How to look after roses in summer – The English Garden

How to look after roses in summer – The English Garden

Head gardener Neil Miller could be described as one of the country’s premier rose devotees. Over his almost 20 year career at Hever, he has spread enough compost over the Rose Garden to cover Wembley football pitch 10 times over and has deadheaded an estimated one million roses!

At the beginning of summer, Neil is busy feeding, watering and deadheading the roses in the Italian Garden ahead of the annual summer festival Hever in Bloom, but he has taken some time out of his busy rose tending schedule to share his rose tips with readers.


How to look after roses in summer - The English Garden
Rosa ‘Emily Dickinson’ at Hever Castle & Gardens. Photo: Vikki Rimmer

Neil’s tips to look after roses in summer:

People often believe that roses look after themselves but this is a myth. We do need to lavish love and attention on these special flowers. Just like the Prince of Wales, I like, on occasion, to chat to my roses. As I deadhead their spent blooms, I utter a few words of encouragement. I have also been known to whisper to them as I water.

The Rose Garden at Hever is a fantastic place to be when roses are at their peak. Vibrant petals and shiny green leaves complement the intoxicating smell of nature’s very own perfumery. Roses really are the most rewarding plants you can grow, but there are a few measures to take for the ultimate blooms.


At the beginning of the season we use an all purpose, slow-release granular rose feed that is high in potassium. Draw a small circle around the base of the plant with the feed, making sure it doesn’t scorch the leaves.

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After the first flush of blooms, we make sure to feed again to encourage a longer flowering season. As humans, we take vitamins and echinacea to ward off or lessen colds. In the same way, feeding roses ensures they are less likely to get seriously ill.

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How to look after roses in summer - The English Garden
Rosa ‘Hever’ at Hever Castle & Gardens. Photo: Vikki Rimmer


If we experience a dry summer again this year, it’s a good idea to mulch around the plant to keep the moisture in. Be careful, however, not to cover the stem of the plant, as this can cause the rose to rot and die.


We have experienced a really dry April in the south east this year and, if you’re also situated in this area and haven’t watered your roses, there will be consequences.

Some gardeners believe that rose bushes are bombproof, but actually they really do need water in order to produce ‘fruit’ throughout summer. You can often see a plant has suffered from lack of water a couple of months down the line rather than straight away.

Blackfly and greenfly:

People are often put off growing roses because they’re worried about greenfly, blackly or black spot. When it comes to greenfly and blackfly, we don’t treat them, preferring to let nature work its magic. Birds and insects tend to clear the flies within days.

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How to look after roses in summer - The English Garden
Rosa ‘Anne Boleyn’ at Hever Castle & Gardens. Photo: Vikki Rimmer

Black spot

Black spot is a different matter. This is a fungal problem that needs chemical treatment, though prevention is desirable. Make sure you remove any leaves with black spot and don’t let them fall or collect around the base of your plants. Once removed, burn the leaves rather than putting them in your compost bin.


Deadhead roses once the blooms are spent and the petals crisp up. Take some clean secateurs and cut below the spent bud, just above a new leaf, to be rewarded with bloom upon bloom as the season progresses.


A few words of encouragement can do wonders for the rose and for your soul!

How to look after roses in summer - The English Garden
Rosa ‘Ab Fab’ and ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ at Hever Castle & Gardens. Photo: Vikki Rimmer

Let them breathe

Let your roses breathe by ensuring there is good air circulation around the plants. Bad circulation promotes fungal infection.

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Plan for the future

You may need to lift old roses and replace them or replace the soil with lots of manure next season, so plan ahead and keep an eye out for the very best roses. There are so many to choose from – see my recommendations below.

Ensure you select from a good quality breeder and seller as you don’t want to introduce a disease into your rose garden.

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Video: Look after roses in summer

Neil’s rose recommendations

  1. ‘Anne Boleyn’ is a classic English Rose by David Austin. It’s exceptionally free-flowing with warm pink rosettes held in large sprays.
  2. ‘Buxom Beauty’ by Peter Beales has dark pink blooms as big as your hand and produces an amazing scent.
  3. If you want to create a wall of white roses, then ‘Iceberg’ is a good choice.
  4. The yellow ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ is a great rose, and if you’re feeling musical, it goes well with the purple ‘Rhapsody in Blue’.
  5. The ‘Hever Rose’ was bred by Bill LeGrice. This floribunda produces masses of velvety, deep-red blooms which fade to cerise and are offset by golden-yellow stamens.
  6. The nostalgia roses are new to Hever. Be wowed by these beautiful, large-headed specimens including ‘Pink Martini’ by Rumwood Nurseries of Maidstone.
How to look after roses in summer - The English Garden
Rosa ‘Pink Martini’. Photo: Rumwood Nurseries

Hever in Bloom

Hever in Bloom runs from 21 – 25 June to showcase the gardens at the height of their summer beauty and answer visitors’ questions about roses.

Former Hever Castle gardener turned florist Emma Fuller, of Emmy Lou Floristy, will be running a floristry experience during the week. Tickets for the daily workshop start at £20, including materials and access to the gardens for the day.

For more information, visit

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