Last week when I was putting this column together I noticed in my diary that Friday was Arbor day - ever heard of it? I noticed this in my diary where there are entries for notary days and public holidays. Before we move on and talk about planting new season's roses I thought we would explore Arbor Day.
What is it you ask? It is a day where individuals and groups are encouraged to plant trees.
New Zealand's first recorded Arbor day was in 1890. It reportedly started in Spain in the 16th century and has been progressively recognised around the world with 44 countries recorded as celebrating it [Wikipedia].
I can remember Arbor Day being celebrated and promoted in the 1980s with my primary school undertaking mass planting of native trees in the local reserve. I can also remember a song being produced by Christian rock band The Lads called Arbor Day, released in 1996.
Arbor Day goes largely unnoticed in New Zealand these days when there is a day or week chosen by so many causes, charities, and health awareness campaigns to name just a few.
There are a few councils and groups in some areas that promote and hold community plantings on Arbor Day each year. Hamilton City Council is setting a high example reportedly planting approximately 20,000 plants each year with volunteers numbering 2500 people some years in this annual Arbor Day event.
In the garden centre there has been the arrival of new season's roses. Every year in June roses are removed from nursery field production and dispatched into garden centres all over the country.
Now is the best time of the year to be planting roses. With the new supply of roses in the stores and in their dormant state, planting them now will mean they establish their root systems over the cooler winter months ready to put on strong growth in spring.
The general popularity of roses has waned in the past few years as many look for easier care plants and the perception that roses need a lot of work.
However, it needs to be recognised that roses really are an impressive plant. There are few plants that can boast the growth rate and extent of flowering that a good rose will provide. A rose bush purchased now (that looks like a group of sticks in a pot) will, by November be 60-80cm high producing a mass of eye popping colourful blooms, that can (depending on the variety) repeat flower throughout summer and well into next autumn.
Rose breeders have responded to the desire of the public and have developed varieties that will thrive with little or no spraying. This response has helped to balance the scales between people wanting to have low maintenance gardens, but also wanting to have some flamboyant colour and scent in the garden as well. There are some stunning varieties that have been developed that are not only colourful, but are highly fragrant and healthy growers.
Roses also come in a number of forms including, the well-known bush rose, standard roses (two main stem heights are common, 800mm, 450mm and less commonly 1.8m) and climbing varieties.
Here are some top performing roses to look out for:
Mum in a Million
: carries the most delicious perfume on an old fashioned form of mid pink coloured blooms. Its single stem hybrid tea type flowers make it excellent for picking.
: was named after the NZ singer. Carrying a delightful perfume, the frilly double flowers produce shades of apricot, cream and peach. This award winning rose was voted most Fragrant Rose of the Year in 2009 and Rose of the Year in 2010.
Dublin Bay: this has been a top performer year in and year out since it was bred in NZ and released by Sam McGredy in 1975. It subsequently became a multi award winner. Generally pretty healthy it looks great trained up along a sunny wall or fence producing masses of semi double deep red blooms for months.
Rose planting tips
When a rose is being planted it is generally expected that it will remain in existence for many years. The preparation of the soil is therefore important. The ground should be cultivated about two lengths of your spade blade or about 450mm. Most soils will benefit by incorporating material such as natural bark poultry compost or sheep pellets.
The digging will open up soils, improving the general structure. In a light soil the water holding capacity will be greatly increased as the organic material can hold additional moisture. The addition of Ican Slow Food into the hole when planting will help ensure excellent root development and growth.
Roses are never completely dormant and the less the roots are disturbed the better the plants will establish. A hole should be dug significantly large and deep to accommodate the roots when they are spread out. Be careful that no damage is done to the plants when the soil is firmed round the roots. The bud union of bush and climbing roses is left just above the ground surface.
If planting a group of standard roses they should all be the same height so that they can be planted with the heads at a uniform level. It is preferable before planting standard roses to put in the stakes that will support them. This avoids damage to the roots which may otherwise occur. Use a soft tie material for tying standard roses. Wire should never be used and padding should be placed under a tie of twine or cord. Ensure that one of the ties is secured to its stake near the head of the rose to prevent damage or the possibility of it snapping off in strong wind.
Plants from a garden centre or nursery have usually been cut back for the ease of handling and packing, and in some cases may require extra pruning. Early planting (now) is recommended and pruning should be done during the normal pruning season which is best done in mid to late July for gardens in Whanganui.
• Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre