I’m not a collector of any particular genus or species of plant, I love them all. A marigold in just the right color and shape, I love it. A hosta with crisply puckered leaves and a glaucous sheen, I’ll find space for it. So I’m always intrigued by people who are not just great gardeners, but gardeners with passion. Victoria resident Patrick White has a two-acre garden filled with trees, shrubs and perennials of all kinds, but it’s roses that rule the roost. He keeps a garden that is low maintenance and virtually chemical-free. “Rose problems are 90 per cent fungal, and 10 per cent insects,” says White, who has plenty of advice on how to grow and care for great roses. While they aren’t as difficult or needy as some believe them to be, following a few extra steps can transform good roses into great ones.
1. Use the best planting technique
Many of the diseases that can damage a rose result from fungi that live in the soil. “Keep the fungus in the ground, where it belongs,” says White, who uses a modified EarthKind method when planting new roses, and then again every three years. After planting the rose and backfilling its hole, White lays newspaper around the plant’s base (a full section). Then he puts 10 centimetres of coarse mulch on top of the paper. The pieces must not be smaller than a half inch. White uses Douglas fir or hemlock mulch, but recommends that gardeners use whatever is local for them. This technique helps keep fungal spores in place, blocks weed growth, provides food for the plant as it slowly breaks down and preserves soil moisture.
2. Choose own-root roses
Patrick prefers to grow roses that have been grown on their own roots as opposed to roses that have been grafted or budded on to rootstock. Own-root roses, which are grown from cutting from the parent plant, tend to be more winter-hardy, virus-free and have longer lives than grafted roses.