A rosy outlook

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To encourage strong new growth, its time to get pruning your roses – whatever the weather. David Overend reports.

Whatever the weather, it’s a job that really does need doing some time this month – it’s time to prune back the stems of rose bushes to a third of last year’s height.

Use sharp secateurs to cut the stem just above a leaf joint and collect all old leaves that show signs of black spot disease; don’t leave them scattered on the ground.

To complete the job and encourage really strong new growth that will carry lots of flowers, it helps to feed each rose bush with a handful of fertiliser – preferably a special rose and shrub plant food or a slow-release flower plant food which gives small amounts of plant food every day for up to six months whenever the soil is warm enough to encourage plant growth.

It encourages excellent flowering results on roses and any other decorative shrub or climber, so it’s also ideal for any fuchsias, ceanothus, clematis, mock orange or wisteria that you want to encourage into full flower.

And while food for thought is the order of the day, take a look around the garden to see what other plants could benefit.

Shrubs such as rhododendron, azalea and camellia, which are termed ‘ericaceous’, appreciate acid soils. When grown on neutral or limey soils, they need a plant food that contains sequestered iron.

One such is produced by Miracle-Gro and is a continuous-release fertiliser high in potash for great flower colour. It also provides iron in an easily-absorbed form. All this goodness will help ensure that the leaves of ericaceous plants will remain dark green and healthy, even if the soil in which they are growing is not ideal.

Spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, early tulips, crocus and hyacinths may be producing a fine show of flower colour at this time of the year, but if that is to continue for following years, the plants need to be fed while they are in leaf.

To get instant energy into the bulb plant, soak the leaves and around the roots with an all-purpose soluble food. A feed every 10 days while the plant is in leaf should ensure the bulbs grow in size and form a decent flower bud for next year.