I have always heard that roses perform so wonderfully in Wakkerstroom. Actually amazing that I never got around to a visit the town before. Maybe, because it is such a cold place being 1700m above sea level in line with Dullstroom and Van Rheenen.

I accepted the invitation to judge the rose show and talk about rose growing for the weekend of the 3rd and 4th of November 2017, traditionally the best time for the roses to bloom. This is about a month later than rose flowering time in Pretoria.

On arrival it was nice and sunny, but the exhibitors who had brought their blooms to the show complained bitterly that many of the tips of the new shoots on their rose bushes were burned by frost ten days ago.

Frost damage in Wakkerstroom on 20 October.

However, I noticed that all gardens had magnificent trees growing and that gave a certain protection. Indeed the blooms entered for the competition looked great. I had never seen ‘Brigadoon’ of such enormous size and intensive colour.

I was at first puzzled on the identity of a huge apricot blend bloom in the scented class, but the glossy leaves gave it away to be ‘Sutter’s Gold’. Later I saw the 50 year old bush in a garden.

Noticing the colour display by the roses on the main road and then walking through the odd 15 gardens that were open to the public for the weekend confirmed to me once again that roses adapt to the environment.

Obviously, the winters are very cold and frosty for African conditions. Huge trees gowing in every one of the relatively huge gardens provide their own micro climates, Oaks, Maples, Acacia, Gleditsia, Robinias, Apricots and Crap apples.

These tree roots are able to go very deep, as the region is a high rainfall area. Because of this the trees accept roses very happily as companion plants.

‘Iceberg’ behind Birch Trees

I was actually delighted to note that the plentiful stately roses were hardly ever pruned. Maybe topped off at about 2m height or just by giving floribundas and shrubby roses a poodle clip. Such bushes have abundant leaves which allow them to flourish in semi shady positions. They grow high up to catch light but also stretch their roots deep and wide. Roses that could not do this would have simply perished. It looked like irrigation systems were non-existent.  Over the past year Wakkerstroom also suffered from the drought and many gardeners have installed Jojo tanks to store grey and rain water.

‘Peace’ not the climbing version has never been pruned.

A Hybrid Tea Stephanie de Monaco espaliered as a climber and not pruned.

 In view of the water shortage and drought we all experienced and are still experiencing, my advice on winter pruning in this newsletter and other columns and demonstration, was to carry out a light pruning to build up lots of leaves quicker, accepting shorter stems and more blooms.

Like everywhere else in the country, it was ‘Iceberg’ that dominated in every garden. It is also a paradise for rambling roses with the many trees around. ‘Dorothy Perkins’ which has become known as the ‘Wakkerstroom Rose’,  ‘New Dawn’, ‘Tausendschoen’, ‘Russeliana’ and the various Multiflora types. Hardly any yellow – but a few huge specimens of ‘High Noon’ and ‘Golden Showers’.

My recommendation was to look at our ranges of Panarosas and Spires that could convert the gardens in Wakkerstroom into a colourful spectacles.

‘Pascali’ bearing huge, perfect blooms!

The images give an impression…