28th May, 2020

GARDENING TIME: 'Of all flowers methinks a rose is best'

James Iles 20th May, 2020

ROSES, the quintessential English flower, boast a timeless beauty and appeal that has inspired hundreds of poets from the Bard to Blake and from Burns to Bronte, writes James Iles.

This classic shrub is arguably the most popular flower in this country. In its cut form it is traditionally used to brighten up everything from wedding days, in button holes and bouquets, to special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays.

But why not celebrate the rose itself in your garden? They are relatively easy to grow if given the right position and care but like all treasured possessions they need a certain amount of TLC to keep them looking tip top year after year.

FOR too long roses have been associated with stuffy formal beds which have limited appeal outside the flowering season and are impractical in the typically smaller gardens of modern homes.

So why not combine them as specimens in a bed or border with contrasting annuals, perennials, and shrubs flowering at alternative times?

I prefer them in a cottage garden style border, staking their claim amongs complementary plants like lavenders and perennials such as delphiniums and poppies completing a summer palette of delightful colour and scent.

A good year for the roses – This beautiful specimen is pretty in pink. Picture by James Iles.

The amount of varieties now on offer in terms of shape, size and colour, all with increasing disease resistance as plant technology develops, means there is one to suit all gardens and smaller ones can even be grown in containers.

So which to choose? Bush roses like hybrid teas, bear large, usually double flowers from spring to autumn.

Floribundas like the pink Hannah Gordon are cluster-flowered roses with smaller single to double flowers often with a rich scent.

Modern shrub roses are diverse in size, habit and flower form but all are vigorous and will flower from summer to autumn with single to double flowers and, again, often have decent scent.

Gods statue in the Rose Garden Beutig in Baden-Baden, Black Forest, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, Europe. (s)

Try the beautifully fragranced Chinatown with its double yellow flowers.

If space is an issue pot up a patio rose, specifically cultivated to make compact deciduous shrubs.

Cultivars like Orange Mothersday have abundant glossy dark leaves and bear double clusters of rounded flowers.

Alternatively go vertical with a climbing type – deciduous, thorny and stiff stemmed they will repeat flower if dead headed.

The white-flowered Iceberg is a delightful sight on walls and fences or up a pergola or archway.

So red the rose – This climber adds a dazzling display to the garden.

Rambling roses like the double salmon pink Albertine save ground space too but are different as they can be semi-evergreen and have more flexible stems.

They are very vigorous and you will get just one flurry of flowers in the summer before you can keep them in check with a good pruning, if desired.

For a more rustic look try a wild or species rose like the Rosa moyesii.

Vigorous and upright, they bear single cupped red flowers in the summer and lend themselves to bigger hips (as in seed pods, not your curves!) in the autumn.

Once you’ve chosen your favourite(s), it’s time to get planting. Roses prefer a site in full sun with a moist but well-drained and fertile soil and thrive in heavy clay enriched by plenty of organic matter.

Place in a hole about twice the width of the plant’s roots and a spade’s depth with the union graft about 5cm below ground level but do not plant new roses where old ones have been as this can cause ‘replant sickness’.

Feed your roses with a fertiliser every spring and repeat in the summer if growth slows.

Mulch them straight afterwards, preferably with well-rotted stable manure otherwise well rotted compost.

They will need watering well in dry spells for at least two summers after planting but with a little bit of love and care they will reward you with years of prolific blooms and beautiful aromas.

• See my latest posts on Instagram @jigsaw_gardening

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