The last roses of summer

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Winter Sun Picture courtesy Sun Picture courtesy last roses of summer are often the most perfect ones.

As summer draws to a close and the temperatures drop, your roses will take on a whole new intensity of colour and unfading beauty, seldom seen in hot weather. Their petals will unfurl perfectly and the blooms will last much longer too. And, if the temperatures play along, you can have roses well into April and May.

Shorter days are a signal to roses to prepare for winter dormancy and the plants start converting sugar to starches and storing it in their stems for spring growth. For this reason, it is important to feed them regularly; especially in the summer rainfall regions. In very cold regions, you should stop feeding by mid-March to harden the plants off against the cold. Lower daytime temperatures and reduced evaporation also mean that you can reduce the amount you water, while still ensuring good moisture in the soil.

VLV Kaapland Picture courtesy Kaapland Picture courtesy the Highveld a lot more dew falls in March, in the Cape you may experience a wet autumn, and in subtropical regions it is still very warm. Therefore, in these regions it is imperative to keep on spraying against fungal diseases.  On the other hand, if the weather is very hot and dry in your regions, keep an eye out for red spider. In hot, humid regions, you can trim your roses lightly if necessary, but do not cut them too short as they can produce their most beautiful blooms in autumn.

Late summer and autumn are ideal times to plant new roses because the soil is still warm enough for the plant to produce hair roots. Roses planted at this time will be ready to grow to their full potential in spring, and produce their first flush of blooms of the season.

Roses like excellent air circulation, but not a draughty, windy site. They require at least 5 to 6 hours of sunlight a day. Do not plant them near to walls where the soil tends to be dry, or close to other large shrubs whose roots will compete with the rose for moisture and food.

Hestrie Picture courtesy Picture courtesy are quite fussy about their soil. They will do best in light clay or loamy soil, but sandy soil should be enriched with lots of rose compost. Heavy clay can be loosened with basalt, and acidic soil is best mixed with lime each year.

Prepare your planting holes very well, making them 1 1/2 times as wide as they are deep, +-60cm square and +-45cm deep. Remove the topsoil and put it one side before digging the rest of the hole. Mix the excavated soil with special rose compost and a handful of bone meal.

Before planting roses into the garden, ensure that the soil in the planting bag is well watered and allowed to drain, so that it is neither too dry, nor too soggy. Do not plant roses deeper than they are growing in the nursery bag, the bud union must be above ground level. Firm the soil down well before watering the plants thoroughly. Keep the new plants moist but not soggy. In very cold regions, mulch the roots after planting to protect them from freezing. Do not prune newly planted roses after you have planted them in autumn.