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Are roses a gardening pleasure or pest-ridden pain?

Some colourful roses in bloom

In gardens across the land, roses are in full bloom. These beautiful plants are vulnerable to weather and pests. Are roses worth the effort it takes to keep them healthy, happy and blooming?

There are few flowers more fragrant and beautiful than a perfect rose in full bloom. They seem to be the quintessential flower of the English summer and will often keep blooming well into September.

My garden is graced by a few rose bushes planted by the previous owner and quite frankly, though the flowers are pretty, I’m thinking about ditching them.

They are just too much effort.

Pampered plants

For a start, every year there is black spot to deal with. I have to start spraying before the leaves burst and clean away last year’s leaves and mulch. Then, when inevitably black spot gets a grip, I have to remove the diseased leaves from the thorny stems. But only if rust, powdery mildew, saw fly and green fly haven’t already devastated any chance of blooms.

And that is if I’m lucky enough to get any blooms at all. With the summers we’ve been getting, rose blindness and weather damage has been a real problem. When I do get blooms, I suppose dead-heading isn’t too much of a chore, but it still takes effort.

Extra fertilizing, nurturing through diseases and infestation, and cutting back for winter (when they stay as ugly, thorny twigs in my borders) makes roses very needy plants indeed. And when I say cut them back, I mean prune carefully – because you have to cut off the right amount of stem and prune them into the correct ‘bowl’ shape to keep your rose blooming and disease-free.

Is a garden without a rose still a garden?

But is an English garden complete without rose in the border? They flower for so much longer than peonies and at least they’re hardy.

Maybe I could replace my old-style hybrid tea roses with a new disease resistant floribunda, which should give me plenty of flowers and not be quite so susceptible to diseases?

Oh no, that’s right, if I plant it in the same spot in the ground, it’ll get rose-replant disease and die. I suppose I could dig out a tonne of earth or sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi on it or plant it in a cardboard box, but do I really want a rose that much?

I think I’ll just buy a peony.

Do you find your roses take up too much of your gardening time? Do rose pests and diseases make you reach for the chemical spray more often than you’d like? Or do you enjoy lavishing the care and attention on them and are rewarded with beautiful flowers?


I inherited roses from the previous owner of my bungalow. Some of them were badly affected by black spot and looked unhealthy for much of the summer. I prefer not to use chemical sprays because they can affect more than the plants. A gardening friend saw my predicament and got me replacements for the worst affected roses, which I planted in the same place before learning that this is not a good idea. They thrived, so I replaced some more, again with success. For once, I forgot to prune the roses and now I have a healthy crop that are flowering well with little sign of disease.

I moved one peony from the garden of my parents’ house. It flowers well every year, despite advice that peonies should not be moved.

I did not realise that you should not move peonies Wavechange!
I’ve moved mine of necessity several times and they don’t seem to have fretted. I am going to have to go home and apologise to them now!

Here is some advice about moving peonies, from the Royal Horticultural Society:http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?PID=671

I don’t think there as any need to apologise them, though it might be an idea to ask why they produce their magnificent flowers for such a short time. 🙂

Back in 1982 I visited a garden centre and found a bargain lot of roses that had been taken from the shop and were on offer for £1 each because they were old stock. I planted these in my garden and they are still healthy and happy. I feed them each spring, spray them occasionally, prune off dead wood now and then and, otherwise just let them get on with it. They are not quite so ‘floriferous’ as they were, but I rather like their spirit of survival. One day I might even find out what types they are!

I like the idea of happy roses, Vynor. I confess to not having fed any of my roses since moving in in 1982, though they have been watered in drought conditions. I will feed them today.

Definitely anthropomorphic – I feed them blood and bone.

Peonies are nice, but have a short flowering and droop when it rains (as it seems to just when they are in flower). We have shrub roses and perpetual flowering – no real pruning to do, no problem with blackspot, we just let them get on with life and only cut them back when they overhang the lawn. Good value. Just don’t get hung up on the problems with roses.

Our roses bloom from June till December, we even make jam with the petals. The only thing I would change is to buy ones without thorns

Lizabeth says:
3 July 2013

I couldn’t live without at least a few roses; we have the amazing ‘Peace’ bought as a 1st wedding pressy in 1962 and it’s still going strong. ‘Ruby Wedding’ is another prolific flowerer, I counted 22 enormous and glorious looking blooms on it Sunday. ‘Iceberg’ is another favourite, it just goes on and on and on flowering, it looks wonderful today! As for Peony being a replacement, I too have Peonies, I grant you, they are indeed lovely, when in flower, which is for approximately ten days out of 365, my Roses will flower continuously from early June until the first frost, and often I will cut at least two for Christmas day! By the way, they take up only a little of my time, dead-heading the occasional spray, that’s about it apart from of course pruning but then doesn’t everything in the garden need a prune from time to time?

I’m with you Adelaide!

The conditions in my valley floor garden are so harsh that I’ve had to adopt a ‘survival of the fittest’ approach to gardening. I’m looking for tough, but beautiful plants with year-round appeal that will withstand a hard frost and don’t need constant support to keep them looking halfway decent!

Roses do not qualify… they don’t have a pleasing shape to my eye, are prone to too many pests and diseases and the flowers do not look appealing as they go over.

I spent some time at the Which? trial garden last week and had a look at the trial they are running of celebration roses. The plants were in full flower and it struck me that for every perfect rose on each bush there were twenty half mangy, rotten, brown, ugly offerings.

A perfect rose is an amazing and beautiful thing – but too elusive for my taste.

I thought everyone knew, you have to dead head all garden flowers especially if you want the roses to look good, take off the jaded bits and in a few week you have another beautiful display. They are magnificent and give you colour in the garden for at least 6 months if you are lucky.
Geraniums too, the more you pick off the flowers the more buds appear. We must be lucky we don’t appear to have diseases, they don’t get fed much just watered occasionally.
Our Peonies last two weeks if we are lucky, a lot like daffodils a short flowering season but well worth the effort.
What is looking very poorly is a Camellia which is a shame, my hopes for a huge tree of early flowering blooms is diminishing.

Spot on Ellen. You can’t have a nice garden without putting in some effort. We have some tree peonies – wonderful flowers, but you have to support them and protect them from rain. otherwise they flop. We like dahlias – grow from seed each year, and some for picking from tubers. Pick regularly and they just keep flowering until the frosts. Roses – we’ve a reasonable display at the moment of HTs, floribunda and shrub. But we don’t dead head much, and we should. Cutting the grass and sitting out with a drink takes precedence sometimes.

Dahlias are really showy flowers and spectacular in an arrangement if you can get rid of the earwigs! We have managed to keep one yellow dahlia the size of a dinner plate, for three years now, I don’t know how with up to minus 12 degrees in the winter. It will keel over when it rains, but cut it and put it in a bowl, and it soon flowers again.
We find Apuldram Roses supply a magnificent array of roses, all kinds to choose from, some will grow to 30ft, others beautifully manicured standing 6 ft in a tub. hundreds of varieties and colours. We put strawberries and tomatoes instead of flowers in hanging baskets, at least we dont have to share them with slugs.

I have mainly roses in my garden which is mainly clay with very little topsoil. I put LOADS of manure down each year having dug in the previous years manure. I feed them, spray them… blackspot is a huge problem, I live in damp Ireland ! I keep them weed free,prune them and water and deadhead them when necessary. I even grow several in enormous pots, a real challenge ! I love my roses and probably treat them a bit like pets but I appreciate not everyone has the time or effort to keep a close eye on roses. They reward me with flowers from May through to December.
I would be lost without them !

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Roses are tough and certainly not my favourite plant. We recently saw a garden [on 2000sq metres] in middle France with over 150 different roses in magnificent bloom. They obviously appreciate the warmth and dryness of the summer.

Interestingly there was a great use of walkways with roses growing over, several types per 5 metres. The lady owner and her slave …. anyway she had retired through ill-health 14 years ago and now spends most of her time in the garden. She, French, claims it is an “English” garden though it is substantially more densely planted with shrubs and trees than most English gardens with little room for any lawn.

It is a bit special as both a national TV channel and a regional newspaper covered it. I think for the UK I would continue to think roses to be a troublesome plant.

If anyone is travelling to France the International Garden Festival at Chaumont sur Loire runs until September ..or later