with Deryn Thorpe
On Valentine's Day we celebrate love and while a bunch of cut roses is the traditional gift, long lived potted roses are a more appropriate way to acknowledge a long-lasting commitment.
Rose bushes will live for many years and will remind your loved one of your passion each time they bloom.
Red hybrid tea roses are the favourite choice for romantic occasions as they produce high centred flowers on long stems that look good in a vase.
Popular hybrid tea roses include 'Papa Meilland', 'Mr Lincoln' and 'Kentucky Derby' which have beautiful, fragrant, fully double, red flowers but are all tall growers reaching from 1.8m to 2m tall.
They are really only suitable for the back of the bed or in a picking garden as the bottom of the bushes tend to be a bit sparse and unattractive.
Slightly smaller hybrid tea varieties, growing to about 1.6m are 'Sir Donald Bradman', a relatively new red rose that's sure to appeal to a cricket lover, 'Red Cross', 'Camp David', 'City of Newcastle', and 'Red Intuition', which blends stripes of dark red and scarlet.
Floribunda roses have clusters of flowers and a shrub-like form which makes them a better shape for landscape display. Three of the best red floribunda roses are 'Courage' which grows to 1.3m, 'Lilli Marlene' to 1.4m and 'Red Pixie' to 0.8m.
Other roses can be chosen because they have Valentine-friendly names. Some suggestions are: 'Angel Face' (1m) with lavender and mauve double blooms, 'Best Friend' (1.5m) with deep pink blooms, 'The Lady' (1.5m) with apricot-peach flowers, 'Love-in' (1.1m) with yellow blooms, striped with red, 'Father's Love' (1.5m) with velvety red, quartered blooms and 'Mothers' Love' and 'Seduction' which both grow to 1.5m with pink and white flowers.
Specific rose varieties may be in short supply at this time of year as the best selection occurs when new stocks are released in late October.
Bush roses are best planted in an open spot in the garden. Lots of sun and plenty of air movement will reduce the risk of fungal diseases. Before planting, dig in heaps of rich, old organic matter like compost or soil improver and add 5% clay if you have sandy soil.
Always water in with a seaweed solution which helps stimulate new root growth but don't fertilise until you see them starting to grow.
While roses are drought tolerant once established if you plant them out now they are going to need lots of extra water until their roots get established. Mulch the garden bed with a 5cm layer of free draining mulch like bark chips which will help retain water and keep the roots cool.
Smaller roses grow well in pots and I have found that the self-watering pots, which are available up to 500mm, are excellent as they provide a reserve of water over summer.
Once established roses are gross feeders and will flower best if kept well fed.