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All about Growing Roses by Greenbourne Nursery

Updated: Jun 17, 2022

We spoke with Daniel 'Chook' Fowler, a happy employee of Greenbourne Nursery and rose producer about growing roses during this cold season. Pay attention to the process!

Greenbourne Nursery is a special place where green fingers are hard at work every single day, pushing seeds into soft soil, checking on leaves, trimming a plant's green tresses or splicing bits of branches. A lot of work is involved in the process of seed to fully grown plant. For a plant's beauty to emerge, much attention and care are needed consistently.

Kristin and Paul Glessing are two young dynamic owners of this family and locally owned nursery in Wauchope, NSW. They are wild about all things green and strongly committed to their community.

Having supplied greenery in the community for over 47 years, Greenbourne Nursery has built up a rich local tradition and continues to grow in size and reputation every year. Greenbourne Nursery is on the main road opposite the iconic Timbertown. It is warmly supported by many in the community and locals know this is the place to go if they want some plants to brighten up their gardens and living spaces.

Daniel 'Chook' Fowler is a happy employee of Greenbourne Nursery who has been in the industry for 20 years. He worked with a leading citrus and rose producer in Dural, NSW. He then had an interesting career producing native regeneration species that were custom grown for major works companies. If you are a big fan of roses, Chook is the man you go to for knowledge and advice about this beautiful plant.

A Rose by Any Other Name …

The rose goes beyond being the quintessential flower for Valentine's Day. When you next come across a rose bush, take a close look at it and see it beyond its label as a love ambassador. It is quite a remarkable plant and flower, and intensely beautiful, especially after you have listened to Chook talk about roses. His enthusiasm and deep love for this plant will help you look at the rose bush in a completely different way.

The cold season is the season of the rose. Chook is familiar with cold mornings in the mud, numb fingertips and boots full of potting mix. This is the season of the bare rooted rose. It is at this time that the rose can be transported around, free of earth, ready for potting. Interestingly enough, the rose is a very regular and reliable plant. Its seasonal regularity is highly comforting for Chook. Roses do not bring him nasty surprises, only cold wet hands, muddy clothes and the joy of seeing beds of potted gold. The bare rooted rose requires many skilled processes as well as endless hours of care and attention.

Chook takes us through the long process of creating a rose bush. It requires dedication, patience and hard work.

Two in One

What many may not know is that high quality rose plants are created from two parts - a rootstock and a scion.

The rootstock is the base part of the plant that provides a strong root system and the scion is the variety of rose that is to be grafted to the rootstock. Think of it as glueing two pieces of plant material together to form one.

Rootstock takes the Stage

The first step of the process is the creation of the rootstock.

While there are various varieties of rose rootstock, they are all basically produced the same way. Rose propagating nurseries grow in the ground these rose rootstock 'parent' plants. You can see endless rows of varieties such as the Rosa multiflora. They freely grow long canes that can be used to produce the rootstock with.

Chook prunes a generous cutting from the parent plant and strips it of all its leaves while being careful to retain the polarity of the cutting. He then de-eyes most of the cutting. What this means is he uses a sharp knife to remove the small buds from the cutting, leaving only two or three at the top end.

There is a reason why the lower buds are removed. This is to stop the plant from producing shoots that pop up through the soil or from low down on the plant. It is better to leave only the top buds because they will then produce shoots and you get a good head of foliage that will continue to allow the cutting to grow and circulate the sap that will be important for the grafting process.

Ready for Propagation

When Chook has the cutting prepared, he gets ready for propagation.

He puts the cuttings into a media with the correct polarity (this means south end into the ground). This allows the cuttings to callus and then form a root system.

It is important to keep them moist in their new environment to stop them drying out while callusing up. Chook does not need to use rooting hormone because rose rootstock is an eager bugger and is very quick and reliable to propagate from cutting!

Here is where the magic of Nature happens.

Over the next few weeks, the root system starts to develop on the cutting. While the roots are busy growing and pushing their way through the soil seeking out space and delicious nutrients for the plant, the warm season also helps to encourage the buds on the top of the cutting to shoot away. It is important to provide a generous amount of fertiliser during this time and keep the water levels regular. All this will help get the sap circulating through the plant. Now you have a small plant coming into creation.

And this is the birth of the rose rootstock. It will soon be ready for grafting.

Ready for Grafting

When the sap is circulating well, the bark can be removed quite easily to reveal the layer beneath. This layer is called the cambium. It is important as it is the part of the plant that makes the grafting possible.

Two cambium sections from two different Rosa species can now be joined together. The most common method used to cut and graft roses is the T-graft. The T refers to the shape of the cut.

Chooks uses a sharp knife to make an incision into the bark. He cuts directly up the stem for approximately 20mm. He then makes another cut directly above and perpendicular to this cut. Now he has made a ‘T’ shaped incision into the bark of the plant.

Now Chook gets the scion.

What is a scion?

The what? The scion. If you got this word in a Charades game you'd be hard pressed to express it, but you would probably impress people if you can use this word in Scrabble.

Scion is the vegetative piece of material that is attached to the rootstock.

You can use an ornamental rose variety or a classic variety such as Mr Lincoln. Mr Lincoln has a majestic red colour, a sweet perfume and is highly popular.

The scion piece taken from the Mr Lincoln needs to match the cut that has been made in the rootstock. This means filling the T-shaped cut made earlier.

With a sharp knife, Chook removes one bud from a Mr Lincoln branch. The process is very similar to the de-eying stage done on the rootstock except this time Chook does not discard the bud. The bud is carefully shaved off the Mr Lincoln branch. Then (again, keeping the polarity right) the cut bud is slid into the ‘T’ cut on the rootstock.

So now, two of the Rosa species are in union. You may have seen some tape that is put around the stem - this is grafting tape and it is used to create a tight bond to hold the two parts in place. It helps to reduce moisture and disease entering the grafted area.

A Beautiful Union

Over the next few weeks, the scion will imbed itself to the rootstock and the tape can be removed. At about the same time the foliage from the rootstock plant can be pruned off, and the Mr Lincoln bud is now free to shoot away and become the dominant part of the plant. And this is where the two parts of separate plants have officially fused into one.

What comes next is pruning and taking care of the plant for the rest of the warm season. When winter comes round again, Chook removes the plants from the ground, washes their roots of excess soil and then bundles them together by variety. These are then carefully packed into boxes and sent straight to nurseries all over the country.

At Greenbourne Nursery, when the team receives these roses, they work through the day potting them into various pot sizes. A bit of a root prune is done as well, and then a good dose of water and they are then placed on the weed mat ready to be sold. As you can see by now, the rose plant you are holding in your hands is not the product of a randomly thrown seed in the ground. Creating a rose is like an art, and requires technical skills and know-how, and certainly a lot of time, attention and care.

When you next walk past a rose bush in a garden, literally stop and smell the roses. And inhale all the tireless loving care that has been infused into the plant, and what a miracle it is and the number of hands that have looked after it to get it there so you can enjoy it.

“It’s the time that you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important…People have forgotten this truth, but you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Contact Greenbourne for all your Roses

Greenbourne Nursery, Wauchope Plants & Landscape Supplies

a/ 239 High St, Wauchope NSW 2446

p/ +612 6585 2117


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