How to buy rose plants

Becoming familiar with the types of Roses available on the market to grow in your garden is by no means simple. As the Rose family has grown, and become more complex, anomalies have crept into the naming of its various members.

The choice of Roses should depend mainly on the purpose for which they are intended. For formal beds, it is important to choose varieties that grow ultimately to the same height. If a climber is needed to hide an unsightly object, it must be vigorous if that object is large, a more modest grower if it is small. For a shrubbery where there are summer-flowering

shrubs such as Hydrangeas and Fuchsias, it would be best to choose Roses that flower earlier or later. On the other hand, if the shrubbery contains spring-flowering Rhododendrons and Prunus, repeat-flowering Floribundas or Rugosa Roses would enliven it during the summer.

Colour is obviously largely a matter of personal taste; the only point to make sure of is that there are no colour clashes between neighbours. In fact, this very seldom happens, but it is worth keeping in mind. You may find it easiest to make a choice by looking at displays of mature specimens. Visits to friends’ gardens, public parks, and garden flower shows, could all help you to make up your mind. Bear in mind, however, that the roses in Rose-fields will be ‘maidens’, which may not always be true to colour. Similarly, those seen on the stands of the early national shows have usually been raised under glass and they, too, may not be true to colour.

Good young Roses (container-grown and otherwise) should have robust shoots and rootstocks that are healthy in colour and show no signs of dieback or shrivelling. They should be free from disease, pests and weeds. Quite good pre-packed Roses are often on sale in large chain stores and supermarkets, usually contained in cardboard cartons which have at least two open ‘windows’. Try to examine them enough to make sure that they meet the requirements outlined above, opening the carton if necessary.

A very important point is to place orders for bare-root Roses not later than August. This is because the best specimens are invariably sent out first, and as the winter wears on, those left may not be so high in quality.

Roses will grow in almost any spot, although they dislike very chalky or poorly drained soil. Deep shade may also hinder their growth.