The timing and methodology of rose pruning is a matter of some debate. However, with the cold weather, roses are now dormant and the trigger to spring into new growth again is related to the warming of temperatures. So it does not appear to matter whether you prune now or through until early or even mid August. If you are not inclined to prune carefully, bush roses in particular will apparently respond just as well to a pass over with the hedge clippers. If you have plants with colourful rose hips, you may wish to delay your pruning and enjoy the display. The high health rugosa rose Blanc Double de Coubert has a splendid display of golden autumn coloured foliage in our garden at this time which is a bonus.
If you are planting new roses, look for full sun and good air movement to encourage healthier growth. Very sheltered spots allow pests and diseases to flourish. As a plant group, many roses have a pathetically small root system when you consider the scale of their growth and their flower power each season. So planting them in optimum conditions will give better results. Well cultivated soil, lots of compost and humus and feeding in springtime at least.
Ornamental plants need feeding when springing into full growth and through their growing season. Most plants are quietly resting through winter so you are wasting time and money applying fertilisers at this time of the year. Save the fertilising for spring. Most of it will just wash away unused at this time. The exceptions are plants currently in growth such as bulbs and polyanthus.
There is still time to get in plants of winter vegetables such as brassicas (cauli, broc and cabbage). Celery, onions and shallots can be planted now, along with the garlic you bought last weekend and failed to get in the ground.
Possibly we are a little late with the warning, but precious plants may need protecting from frosts. Newspaper, shade cloth, bubble wrap or even lightweight sheets will work if you don’t have proper frost cloth. Having draped some of the exposed clivias and the blue lachenalias on Tuesday night, Mark referred to me as the “newspaper fairy” on the loose. But the sheets of newspaper worked and we avoided most damage from what was a severe frost here.
We did find out what fire fang was (the potential calamity in the compost heap). After cautioning that Mark should perhaps be watching out for Pokémons around the compost, our correspondent informed us that fire fang is in fact an actinomycetes fungus. A white fungus which can occur where there is a combination of animal manure and dry conditions. Mystery solved. We preferred the Pokémon theory.