Roses in Spain

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe Spain’s well known gardeners, authors and broadcasters who have gardened in Spain for almost 25 years.

The history of roses in Spain

There is evidence that roses were first brought to Spain by the conquering Moors from north Africa a millennium ago and there is no better reminder of this than the large number of roses grown within the Generalife and Alhambra gardens in Granada. When we visited there last week they were at their best. Historically the number of varieties bred in Spain was limited and in recent decades imported varieties have become popular.

Uses of roses in Spanish gardens

Climbing/rambling roses derived from the original wild roses are often used to cover gazebos walls and fences.

Formal bush and standard roses are used in formal gardens especially inland. They don’t really fit in well with the now subtropical style gardens of most villas stocked with vivid coloured bougainvilleas, lantanas and hibiscus for instance.

Indeed we use lantanas where we might have used roses in a flower garden in England but have a sizeable rose bed for cutting alongside our vegetable plot where they can be most easily cared for.

Care of roses in Spain

The Mediterranean climate ensures a long growing and flowering season from Easter to Christmas so it is essential that roses are planted in a rich soil, mulched each year with well rotted horse sheep or goat manure plus some seaweed, pruned hard in January after enjoying roses at Christmas, deadheaded as soon as each flush of flowers is over and that the root balls are kept constantly damp especially during dry spells that can be for three months or more.

We also feed our roses with a liquid comfrey feed every month during the flowering season.

Unfortunately the humid conditions in Spain can result in aphid and fungal attacks. Therefore spray regularly with a fungicide and insecticide. As explained in our book ‘Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance’ we spray with a propolis, neem and garlic cocktail. We also plant one or two garlic segments under each plant in the late autumn.

Source of roses

Most garden centres in Spain stock a few varieties but if you want something special – especially red flowered perfumed varieties – it is best to order in advance. Several UK growers including Cants and David Austin are happy to supply by mail order from the UK. Also David Austin do have a base in Spain. Both these companies sell a wide range of historic as well as modern varieties the most popular varieties sell out fast so again place orders early.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe May 2009.