Toby Buckland: A rosy outlook
PUBLISHED: 16:10 25 June 2018
Gardener and broadcaster Toby Buckland delivers his expert advice
How many gardeners does it take to change a lightbulb? Three. One to put in the bulb and two to argue whether it’s the right time of year! Gardeners always debate about the way to do things, and that’s good because it makes our thinking and methods evolve. Back when I was an apprentice on a rose nursery, for example, roses were only sold bare-root and available when dormant. Since the advent of plants sold potted, most roses are now bought in June when gardeners can see and sniff what they’re buying.
How roses are planted has also changed. Where once the advice was to leave the knobbly join – where the flower-bearing briars meet the woody rootstock – on show above ground, the recommendation now is to plant ‘deep’ with the union 2-3cm below the surrounding soil. This makes the stems look less of a tangle and more productive as the buried briars produce roots of their own.
Then there’s mycorrhizal ‘Planting Powder’. This isn’t food in the conventional sense, but a meal-like dust that’s sprinkled on the roots when planting. Packed with natural ‘friendly-fungi’ the powder encourages faster root establishment and inhibits soil-borne pathogens like rose re-plant disease. This means that the old advice that roses should never go in ground they’ve occupied before is no longer true. That said, if the previous rose died suddenly, I wouldn’t just change the soil, I’d also think twice!
When planting a rose, always dig a big hole and add manure/soil improver to the soil before knocking your rose from its pot. Roses, you see, have wiry roots that don’t hold on to the compost that often falls off just as you’re planting. If this happens, don’t panic! Gently lower the rose into the planting hole, sprinkle the roots with mycorrhizal powder and backfill over the roots. Despite their looks roses are tough and, if watered straight away with a full watering can, won’t even wilt.
Clay is the ideal soil for roses as the fine particles cling to nutrients necessary for strong growth and abundant flowers. They will grow elsewhere, but the lighter or stonier the ground the greater their requirement for extra-helpings of well-rotted horse manure to keep them healthy. After planting, mulch with a 10cm layer of compost over the roots and water in well.
Toby’s Harvest Festival returns to Forde Abbey, Chard, on September 15 and 16.
Plant of the month:
If Jackson Pollock created a rose it would look like ‘Ferdinand Pichard’! It’s scented blush-pink blooms are splashed with cochineal and crimson, and repeat in flushes right through the summer. A good disease resistant choice for poorer soils, when pruned it stays around 4ft tall, but left to its own devices forms a flowery mound above head-height. It’ll happily train to a wall or obelisk too.
What to do now...
Now that the frosts of spring are over, plant tender bedding like petunias and trail lobelia in patio pots and planters. Always use fresh compost as it’s disease-free and contains the fertilizer needed for abundant flowers. Also plant out tender veg like courgettes, pumpkins and sweetcorn. Stake perennial flowers that tend to flop with hazel rods (or next best bamboo canes) pushed in around the clumps with a coral of soft twine strung between. Once early flowerers like Lady’s Mantle and Cranebill geraniums have finished, trim right back to the ground to tidy them up. With a water they’ll soon bounce back to flower again later in the summer. Trim the side-shoots of tomatoes and liquid-feed as soon as the fruits start to set. Earth up potatoes as the stems grow and watch out for aphids. As soon as you spot small clusters of these sap-suckers on leaves rub off with your finger or use an organic spray to reduce their numbers until the ladybirds arrive.
If you do just one thing...
Pick sweet peas regularly and deadhead to encourage more blooms to follow.
If you have a garden question send to @tobybuckland via Twitter.