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Red, red roses

There are so many roses in the garden. Apparently they were one of my dad's favourite flowers. They are mostly, shades of pink, an occasional yellow here and there. No white. We had one of the first blue roses called blue moon, I personally would say it was more a dusky pink than blue but it was very pretty. It seems to have disappeared. I have a vague memory of dad telling me that it reverted. I'm never really sure what he meant by this in relation to plants. He used to go into quite complicated detail about plants being bred on from their original natural form according to the designer’s preference until a new plant is developed. In roses this usually also included detailed information on root stock and grafting.

All very boring if your emphasis is, that's pretty and can I eat it, especially if the answer to the question is no you can't.

I wish now that I had taken more notice.

For most of the last years of dad's life we watched sadly as the garden deteriorated. Plants died as they were overcome by weeds or overgrown neighbours and starved from lack of nourishment, water and light.

We were all too busy with our lives and caring roles to give any time or thought to the garden. It just there as it has always been the shapes of big plants remained roughly the same getting slowly bigger over the years with smaller plants disappearing into overgrowth of grasses and ivy.

All except the roses. They seemed to thrive. They were getting bigger and gangley and had masses of flowers and leaves.

Last year though I actually looked at one. I parked on the drive. I got snagged by a rose as I passed it. I noticed the flower was not a ball of petals. Instead the flower was flat with a yellow centre and flowers around. Additionally it was white

Dad did not plant white flowers. I have a vague memory of him saying 'why have white when nature and science combined provides such a mix of colours.

Having noticed the flower I then noticed the leaves. Most were 7 leaves to a stem and bright green. Some were 5,darker, with a polished top and less vein visibility. I discovered that there were pink roses attached to these. They were overcome in a sea of white.

The gardeners will be ahead of me now in realising that the hybrid roses had been over taken by the root stock of the rose growing. With research I learned this is damaging to the original rose which is grafted as the roots give more and more priority to their own shoots and flowers. The treatment for this is to dig down and tear off the offending new shoots at the root to force the hybrid rose to be treated as a priority.

Easy. So first I had to get to the primary stems. The two roses I began with were 7' tall and 4' wide and thick. As I said they were flourishing.

And yes there is also an ash tree growing in the rose bush

When I cut them back I realised one had two stems which were very long and weak, the second had only one. The first had eight main branches which were very thick and established. The second had about 18. These were interwoven and thick with thorns and had been established for many years. So much for the lovely advice of dig down and twist them off the root, the branches are too close to get a hand hold.

I cut them back in mid-summer in the hottest summer since 1976. The ground was like baked clay. I was reluctant to dig about and interfere with the plants and cause more dehydration and possibly kill the plants. I was reluctant to feed them as it was so dry and hot as I would not be able to water them when I returned to my own home after the weekend. I decided therefore to cover the unwanted stumps in black plastic to discourage regrowth and allow the hybrids to recover. This worked really well with one. The other was too big for this and too close to the wall to make a seal.

The idea was to give me time to wait for the weather to improve to allow me to try the digging out thing.

A month later I reviewed the situation. The first, smaller rose had one stray erroneous shoot. The hybrid stems had fallen over and were on the ground, but they had started budding and new shoots were growing, these were hybrids and stronger. There were only a few but it looked very promising. All I had to do was dig out and pull off the unwanted suckers.

The second rose was not so successful. It was covered with fast growing suckers, the hybrid had not grown and was on the ground. It was still flowering, but looked quite desolate.

I was uncertain about whether or not I could rescue this rose. It might be easier to just dig out the whole thing and start with a new plant - probably not a rose, I have heard that planting a new rose in the same situation as a previous one is not a good idea.

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