We’re now well into rose season and I thought I’d share a few favourites from our gardens, along with some tips about caring for them which seem to work for us – for me the tests of success are in an abundance of flowers and a lack of pests and disease.
I recently shared a picture of this gorgeous rose with some friends, to which one of them poetically replied in an adaption of the famous lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:
‘A rose by any other name shall never smell as sweet as thee’
Of course, I totally disagree! This particular bush rose is ‘Pearl Wedding’, and it flowers in clusters – ironically it does not have a strong scent. Ideal as a patio rose, it is currently in a pot outside our back door – I’m planning to plant it out this year as after 5 years, it is getting rather large and I think it would benefit from stretching its roots out.
However, if it’s scent you’re looking for, rosa ‘Iceberg’ is a fantastic choice. We’ve planted three standards in a long border just outside the back door – when the door or windows are opened, the perfume is intoxicating, particularly in the presence of a light breeze. This versatile floribunda rose can also be obtained as a bush or climbing rose.
Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’, an English shrub rose, is a consistent and highly desirable rose – a wonderful powerful scent, dark crimson velvety petals and at each stage of its opening, from small buds to fully open flowers are all exquisite. It is a prolific repeater and for me a must for any garden.
I also have a firm favourite in an old rambler – it is not a repeater (although in a warm autumn I have seen a few flowers develop), but it is so beautiful and it has the richest of scents, an added bonus being that it has good disease resistance. We have Rosa ‘Albertine’ in both gardens:
Rosa ‘Summer Wine’ is a lovely single flower climber, always performs well and has a sweet scent. the only problem is keeping up with it’s growth in summer – tying the branches in horizontally to promote an even spread of flowers rather than a proliferation at the top of a stem resulting from a natural inclination to grow vertically!
Finally, I’ve chosen rosa ‘Summer Song’. I visited David Austin Roses in Albrighton last year, with the express purpose of buying rosa ‘geranium’, to place in one of the gaps along the fence. I was too early for this particular specimen (which as well as gorgeous red single flowers, it has the most enormous dark red hips for autumn and winter interest), which is sold bare-rooted throughout autumn and winter. Well, you can’t go home empty handed, particularly from such a wonderful nursery, can you? I was so taken with the vibrant colour of this rose – it has settled nicely and is just starting to flower now:
We do have a few tips for success with roses, nothing complex:
- Plant in autumn or at the latest, March – a summer planting will mean copious watering is required
- Water the rose thoroughly before planting, for bare rooted specimens, soak for an hour in a bucket of water
- Plant in a prepared hole with well rotted manure in the base, dust micorrhyzal fungi onto the roots and make sure the plant’s soil level is level with the surrounding soil (for bare rooted specimens, the graft union should be just below the soil surface)
- Feed in February and June – I use Vitax Q4, which was recommended at David Austin when I bought my first rose many years ago (I believe they sell their own brand now)
- Plant anti-aphid specimens nearby – most of our roses have lavender or rosemary in close proximity and we do not have green fly problems (we never spray our roses with pesticides)
- I don’t experience significant black spot and so just remove affected leaves as and when they appear.
- Avoid powdery mildew by ensuring your roses are fed well and in dry hot weather, watered frequently. Mulch to conserve moisture and ensure there is good airflow through the branches – see pruning below
- Prune according to type of rose – I am guided by David Austin’s advice on their website, making sure that old/dead/diseased branches are removed promptly and remaining branches are not crossing and rubbing each other.
- Prune standards in October or when strong wind is forecast – this will help avoid wind rock which they hate – I learned this from bitter experience!
- Deadhead regularly to encourage new blooms
I’ll leave you with a lovely poem by Margie Driver extolling the virtues of the rose.
What a Rose Can Say
A rose can say I love you and want you to be mine,
A rose can say I thank you for being so very kind,
A rose can say congratulations, whatever the occasion may be,
A rose can say I miss you and wish you were here with me,
A rose can say I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in any way,
A rose can say get well soon, May God bless you today,
A rose can say I wish you happiness, and the best for you each day.
A rose can say farewel when someone goes away,
A rose can say hello, I’m thinking of you today,
There’s just so many wonderful things that a rose can say,
A rose can say goodbye when a love one is laid to rest,
No matter what there is to say, a rose can say it best.