I thought Portugal’s heat would make rose growing difficult and make them shrivel in the intense heat of the summer, but I couldn’t be more wrong. They actually do well here, and aside from times of extreme weather, there really is no best time to plant.
Roses technically can get too much sun - sunscald is primarily a cosmetic issue that will cause the leaves and flowers to turn brown and crispy, and while most roses love the sun, the intense afternoon heat can become too much, whether in the garden or in pots.
This sad sight may make you want to prune them away, but don't – firstly because pruning will encourage new growth that will be even more susceptible to sunburn, and secondly, the older branches and leaves will help with shade. Resist getting your secateurs out until September, and then prune back your rose bushes by 1/3, which will remove any sun-damage and stimulate new growth.
Climbers are incredibly versatile plants and need plenty of room to spread. There is even a species named ‘Belle Portugaise’ (Bell of Portugal), with elegant, pointed buds that open to large, rather loose pink blooms that hang down as if to spill out their strong tea rose fragrance. This vigorous climber flowers for a long season and can tolerate heat and limey soil.
‘Bare rooted’ means the plant is dormant, and experts say that because they have a larger root system, they don’t suffer so much from transplant shock as ‘live’ roses in pots. Looking a little sad in the garden centre, these are sold with just a few stumpy canes emerging from the roots, wrapped in plastic or cardboard and have no soil, while others are just seen in heaps at farmers markets. Don’t select one that has any new growth starting - you want a plant that is still totally dormant, and ideally it should have three to five canes that are plump and green – brown or black canes may be sick or dead. Bare ends may be coated with a special waxy product to protect them, which will wear off naturally. When home, soak the roots for at least 6 and up to 24 hours. This helps the plant emerge from dormancy and gets it ready to grow. If you soak for more than 24 hours, change the water each day but for no longer than a week.
Before planting, snip the canes so that they are around 15cm long and have three to five buds each. If you have more than five canes, remove the smallest. Prepare a hole about 60cm wide and deep – they say there’s no such thing as digging too large a hole for roses! The more you can enrich the soil and improve aeration the better, so add rich, loamy well-draining soil.
If you purchase a live rose, water it generously immediately before planting out and dig a hole that is wide enough and deep enough to hold the rose’s root mass. This should be approximately 40cm wide x 60cm deep, then break up the soil at the base of the hole to allow the roots to go deeper once it starts growing. Adding some well-rotted manure to the hole will help the plant establish itself more quickly. Carefully remove the plant from its pot and position it in the centre of the hole, then backfill with the soil you took out originally.
Where to plant
Make sure the rose has some sun - ideally at least 4 hours of sunlight daily - with some shade from the afternoon sun being beneficial, and ensure the rose has enough space so that the roots do not suffer from intense competition from neighbouring plants.
If you plant a climber, ensure the rose has a structure to 'climb', and once it takes off, you will need to tie the stems onto the supporting structure as it grows.
Water them generously to encourage plenty of leaves and buds. Continue to fertilise them - a complete fertiliser specific to roses is best and apply once a month.
Don’t forget to check regularly for aphids and diseases and take early action!