Always one of my favourite plants when I lived in England but here in SW France the combination of lots of sunshine and heavy clay soil seems to work wonders for roses. A spring addition of manure and my roses are simply stunning.
If only I had time to keep up with the deadheading I think I would have some roses in bloom practically all year round. I went on a pruning course here and the instructor said he has non stop roses all spring/summer/autumn (the repeat flowering ones obviously) by continuous deadheading. That might have to be my next years resolution.
As a group my favourite roses have to be David Austin Roses. The variety of shapes, deep cup, open cup, rosette, quartered rosette etc with their beautiful frilly interiors and often delicious old rose scent are really a worthwhile addition to any garden.
Roses are very easy to grow. To make your life as simple as possible make sure you buy a rose which is suitable for your site. In general roses like rich soil with a pH of 6.5 but will grow very well in less perfect conditions.
Roses other than ramblers (which you can grow up trees) like to have space to themselves without undue competition from other plants, especially trees. Most roses like a sunny spot but if you have shade there are varieties adapted to shade. A good rose catalogue will help you to choose roses suited to your space and conditions.
To get your roses off to the best start add plenty of well rotted compost to the planting hole. After this mulch generously with well rotted compost every spring. Try this and you will be amazed at how well your roses respond to this small degree of care. A fertilizer can be added at spring too.
The best way to avoid pests and diseases is too keep your roses healthy in the first place and be vigilant picking off occasional diseased leaves. If you are not organic there are plenty of rose sprays available. I have started planting garlic at the base of my roses (as well as my peach trees) as this deters aphids which are one of the main carriers of disease from one plant to another. I have been very pleased with the results and had very few aphids on my roses.
I am also busy propagating my lavender plants to under plant my roses as lavender too deters aphids and tends to look beautiful with roses, hiding the not so beautiful base of the rose plants. As lavender is not a greedy feeder it does not compete heavily with the roses and suppresses weeds and so is a good choice all round.
Dead head your roses regularly to encourage new blooms. Cut back to the next healthy set of leaves.
Roses and Clematis
Roses and Clematis are a particularly winning combination. Plant complementary colours together to great affect as I have done here with a pink rose and a purple clematis.
Alternatively use contrasting colours for a bolder display.
Pruning is always considered a bit scary with roses but always remember that in one garden survey there was no noticeable difference in the health of the rose plants between rose bushes professionally pruned and those done with an electric hedge cutter. But for those who prefer the old fashioned methods:
Choose three to four main stems that are growing in the right direction (i.e. towards the wall or support). Each year cut out one of the old stems and choose a new stem, whilst keeping to three or four. On each of these stems cut all side shoots off to one or two nodes (the notches clearly visible on the stem from which new growth will appear). Choose a node facing the direction you want the growth to appear in.
Only pruning to tidy up the shape is needed.
Repeat flowering shrub/bush roses
Cut back to about one third of the size always to an outwards facing bud so that new growth does not point into the centre of the plant.
Non repeating shrubs
Leave alone or prune back very lightly
General Pruning Advice
If you live in a fairly mild area start pruning January, February.
If your winters are still very cold at this time of the year, as are mine, wait until spring growth has just started. Because I have to wait quite late for my main pruning I was advised at a pruning course to prune lightly in the autumn and then finish the pruning late winter/early spring.
My pruning teacher also stressed that one of the main tasks is to have a good clean around the base of the rose plant. Make sure there are no weeds and cut off all rotten or diseased parts of the rose plant.