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When to empty this bed

edited February 2020 in Plants
I have a bed with a couple of roses in it and lots of primulas, plus some poppies. The primulas have been swamping the roses for some time and I want to take them out and move them elsewhere in the garden. I can't get the primulas out from immediately round the roses as they are too tightly packed, so I thought the best thing to do would be to empty the whole bed, separate the plants and then put things back where I want them.

I'm not sure how well the roses will respond and I'm not sure when is the best time to do it. I thought winter whilst the roses are dormant. As you can see I have not yet pruned the roses, and they got quite tall and produced some suckers last year.

So, should I empty the bed, or is there some other way to extract the primulas?
If I empty the bed do I prune the roses hard first?
When is the best time to do this?



  • To be honest, I can't quite see the problem.
    The roses look happy, the primulas are clearly happy, flowering now when the roses aren't and covering the ground the rest of the year helping keep weeds at bay.
    If you want some elsewhere, they aren't that deep rooted and are amenable to moving (more so than roses) and splitting. It would just take some careful work with a sharp trowel and some good gloves.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,101
    No need to distress the roses by digging them up as they have deep roots but, once you've cleared the primulas the roses will need a good prune and a feed towards the end of this month and when frosts are not expected.

    Those primulas and any weeds will come up very easily with a hand fork or a border fork as their roots are not very deep.   Just make sure the soil is damp to minimise disturbance then loosen and lift the plants.  Keep their roots out of wind and sun while you tackle the rest and they will divide and transplant very well.

    Once cleared, you can improve the soil for the roses with some well-rotted garden compost and/or manure and maybe a handful of pelleted chicken manure.  Maybe underplant the roses with some hardy geraniums for ground cover/weed control and to cover their bare legs.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • I guess I just don't like the bed looking like that, to me it's overgrown with primulas and that's not what I want. I've tried to get some of the primulas out in the past but they are so close into the roses, and the roses are so thorny, that it was pretty impossible. 
    There is also couch grass in the back of the bed, also intertwined with the roses, and that is more of a problem.
    I'd be happy to lose some of the primulas as there are loads all over the garden that need splitting and moving, so if I have to tear them out to get them out it's not a major loss.
    I might just give it another go and see what happens. I'd rather not have anything growing immediately round the roses and keep a bit of space in the bed, maybe just be boring and use bark chips or similar. 
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,101
    Roses are thorny and will be whether you leave them happily in the ground or dig them up.  You'll get pranged either way.  Maybe prune them before you move the primulas but then you'll have to wait a while as it's a bit early, in my view.

    Couch grass is easy enough to shift when the soil is soft and damp.  The white roots are easy to see and if you miss any and it comes back just remove the new bits as you see them.

    I would suggest, while you're on, that you double the width of the bed as that will help the roses look less cramped and give you better planting opportunities.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 11,415
    If you don't mind taking the risk of moving the roses, and l have moved some in the past, l would cut them back slightly to make them easier to cope with.
    When you've dug everything out and sorted it, l wonder whether you'd considered making the bed slightly wider ? I would then replant the roses before pruning them "properly" and giving them a feed.
    As long as the ground isn't frozen you should be okay, although l think your forecast weather for the next few days might prove to be a problem. 
    That's my take on it.  :)
  • One of the difficulties is that the roses are fairly hard up against the wall so there's no room to get in there. The couch grass is also fairly embedded in the wall so not that easy to extract, but is a relatively small part of the weed war in the garden.
    I have no plans to enlarge the bed. Lawn is simpler to care for! It's a huge garden with about 400 linear feet of fairly deep border already, and just me to tackle it, so the less plant space the better. 
    I'm already erring towards just putting up with the bed as it is, and just walking a different way into the garden so I don't see it and it bugs me less! 
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,101
    Plants need leaves to grow.  If you just keep cutting off the leaves of the couch grass it will, eventually, run out of steam.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Sounds like a plan. Here's hoping! 
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