There are organic alternatives to rose pest and
disease control – including growing garlic!
Roses, apart from being beautiful are also probably the most loved flower in British gardens - and one of the most useful.
Rose petals are commonly harvested for use in cosmetics, dried for pot pourri, or added to jams, syrup or water for flavour. You can also crystallise them for use as cake decorations.
Rose hips contain more vitamin C gram-for-gram than oranges with even higher levels in the older heritage varieties. They can be used in jams, syrups and soups or just left on the plant as winter food for birds.
Roses are a woody perennial of the genus Rosa, within the family Rosaceae. There are over 100 species forming a group of plants that can be upright, climbing or scrambling, low or even trailing plants. Their stems are usually bit not always armed with sharp prickles.
I have never met a gardener who did not have a favourite rose. Most are easy to grow but unfortunately, and especially in the British climate, they are prone to some pests and diseases (name a plant that is not - Ed). The most common of these are black-spot - especially as the air gets cleaner - and aphids but they can also get mildew and rust.
There are many synthetic products on the market to help with these problems, however, for a natural approach, you could try the following, which many rose-growers have found to be most successful.
Believe it or not, if you plant members of the garlic family amongst your roses as a companion, as the roses grow they are thought to absorb the garlic's exudations, and in turn become unattractive to those pesky aphids.
I can hear some of you thinking; "Garlic smelling roses?!"
But don't worry, it does not affect the scent at all. Some of the finest roses are grown in Bulgaria, which produces some of the world's sweetest varieties, and it is common practice on commercial farms to plant roses with a bulb of garlic.
And an added benefit is that it will also help to increase the essential oil content of the plant.
And remember that alliums, close relations of garlic, are supposed to have a similar effect – choose a large-headed variety carefully and it could look spectacular amongst roses in bloom.
If you do not fancy the look of garlic (or alliums) planted with your roses, then you could just dig chopped garlic and onion peelings in as part of your soil preparation before planting. Along with a good fertiliser too – horse manure can indeed come up smelling of roses...
Alternatives to garlic
Aphid-deterring plants include nasturtiums, spearmint, purslane, mignonette and clumps of parsley. With these in mind, you could get very creative indeed with your displays.
Lupins are a cottage garden favourite and are a classic planted along with roses. They provide an attractive display, but also have roots that 'mine' the soil better than roses do alone, thereby increasing the nitrogen content, and in turn attracting welcome earthworms.
Additional options could be marigolds (to deter nematodes) and geraniums (which are said to deter leaf beetles).
Choosing your soil
The majority of soils, especially heavier ones, will grow good roses. You will reduce disease if you:
- Choose a site that has sunshine at least 50% of the day and plenty of air movement.
- Really work at improving the soil. Fertilisers are all very well, but to keep roses healthy the single best thing is to give them a good mulch of compost or rotted horse manure every spring as they come into growth. Over the years this will improve the quality of the soil more than anything else.
- Another trick is to tuck banana skins around the base of the bushes as they are rich in phosphorus and silica.
Pruning roses should be carried out at frost free times around mid-February to March. Prune out any dead or weak looking growth.
Established roses should be pruned to around one-third of their original size, as a good rule of thumb. And they also benefit from being trimmed back just a touch after they finish flowering around November.
Interested in roses?
If you're into your roses, Ashridge Nurseries has over 190 varieties for you to choose from, including:
- Climbing roses
- David Austin English roses
- Floribunda roses
- Hybrid Tea roses
- Rambling roses
- and Shrub roses