Queen of flowers
Kiran Narain

Roses in a bed
Roses in a bed

Undoubtedly the most popular and widely cultivated of the flowers around the world, roses (Fam. Rosaceae) have a long and interesting history. Homer alludes to the rose in his Iliad and the Odyssey and Sappho, Greek poetess, called it the "Queen of Flowers" way back in the 6th -7th Century BC. Josephine of France (1763-1814) is said to have got planted 1000 varieties of rose in her garden at Malmaison. Every year new varieties are being introduced by nurseries and over 20,000 named varieties of hybrid roses are sold.

October-November is the ideal period, in North Indian plains, for planting new rose plants. Ideally grown in a separate rose garden, roses can also be grown in individual beds, borders, over arches and as screens or even in pots and tubs depending on the size of the garden as well as the individual tastes of the person growing them. It would be a good idea to have a group or bed of bush Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses together while Standards or Half-Standards can be used to flank paths or used as specimen plants in beds or tubs.

There is such a large variety of roses offered by nurseries that it may be a good idea to visit a rose nursery and make a list of desired varieties when in bloom, and even book them then. A number of well-tried varieties in different colours are:

Crimson: Mr. Lincoln, Crimson Glory, Gen. McArthur, Papa Meilland, Christian Dior and Raktagandha.

Orange: Superstar, Alexander Cherry Brandy, Indian Princess Orange Spark as well as Orange Sensation, Flamengo, Sunfire and Zambra in Floribunda.

Yellow: Gold Medal, Brown Velvet, Buccaneer, Summer Sunshine, King’s Ransom, Sun Blast and Canary.

Mauve: Lady X, Paradise, Blue Moon and Shocking Blue.

Pink: Dr. B. P. Pal, Queen Elizabeth, Fragrant Cloud, Eiffel Tower, Mischief, First Love and Hawa Mahal.

White: Pascal, Bill Temple, White Masterpiece, and Summer Snow.

Roses grow successfully on a wide range of soils but it should be well dug and well drained, incorporating large amounts of organic manure. As far as possible, choose an open, sunny site, ideally sheltered, facing southeast. Bone meal, hoof and horn meal and sulphate of potash can be forked in the top 6 in. of soil. Since roses are essentially surface-soil feeders, care has to be taken for regular deweeding of the beds. Evens soils which have grown roses for 10 years or more get rose-sick unless the top soil is changed, which my be a cumbersome process for a normal garden lover.

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 of at least six months of age should be procured. Generally Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses need 2-3 feet of spacing whereas Standard roses require 3 feet and Miniatures about 1 ft space. However, climbers and Ramblers require about 6 ft of space.

Before planting, the roots may need a little pruning to remove damaged portions and extra long roots. The plant should ideally sit on a mound of soil, in the pit, accommodating the roots without bending and twisting. The bud-union should be just below the ground level for bushes and the soil well firmed.

To maintain soil fertility, mulching with well decayed organic manure, 2-3 in. thick, will not only add nutrients to the soil but also conserve soil moisture. In addition, foliar feeding would also enhance the beauty of your roses, which will produce exquisitely shaped, often fragrant, beautifully coloured blooms, which decorate gardens for long periods.