The seedy side of rose growing
By Jane Scorer
I’m rose-obsessed and I admit it! I love them all, from the teeny, weeny miniatures to the towering giants, and my intention is to cram as many as I can into my garden. So, how happy was I, last year, to see plug plants of miniature Rosa ‘Garden Party’, for sale online. I was so happy that I bought 72 of them, and used them as edging for borders, or underplanting for bigger roses. They were fantastic. In just one season they bulked up considerably, and they flowered their little pink hearts out all summer long. All I had to do was to pot them up when they arrived, then keep them in the greenhouse until they were large enough to be transplanted outside, by which time it was late May, and all chance of frost had passed.
(In the photo, right, the young Rosa ‘Garden Party’ plants have just been transplanted outside, and are underplanted beneath a hedge of ‘Charles de Mills’ roses).
Rosa multiflora nana perpetua ‘Garden Party’ grows to a height of around 25cm and has a spread of around 35cm. The flowers are single, open blooms in a wide range of soft pinks. It is bred to cope well with life in a container, but is equally happy planted out in the garden, in beds or borders. It is really good as an edging plant, and unlike geraniums or Alchemilla Mollis, it doesn’t need to be cut back halfway through the season, but keeps looking good, flowering right up to autumn. Although growing in full sun is recommended, I have tried planting a few in light shade and they coped. They weren’t as happy as they would have been in full sun, but they hung on in there and even flowered. Seed can be sown from January through to May, and plants will flower the same year, from an early sowing.
I was so delighted with the performance of these little roses, that I vowed to buy another batch of plug plants for this coming season. Then, when I was mooching around on the Thompson & Morgan website, I saw that Rosa ‘Garden Party’ seeds were available – a bargain and a challenge all rolled into one. The gauntlet was thrown down for this gardener!
I bought two packets, which cost about the price of a couple of loaves and a pint of milk. Each packet supposedly contains 20 seeds in a packet, mine contained well over that, having 23 and 24 seeds in each.
On learning that an early sowing would hopefully flower the same year, I decided to sow in January, using a propagator. I don’t really like making early sowings because light levels are so low that it is difficult to keep seedlings from growing leggy and sickly. The actual germination is usually no problem, due to the constant heat of the propagator, at around 20 degrees but I was a little apprehensive about the germination of the rose seeds, as I read a customer review on the T & M website where someone had only achieved a 20% germination rate. However, the seed is said to be pre-treated to facilitate improved germination, with a time frame given of 30 – 90 days, so I decided to give it my best shot.
I sowed the seed, then sat back and waited, hardly bothering to check for emerging seedlings, as I thought that I was in for a long wait. However, after just two weeks I spotted the first shoot emerging, followed by several more every day.
I sowed the seeds just over three weeks ago, and I have currently got 16 seedlings, with more emerging every day. Keeping them healthy is a challenge, as I try to keep them both warm and well lit, which is tricky in most houses in the UK in February. I want seedlings with short, straight stems, not pale leggy ones, lurching drunkenly towards the light.
They take a little trip into the unheated conservatory through the day, so that they can benefit from higher light levels, and, who knows, maybe even the odd ray of sunshine ! At dusk they journey back into the warmth of the kitchen, and I switch on the propagator again, to try and maintain soil warmth to aid germination of the other seeds.
So far so good, and they are looking happy and healthy. I am pleased with germination rates so far, as presumably more may peep through over the next couple of months.
When they are large enough to be handled, I will transplant the seedlings into individual modules so that root systems can develop unhindered. When they are big enough and tough enough, I will move them outside into the unheated greenhouse to grow on, before planting them out later in the season, follwing a period of hardening off. Hopefully, by early summer, I will have forty or so lovely new roses brightening up the garden.
You can read more of Jane’s blog posts at Hoe hoe grow
I am the willing servant of my garden and also admit to a severe plant addiction. I love them all, but especially sub tropicals, roses, salvias, dahlias and auriculas. I enjoy propagation (because it makes even more plants!) and I hate weeding. My garden was a field when we first met, all those years ago, and its development has been a long, slow, labour of love. It is still evolving and changing all the time. I have opened for the NGS in the recent past, and I have an RHS Qualification, but, the experience I value has mainly been gained with my hands deep in the soil.