Why we all love roses – inspiration, choices and maintenance
Well if an image does it then the image below of my somewhat neglected garden last week hopefully does. There are climbers, ramblers, standards and shrub roses in here, and these have been largely left to their own devices for the last 18 months, so please don’t think roses are a lot of effort – they really aren’t!
Roses were my first inspiration into gardens – the excitement of being given a miniature rose of my own when aged about 11, with tiny flowers that changed colour as they opened – I was hooked! The rose was “Baby masquerade” and it is a still a good one when you have little space – it will sit in a tiny pot on a patio and all you have to do is water it.
Many people dislike roses as they are used to seeing serried ranks of thorny sticks in winter in public parks – and the idea of a “rose bed” is pretty foreign to me, as they are dull for a fair chunk of the year, and lack interest in winter in particular. However, tucked in with other planting, or climbing up a wall, pergola or tree, and they really add a dimension that almost nothing else can.
I simply look for colours I like, either at the shows, in other people’s gardens or online catalogues. I highly recommend looking at the David Austin website for a great selection of wonderful options.
I then prioritise a) good scent and b) repeat flowering. My mother, (now 93 and still advising me on all matters gardening), always said she wouldn’t make house room for a rose without a scent as there will always be one similar that has one. She has, in her collection of several hundred varieties, made a very few exceptions, but it is a good rule of thumb for starters.
In general roses are easy – choose “Shrub roses” for the middle of beds – like the ones below. In the foreground is “For your eyes only” and the white in the background is I think “Margaret Merril”. Although these are in my garden, I have only recently moved there and didn’t plant them all so can’t be sure! You can see there are other plants all around them and they fill the space with scent and colour at this time of year.
Climbers do the obvious -although we usually divide into “Ramblers” and “Climbers”. Below is a rambler called “Wedding day”, a gorgeous scented rose with prominent yellow stamens covering the wall. Ramblers typically have clusters of smaller flowers, can broadly cling on without much help (although some wiring may be needed) and usually only flower once. Hence this one is run up with a wisteria to extend the period of interest.
‘Climbers’ are more commonly larger flowered, may be repeat flowering, and will definitely need support to climb. Below is “James Galway”, a personal favourite. This is repeat flowering, but is again paired with another climber for maximum impact – in this case “Clematis Jackmanii”.
Standards are not really my thing – they are typically roses grafted onto a tall upright, and whilst they can be very effective in cottage gardens, I prefer roses to be allowed to get to the large sizes they mostly should be and to put on their glorious show for us that way. They can look good when supported by an umbrella type support like this one “Giverny Rose”, but I personally think the only benefit of this to be that it gives you more space underneath to plant in, so it might be good in a small garden.
For me, if I want height in the garden, I would prefer a full climber grown up a pillar, arch or trellis – but the neat controlled form of the standards does appeal for tiny front gardens in particular.
Nothing is more written about than pruning of roses so I wont repeat it here, apart from to say don’t worry about it too much. Most are tough as old boots. If you have time to look it up then do it as suggested, but largely aim to prune once a year, either at the end of the autumn as they become dormant, or just after the last frost as they spring back to life. Follow the guides or just chop out what looks messy and is in your way. You pretty much can’t overdo it so feel free to be bold.
Roses LOVE rich organic feed so if you can get well rotted horse manure and spread it around them, or even better plant with a load, they will pay you back in flowers.
Last of all, invest in a lovely rose bowl to show them off- there is simply nothing more pleasing than having your own roses in a bowl in your home, and if you select a good range you can have this for a long period of the summer!
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