garden life
Miniature roses
Kiran Narain

Miniature roses are gaining popularity, and more and more of these are finding their way into international rose catalogues every year
Miniature roses are gaining popularity, and more and more of these are finding their way into international rose catalogues every year

THE Greeks started the practice of strewing rose petals on various occasions. Cleopatra is said to have honoured her guests by providing a bed of roses. With the size of common gardens shrinking, rose lovers are finding it difficult to have a separate rose garden. No wonder, then, miniature roses are gaining popularity and more and more of them are finding their way into international rose catalogues every year.

There has been a surge in the hybridisation of miniature roses. Some of the prize-winning varieties of miniature roses like peaches n-cream, rise-n-shine, red cascade, lavender lace and Judy Fisher have become the favourites of rose lovers. Late September to early November being the ideal period in the north Indian plains for planting new rose plants, now is the time to acquire your stock.

Choose a well-dug and well-drained space for the roses assuring that large amounts of well-rotted organic manure has been incorporated into the soil. As far as possible, choose an open, sunny site, facing the southeast direction. A good dusting of bone meal, hoof and horn meal and sulphate of potash can be forked into the top six inches of the soil. This mixture can also be used for pots but the size of the pot should ideally be 18, but not less that 12. Give special attention to the drainage.

Well-developed plants of the desired varieties should be chosen, keeping in mind that each plant has at least three healthy canes coming out of a strong bud-union and matured grafts. These can be planted one foot apart in the soil that has been well worked out during monsoon so that the air should have penetrated to a good depth. Avoid any shade or too enclosed a position so that the roses get ample sunshine and plenty of fresh air or else it would mean having constant trouble in the form of diseases such as powdery mildew.

Before planting, the roots may need a little pruning to remove damaged portions. The plant should ideally sit on a mound in the pit, accommodating the roots without bending or entangling them. The bud-union should be just at the ground level and the soil well firmed around it. The rose planted in the well-prepared soil need not be manured for the first year.

Feeding the miniature roses should be light and often meaning, thereby, a low nitrogen fertiliser. In case of heavy feeding, the miniatures may grow tall, lank and leggy with fewer flowers. Spraying leaves with a well-recognised chemical foliar spray may be done weekly but with half the recommended dosage. Use a fine mist sprayer early in the morning or late in the evening but never during the day, taking care not to omit the undersides of the foliage.

Annual pruning is done in late September to October, depending on when the roses are required to be in best form as the flowers take about 55 days to appear after pruning. These can be pruned hard to a robust bud near the base, facing outwards. Care is taken that dead and week shoots at the base are removed.

Diseases and insects are, however, treated much the same way as ordinary roses except the fact that special attention has to be paid to the bushes that grow so near the ground which may hide the symptoms. Spraying bairstin dissolved at one gram to a litre of water will look after fungal diseases and Rogor will take care of thrips and aphids. Enjoy these treasures displaying their delicate blooms in rock gardens as border edgings, small beds, window boxes and pots.