When the RHS began work on its Devon garden, Rosemoor, some doubted the wisdom of planting roses. For a long time, people felt that the clean South West air lacked the sulphur needed to keep diseases such as blackspot at bay.
But Rosemoor now has two flourishing and renowned rose gardens. How?
According to Jonathan Webster, Rosemoor curator, there are two keys to growing healthy roses in the South West of England: good cultural practices, and thoughtful plant choice.
Good growing habits
'If a plant is under stress, that's when it succumbs to pests and diseases,' said Jonathan.
Prevention is better than cure
A good approach is to foster healthy plants, rather than reach for a cure once pests and diseases have appeared. To give roses a boost, you could consider using a rose tonic to stimulate growth and promote sound plants.
At Rosemoor, the roses are given an organic growth invigorator once a month from leaf-break onwards. This is applied as a foliar spray and has been used successfully for six years.
Good pruning has a role to play, too. Jonathan recommends pruning roses hard to encourage strong, lush growth. Aim to create a plant with an open centre to allow good air movement - a tight centre will be prone to a build-up of fungal problems. Read RHS advice on rose pruning
Add mycorrhiza to your toolkit
Another useful tool in the rose gardener's toolkit is mychorrhizal fungi. 'These are beneficial organisms that form a symbiotic relationship with the rose, enabling the rose roots to establish and the plant to flourish,' explained Rosemoor horticulturist Philip Scott.
Mycorrhizal fungi can be particularly useful in overcoming rose replant disease. This can happen when roses are planted where roses have been grown before, causing weak growth and a failure to establish. Read more about mycorrhizal fungi
Make clever plant choices
With thousands of rose cultivars available, choosing one can be daunting. 'Gardeners in the South West might have to think a bit harder when choosing roses. Doing your research, and buying one with good disease resistance, will pay off,' said Jonathan.
Curator's choice: Five disease-resistant roses to consider
Rosa ‘Long John Silver': Produces a mass of pure white flowers late in the season. It is vigorous, reliable and disease resistant with a musky scent.
Rosa gallica ‘Versicolor’ AGM: One of the oldest roses in cultivation. Flowers are blush-pink striped and spotted with crimson, with a delicious old rose fragrance.
Rosa A Shropshire Lad (‘Ausled’) AGM: This rose can be trained as a climber. It is exceptionally vigorous and reliable with pink flowers and a fruity tea rose fragrance. Disease resistant and repeat flowering.
Rosa ‘Félicité Parmentier’ AGM: An alba rose that is shade tolerant, growing to 1.2m x 90cm (4x3ft). Bears white, highly fragrant flowers, good disease resistance but not a repeat flowerer. Very thorny and makes a good hedge.
Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’: Large, single, pure white flowers of silky texture. Continuous flowering with a sweet fragrance. Good for hedging and ideal for poor soil. Introduced 1899 with good disease resistance.
Plan your visit
Find out more about visiting Rosemoor, including opening times and prices.
Don't miss Rosemoor's second annual Rose Festival, 17 June - 30 July