Expert garden advice from the RHS: how can I encourage my David Austin roses?

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Question: I have a beautiful David Austin rose, Lady Emma Hamilton, growing in each corner of my four raised veg beds. I'm really disappointed in her performance this year and wonder what I am doing wrong. The bushes are flowering OK but each bloom is really floppy and as soon as it is in flower, falls apart. Also the stems are weak. There's no point cutting them to put them in a vase indoors because I'll just get lots of petals falling very quickly. Can you help so the roses do better next year?

Answer: If your roses have been planted fairly recently, it is likely that they are settling into their new positions and their flower stems will strengthen as the plant matures. I have a wonderful David Austin rose in the same colour range as Lady Emma Hamilton, called Summer Song. To start with, the flowers drooped rather disappointingly, but since the third year, the blooms have been showing themselves off with great pride. Just avoid over-feeding with high nitrogen fertiliser such as chicken manure. All you need do is apply a proprietary rose feed in April and again in June. Applying a generous layer of very well-rotted manure over winter/spring will also be appreciated by Lady Emma. 

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