training roses

Last week we moved three established bushes of the beautiful old bourbon rose 'Variegata di Bolonga'.  We've been reorganising our rose garden to make space for new plants and to give everything more room, and these three beauties were in close competition with some very vigorous tayberries, both roses and berries flourishing on the rich helpings of muck that we've been using as a mulch.  The roses had been making some very long, whippy growth which suggested to us that they might like a wall to climb up, so two bushes have now been trained against our East-facing wall.  The third, we thought we would experiment with.  After carefully and laboriously digging up as much root as we could, we then pruned out about half of the bush: old branches, spindly shoots, damaged wood and anything too congested in the middle of the plant.  Next we made a big wide deep hole, worked some well-rotted manure into the bottom of it, planted the rose bush and firmed it well, before mulching the top with another thick layer of the muck.  Then we took short bamboo canes and pushed them into the ground at a short distance all around the plant, then gently bent each of the long supple shoots down towards a cane and tied it carefully in with twine.  We are hoping that this treatment will cause the growth hormone which usually encourages strong growth at the branch tips - which are usually the highest point on the bush - to distribute growth more fairly all along the branches - which are now almost horizontal - thus encouraging flowering stems to shoot from each of the nodes along the branch, and giving us lots more flowers.  We will see if it works.  

So much new growth has been coming on this week.  The peonies are making very robust-looking red shoots, the bulbs are forcing their way through the soft spring-like ground, and everything in the polytunnel is thriving.