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How the National Trust grow the perfect roses at Polesden Lacey

PUBLISHED: 10:53 14 February 2011 | UPDATED: 16:08 20 February 2013

The beautiful Rose Garden at Polesden Lacey

The beautiful Rose Garden at Polesden Lacey

Polesden Lacey's head gardener Stephen Torode reveals how to maintain the perfect rose

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2009

This month, Polesden Lacey's head gardener Stephen Torode reveals how to maintain the perfect rose

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The Rose Garden at Polesden Lacey is not only one of the most notable features of the property, it is also one of the most important rose gardens owned by the National Trust. It is over 100 years old and is a wonderful example of an Edwardian rose garden. And this month it will be at its peak!

Mrs Greville, the former owner of Polesden Lacey, created it in place of the original kitchen garden. She was keen to have a typical English country garden and wanted to impress her guests - especially those from aboard where roses didn't grow well.

Today, the layout of the Rose Garden is almost unchanged from Mrs Greville's day, but in the 1970s it was restored and re-planted by the Trust. There are a variety of roses including Hybrid Musk roses, which are the beautifully fragrant ones; Scotch roses; and Edwardian varieties such as Dorothy Perkins and Sanders White Rambler, which are the highlight as they cover the central pergola.

Here, we have particularly bad soil for roses - it is dry, chalky and hungry! However, we do a number of things to improve the strength and quality of our roses: these are good to try at home, too, particularly if you have poor soil.
One method is to apply a seaweed-based fertiliser by spraying it on to the foliage, although it can also be applied to the roots when watering. This basically supplies the roses with the vitamins they need to help fight disease - we do it once a fortnight throughout the spring and summer.

The other thing we do is to plant new roses using a special root dip preparation that coats the roots with microscopic fungi - this also helps prevent disease. In 2007, we planted 1,000 new roses using this technique and is has been really successful.

Basic care

Of course, we still carry out all the basic care, too. We prune the roses every winter - you must do this when they are dormant between November and March; this encourages strong new growth. In February or March, we apply an organic rose fertiliser and composted farmyard manure so that it seeps into the ground and nourishes the plants. If you have roses in pots, it is a good idea to replace the soil, as the plant will have exhausted all its goodness, or at least remove the top few inches and add some fresh soil.

During the summer and early autumn, we regularly remove any dead flower heads to make way for new growth. Most roses will flower up to three times during the summer, with the exception of Shrub roses, which usually only flower once.

You can buy many of the varieties we have in the Polesden Lacey Rose Garden from our Plant Shop - and if you want to pick up some more tips, we are running a couple of workshops; one on June 10 on roses and one on August 12 on dahlias. Or why not just pop over in June to make the most of the roses at their best. We'd love to see you there!

  • Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham, near Dorking, SurreyRH5 6BD: 01372 458203

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