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Taking place just over two hours’ drive from Cape Town is the 23rd annual Montagu Rose Show from October 20 to 22, which signals the arrival of the rose season.

This year’s show theme is Vines and Roses, and the festival will combine floral art, cut roses, open gardens and tastings of the region’s finest muscadel, wine and brandy.

Of interest to local rose enthusiasts is the knowledge that for many decades, most of Cape Town’s roses were propagated in the Montagu area. Just 10 minutes down the road from Montagu is the village of Ashton, where roses are still propagated for wholesale to garden centres around the country.

“Ashton Nursery was established in 1947 by my grandfather, Lang Sarel “SF” Conradie”, says owner Rudie Conradie. Educated at St George’s in Mowbray and Elsenburg College of Agriculture (now known as the Cape Institute for Agricultural Training: Elsenburg) in Stellenbosch, Conradie took over Ashton Nursery in 1981.

Today, the nursery is mostly a wholesale concern, supplying roses and fruit trees to large growers and distributors. While now out of the public eye, Conradie’s love affair with roses has lasted decades and he remains one of the most experienced rose growers in the country.

“Montagu is ideal for roses because of the dry climate. The low humidity also means that we have very few fungal problems,” says Conradie. “We also have more clay soils here than in Cape Town. Roses have a shallow root system and clay soils tend to retain water and are therefore better for roses than sandy soils,” he says.

Top roses

A horticultural legend in the region, Conradie’s personal rose garden is filled with 500 roses.

“Roses need lots of water and mulching and, in our area, water comes from boreholes and the Breede River.

“My roses do lose colour during the heat of January and February, but the colours of the autumn blooms are spectacular,” he says.

Conradie grows more floribunda roses (such as Iceberg) than any other type of rose, but from a personal point of view, his favourite garden roses are hybrid teas.

If you are a beginner gardener or would like too grow roses, consider Conradie’s list of top roses for local gardens:

* Hybrid teas: Just Joey (apricot), Ingrid Bergman (red), Vera Johns (salmon orange), Rina Hugo (magenta pink), Golden Monica (deep yellow), Black Madonna (velvet red), Papa Meilland (dark red), Angela Lansbury (coral), Duet (pink), Tineke (white).

* Floribunda roses: Simplicity (pink), Burgundy Iceberg (deep burgundy), Little Red Hedge (carmine red) and South Africa (unfading golden yellow), a now classic floribunda which was launched in 1996.

Tips for roses

October is the month for roses. If you would like a fabulous rose garden this summer, or are planning on entering a bloom in the Montagu Rose Show, now is the time to give your roses extra special care.

Here are a few tips on how to grow the best roses:

* The amount of leaves on a rose bush determines its health, as well as how many subsequent flowering flushes it will bear during the summer. Many people who complain that roses flower well only once a year are picking too many blooms after the first flush.

* Even if your hybrid teas are a mass of blooms, only ever cut about 50 percent of the pickable stems. Any more reduces the leaf mass, putting strain on the roots, and reducing the health of the bush.

* If two stems are close together, cut the shorter stem. This will ensure you lose fewer leaves.

* In the Western Cape, roses need to be mulched, mulched and mulched.

* Water roses in the morning, as they need at least two hours to dry. To prevent fungal diseases setting in, roses must never have any dampness on their leaves at night.

* Water your roses twice a week, making sure they receive a minimum of 10 litres per bush in twice-weekly watering during dry weather. Fertilise regularly and water in well.

Show roses

Anyone with outstanding rose blooms in their garden can enter the Montagu Rose Show (entry fee R15 for one to six single roses). Roses need to be at the NGK Hall before 9am on Thursday, October 20. The show is open to the public on Thursday, October 20 (2pm-4pm), Friday October 21 (9am-4pm) and Saturday October 22 (9am-4pm). Venue: NGK Hall, Montagu. Contact Marion at 079 968 8700 or Nelda at 083 303 9400.

The Rugby World Cup final takes place at 10am on Sunday, October 23. Watch the rugby on big screens set up at Montagu hotels and farmstalls on the day or wander through a new arts and crafts meander that takes you between galleries, both private and public.

Revel in the famous Joubert House indigenous herb garden, enjoy the beautiful gardens on Main Road, see crafters making oak furniture out of recycled wine barrels or listen to live music in a local restaurants.

A map of open gardens will be available from the Montagu Tourism Office and online at or Call: 023 614 2728. Facebook: Montagu Rose Festival. - Weekend Argus

For details of all our current roses, see our extensive web site.

Over 1000 varieties to choose from

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