Shrub roses

Now’s the time to plant them bare-root, and it’s cheaper too!


Everyone loves roses, but these days few can afford the luxury of a dedicated rose garden, or even a bed full of gawky hybrid teas and floribundas. With space at a premium, roses are now integrated among other plantings, particularly perennials, and must be repeat flowering and with effective disease resistance, which is why modern shrub-types have become the go-to roses of choice.

They are made of a number of different types, notably rugosas, hybrid musks, both Modern and English roses and ground-cover types, collectively possessing a tough, shrubby constitution, well-clothed in foliage. Their variety of habits also lends them versatility, with some making climbers, if pruned and shaped accordingly, others happy in pots, while others are effective and covering the ground.

The English roses, bred in the last 30 years by David Austin are justifiably popular, with old-fashioned floral styling and good to excellent fragrance on a four-foot shrub. Others come earlier breeders such as Edwardian rosarian Joseph Pemberton, who bred Felicia, or Ann Bentall, who introduced ‘Buff Beauty’ and ‘Ballerina’, while there are also simply striking selections from wild species, such as Rosa rugosa. All are easy to grow and our selection below gives an indication of the range available, all of which can be planted bare root from now until May.

On receiving your plant, untangle the root system and prune off any roots that are broken, and trim back over long roots to 20-30cm (8-12in). Pop the bush in a bucket of clean, cold water for at least couple of hours. You can also use a mycorrhizal root dip to aid establishment or mix similar preparations into the planting soil, additionally adding a slow release fertiliser. Plant with the graft point just buried blow soil level, firm in soil and water in. Prune shoots so they are uncrossed and evenly spaced.