Mattock's English Roses Grow In Pots
Robert Mattock has been successfully growing roses in
pots and containers for nearly four decades. Leading designers use the
plants with great aplomb to achieve immediate effect: be that in flower at
Chelsea Flower Show, in film and on TV; or green in the gardens of the
great and the good. But for the general public setting up home for the
first time or those down-sizing to smaller properties, and wanting to
create a romantic floriferous, fragrant display of roses on a balcony or
terrace, a patio or a back yard it has been a disappointing exercise. Up
Whilst Victorians and Edwardians
understood the art of growing English roses in large 50 and even 100 litre
pots, it had become virtually a lost art until during the late ‘60s when my
late father began to experiment. He was being pressed by the family to
produce very large rose trees in flower to make shrubberies out of season
for Chelsea Flower Show; what’s more large plants were required but in
small (10 litre) pots capable of being packed closely together to make
effective natural looking displays.
Father knew very well that
‘budding’ has been the preferred propagation technique of commercial rose
growers for the last 150 years or more. Economically just one eye of the desired
variety is slipped into a T-shaped cut on an easily established one year
old, deep tap rooted, compatible rootstock which, utilising the vigour of
the rootstock, grows into a saleable ‘two year old plant’ the following
year. The resulting bare-root plant, the industry’s standard product, is
well suited to growing-on /establishing in an unrestricted area such as a
rose bed or a shrub border.
Conversely the same product is not particularly
suited to growing within the confines of a container, pot or a restricted
spot in the open ground. The tap root is the problem; it wants to grow far
too deep for the size of the pot. For the most part those containerised (as
opposed to container grown) rose trees that are sold through garden
centres, nurseries, web sites and the like are deep tap rooted plants. Most
often the plants have potted into containers that by their very dimensions,
restrict extension of the tap root. Moreover they are potted using cheap
soft loose structured compost that will not promote robust fibrous root. In
effect the customer buys a bare-root plant, root-wrapped and well protected
by peat or similar for the couple of years it takes for it to realise that
it cannot grow out through the bottom of the pot and therefore dies.
The break through came when my
late father the family’s specialist grower realised that to achieve aerial
growth of the quality and stature he required, he needed to treat the rose
tree as two plants, the arial part and the understock. Great attention had
been paid to the arial part by the development of new colours, healthier
growth etc., but little or nothing done to the understock.
To contain the vigour of the rootstock he realised
that he would have to root prune the tap root dramatically so as to
radically alter the pattern of subterranean growth.
Root pruning he knew was indispensable to initiating the shape and form of
the extensive robust fibrous or adventitious root system he needed to
achieve the consistent high uptake of water and nutrient that the English
roses would require to produce high premium quality growth, foliage and
flower. In effect my father bonsai-ed the understock.
But initiating the fibrous root
system he knew was not enough. The traditional soft structured peat based
composts neither supported nor promoted extensive robust fibrous roots
minus a stabilising tap root. As a consequence Robert Mattock senior had
little option but to develop a robust soil based compost to perfect his
growing technique. The exact formula remains a family secret.
In summary the technique for
growing high quality english roses in pots:
1. Root prune by cutting back the tap-root.
2. Establish the plant in our special compost.
3. Irrigate constantly from the bottom during the growing season.
4. Re-pot every two years.
Robert Mattock | Classic English Roses | Growing Roses in