Roses are captivating when in full bloom, but come winter when plants are bare sticks, the garden may look lifeless.
Between flushes of blooms during the growing season, colour might go missing, and the bare thorny base of roses need camouflaging.
So it makes good sense to combine roses with other plants to keep up the colour and interest year-round.
Combination planting also creates greater biodiversity, encouraging beneficial insects for a healthier growing environment.
Worldwide, garden design trends indicate more natural, less ordered gardens – for example, the renowned Royal Horticultural Society garden at Wisley in the UK and public rose gardens, such as Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, have reimagined their rose gardens combining roses with shrubs, perennials, annuals, herbs, bulbs and grasses for year-round interest.
We hope to inspire you to rethink “just roses”, by adding a mix of foliage, owers, textures and colours.
A good reason to plant roses with companions is to ward off rose pests.
Planting a mixture in preference to having a monoculture can confuse pests (or, better still, discourage them all together) and provide an environment for beneficial insects and natural predators of aphids.
Scented foliage, aromatic plants such as herbs (think sage, thyme, lavender and rosemary) and members of the onion family (garlic, allium and chives) are great companions for roses.
How to coexist with success
Match the vigour of the companion plant with the roses so they will compete for available soil, water and nutrients. For example, grow vigorous roses with big, bold perennials, shrubs and grasses.
- Avoid planting too densely – allow plenty of room for good air circulation and for maintenance, such as trimming, pruning and mulching.
- Soil preparation is the key – add plenty of organics prior to planting, and top up these annually after winter pruning using compost-rich mulch.
- Rose fertilisers won’t harm perennials, bulbs or annuals – they’ll enjoy the added nutrients. Apply rose food every four to six weeks.
Essential rose care
Whether you grow roses on their own or together with other plants, they require care to keep them in top shape.
- Roses love full sun (minimum six hours daily) and grow happily in most parts of Australia except the tropical far north.
- Roses grow in a wide range of garden soils, but good drainage is important.
- Add plenty of organics (aged manures, compost) to the soil prior to planting, and a good organic mulch (aged cow manure) ensures a healthy start.
- Lucerne hay, sugar cane and pea straw are all excellent mulches for roses. A 50mm-thick layer will help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.
- Roses are heavy feeders, so apply organic rose food twice a season. Water in well after application.
- Roses respond well to pruning by producing new canes and lots of flowers. Mid to late winter is a good time for major pruning, with the exception of spring-only bloomers and climbers – leave these until after flowering.
- Once established, give roses a deep weekly soaking rather than a light sprinkling. Keep newly planted roses moist until new shoots are growing tall.
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