Paul N: Can I pick your brains here?
The old roses which I have been reluctantly removing are in a garden which I have known of for over 20 years but only been gardening in for 3. To my knowledge these roses were planted at least 15 years before I knew this garden. So I'm assuming they were put in the ground at least 35 years ago. Each one had between 2 and 4 1" thick dormant brown woody dormant stems which seemed to have been cut off about 6" high and left as they were. From this I thought there must have been continual rejuvenation work on these roses over a period of years.
Second factor: The garden has much changed since these roses were planted. Each was planted only a few inches in from a surrounding low stone wall. Also, there are now trees growing to a height of about 15-20ft near the roses which have substantial canopies which would not have been the case when the roses were planted. So none of them are in full-sun all day and having heard about 'toxic drip' from trees I'm wondering if this is part and parcel of the consistent mildew. The mildew always appears when the tree canopies are mature round about mid-May.
Do these sound like reasonable assumptions to make as contributing factors to the weakness and failure of the old roses? I'd probably add to that the fact that I have been pruning them to a third of growth in early Spring each year. Feeding them as soon as leaves appear and feeding again round about mid-June each year. Which may also have been a contributing factor to their demise? Pruning too much so that the new stems were too weak to support the 'one bud per stem' outcome - as well as there always being stems which produced no buds at all?
I think I've tried as much as my level of confidence has allowed, but to be honest, I'm tired trying each year to improve them and not succeeding. For sanity's sake I'm tempted to dig them all up. Getting rid really does bring on a dose of guilts though.
I inherited 8 roses earlier this year from a family member which were part of the old family home and am on tenterhooks to look after them well. They are in a different bed. Won't know until they bloom what they are - so I wait in hope that they will fair better in my inexperienced hands.