Cloudehill: A Year in the Garden pp 53-54 (2010)
Jeremy Francis

Rosa x fortuniana as rootstock in Western Australia

I came to know the nurseryman quite well and after a time he accorded me the special privilege of telling me how he propagated his plants. After much experimentation, West Australian nurserymen have found roses do well in Perth's deep sand only when budded onto Rosa fortuniana rootstock. In fact, an understanding was reached by these nurserymen that roses must be put onto this rootstock in WA. This, I should point out, is exactly the reverse to just about everywhere else where roses are expected to do best in clay. It happens, though, R. fortuniana has roots adapted to delving into sand and plants grafted onto this stock in Perth are some of the finest to be seen. Unfortunately, I was told, budding onto fortuniana is no easy matter. Perversely, the buds will not take unless the task is performed during hot weather, in fact, very hot weather. On warm days when the temperature is in the low 30s, the take is barely passable; on high 30s days perhaps acceptable. However, budding onto fortuniana during a heat wave, when temperatures are in the 40s, or even better, the high 40s, results in the cultivar buds clamping to root stock stems with barnacle-like tenacity. R. fortuniana's growth habit also bore consideration. In my friend's field, fortuniana root stock protruded from the ground as a bare stem to around 30 centimetres, then branched sideways into a mass of twigs armed with long razor-sharp prickles. Plants in each row were spaced 4 centimetres apart with a 1.2-metre gap between rows; lateral growth formed a continuous, briar-patch-like canopy. My friend was on his belly below this for most of each day and, with his head twisted sideways and one ear brushing the ground, with luck there was just sufficient wriggle room to make each 'T' incision, slip a cultivar bud into the cut, bind the wound and snake along to the next plant. Naturally, if air temperature was in the 40s, the ground temperature was hotter, enough to blister bare flesh not already slashed and bloody from those re-curved (backward facing), exquisitely sharp prickles. However, I must say his roses grew magnificently.