications and the rabbits may start getting used to the taste. Rabbits are habit forming creatures and early prevention can be effective in the long term; conversely a little nibble at the start of the season can make them addicted for life!

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29 October 2016