Although most of them have finished flowering, this is the time of year that you think about planting roses, because it is over winter that you buy and plant bare root roses. So begin researching now for the rose you might want to buy and have in your garden next year.
For those of us who do not like resorting to spraying against pest and disease, I met a wonderful gardener earlier this year. She takes cuttings form roses and sets them in her garden, doing nothing more than keeping them weed-free, watered and in good soil, working without recourse to chemicals. Her results in recent years have shown that Rosa ‘Ispahan’ is a big success. This is an old Damask rose, of unknown origin, worth growing for many reasons: Firstly, it has the prettiest semi-double soft pink flowers. They are carried with profusion on a shrub that measures about two metres tall and wide. It flowers for a longer period than most Damask roses and has a really fine scent. The great bonus is that it is resistant to mildew, black spot and rust.
The other success story was with Rosa ‘Alba Maxima’. It too grows to about two metres. The flowers are double white and last longer in a cooler garden. Do not plant it in the best sun trap. This is an easy piece of advice to follow. Sun traps are in high demand and finding a rose that does not need to steal all the sun is a good thing. ‘Alba Maxima’ does not flower for a very long time however. Plant it beside something else that will provide interest earlier than its flowers appear, as well as later in the autumn. Placing low growing spring bulbs such as scillas, miniature narcissi and snowdrops underneath is a good idea.
Rosa ‘Tuscany Superb’ is a a dark red double Gallica rose that reminds me of velvet. With a name that includes the word ‘superb’, this rose has a lot to live up to. Fortunately it is able to live up to its name. The scent is fabulous, rich and it can travel across a garden. If someone was to send you a bunch of these for Valentine’s Day, you would very likely melt…
Rosa ‘Sir John Betjemen’, A David Austen rose, she found, is also particularly good in its resistance to disease. This is a pink double and also carries a good scent.
Another rose to add to the list would be the noisette climber ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’. It is a free flowering plant that will grow up to about 8 metres in height and spread. It starts flowering in May and will continue sporadically until Christmas. The flowers are puffy, scruffy, white doubles that are absolutely lovely on the tree, with a good scent. The only thing is that they are so loose and scruffy they do not really transfer into a vase. You need not worry about disease.
As well as buying new roses over winter, November is when you can take hardwood cuttings of any roses that you would like to increase. You might have a rose bush in the family that holds some special meaning, that other members of family might also like to have in their gardens. It could be an old rose that your granny has grown for years. Even better, it could be a rose that was her granny’s rose. A long family association is a magical attraction for a plant to have. Taking hardwood cuttings is easy to do.
Take a sharp secateurs and cut pencil-thick, semi-mature stems. Divide these into a series of 35 – 40 cm cuttings with a flat clean cut just below a node at the base of each cutting, and a downward slanted cut just above a node at the top. Trim off all but the top three or four leaves and remove the thorns. Plant the stems with half of the stem below ground in a trench. Firm them in and water well. Make sure to mark them clearly. Five cuttings will generally deliver three successful ‘takes’. In a year you will have healthy bushy little plants ready to be moved on.
If you already have roses, a partial pruning now at the beginning of the winter will stop them being blown violently about over the next few months.
Cut back growth by about a third to reduce the size of the plant and therefore the chances of its being caught up by the wind, loosening the root in the ground. When loose, wind rock is a danger. Wind rock increases the chance of damage to the root ball, and the subsequent chance of disease getting into the plant.
If a gap appears between the trunk of the rose and the soil, hold the plant upright and firm it back in with your heel. Then carry out the the one-third pruning method. In spring you will carry out whatever additional pruning that is needed.