A red rose to express one’s love and passion is the favourite for adolescents on Valentine’s Day or eve. The times when one may receive a white rose in return as a symbol of purity are long gone. The issue is not that purity is no longer a virtue but, rather, that white roses are hard to come by. The only and the most contested flower in Goa for the Opinion Poll was the rose. Known as ‘Gulab’ in both Konkani and Marathi, it became almost the dividing line the pro-merger Konknne (Maratha, Bhandari and subaltern classes) on one side and the anti-merger Kristao with the support of the Bamonn, Bhott and Moir.
Rose was the symbol of the pro-merger MGP. Perhaps, that led to the urban legend that roses never do well in Goa. However, Prabhakar Keni-bab had the largest collection of rose varieties even before Liberation of Goa. As a young agriculture graduate in the 1980s, I learnt a lot about roses from Keni-bab, G V Naik and others who participated in the ‘FLORA’ fair at BPS Club in Margao. ‘Roses love sunshine, violets love dew’ goes an old song, and so it is. Roses thrive in bright sunlight. Regular pruning increases flowering. The best manure for roses is what we recommend for organic agriculture, compost and cow dung manure.
Train the rose bush to have an ‘open centre’ so that the sunshine enters its ‘heart’. All inward growing branches and shoots need to be pruned. Cut the flowers with a long stalk and always above an outward facing leaf that has a well-developed axillary bud. This ensures that the branches grow outwards. Cut vertically or obliquely so no water droplet remains on the cut surface. This will prevent die-back disease. When doing severe pruning before the monsoons, paint the cut ends of the stem with copper oxy-chloride paste mixed in water and a little adhesive (Fevicol DDL or gum arabic). It is good to paint the part of the stem near the soil surface as well.
It is my experience that it is best to grow roses in 12 inch or 14 inch diameter terracotta, cement or plastic pots. If needed, a hollow can be scooped in the ground and the pot placed in it. A rose bush when not in flower is not a pretty sight. With good sunlight, soil preparation, regular manuring, pruning and care, one can have a rose bush full of roses from December to March and one can time the flowering by appropriately scheduling the pruning.