- ‘I don’t know whether nice people tend to grow roses or growing roses makes people nice. ’ Roland A Browne.
The most beautiful month of the year is here at last. If your garden doesn’t look wonderful in June you may as well hang up your gardening gloves. And of course the Queen of the garden is the rose. The rose is luscious, sensuous, fragrant and exquisite in every way. I haven’t the space here to describe all my favourite roses because the list would just go on and on. The best for scent, shape and colour are, of course, the old fashioned ones; the Gallicas, the Damasks, the Bourbons and the Moss roses. They look wonderful trained over lobster pot shaped hazel benders or festooned from every tree filling the garden with fragrance. But of course there are plenty of newer ones too, specially the gorgeous David Austin roses which are fantastic.
I have a great love for single roses. The name, Rosa ‘Complicata’ is a bit misleading because there is nothing at all complicated about the large, single, pink blooms on this rose.
If she is a little too pink for you then consider the Hybrid Musk ‘Sally Holmes’. It is a large shrub rose and has healthy green foliage and is a mass of large, nearly, single, creamy white flowers lightly tinged with pink. This is a rose I would never be without.
Another single rose I wouldn’t be without is the pale yellow ‘Mermaid’. It makes quite a large bush and the soft, primrose yellow flowers have long, egg colour stamens.
One of my favourite climbers which needs a south facing wall is Rosa laevigata ‘Cooperii’, the Cherokee rose. It has glossy green leaves which always look healthy, and huge, single, pure white flowers with golden stamens. I believe it is not quite hardy without the protection of a wall. Mine is a seven year old cutting which started flowering last year. When it is mature it is a mass of blooms.
I have to mention two more very special, single roses although I haven’t found either of them particularly easy or strong growing. They are so beautiful though that they are worth persevering with. Neither of them are old; they are both modern Hybrid Teas, but they don’t look like it. They are exquisite. The flowers of the first one, Rosa ‘Dainty Bess’ are shell pink and they have very long, deep pink stamens.
The next one is a gorgeous apricot colour. I don’t know who Mrs. Oakley Fisher was but she was lucky to have such a beautiful rose named after her.
A.E. Bowles shared my love of single roses. He compared full quartered ones to human faces. He said: ‘Who wants to see the human object of their devotion improved by a multiplicity of noses of varying sizes, the innermost being little more than slices of nose so as to pack into the centre?’ Obviously slices of nose are not a good look for people, but in the rose it is exquisite.
The rose in the next picture is a climber which grows in my garden. It is virtually thornless and its flowers are a lovely shape with a swirl of petals giving it a frilly look. It is a gorgeous shade of pink, deepening in the centre. If anyone can tell me its name I would be grateful.
A rather unusual rose is Rosa ‘Viridiflora’ which is a sport of R. ‘Old Blush’. Many people loathe it but I love green flowers and if you don’t look upon it as a rose but as pretty green flower it has its own charm and it is very pretty in flower arrangements. The green petals (or are they leaves?) are streaked with rusty red. I bet lots of people will leave comments saying it is awful; but it really is pretty in a vase.
One of the best places to see roses is at Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire. The rose garden was designed by the great rosarian, Graham Stuart Thomas. There are about a thousand cultivars laid out within two walled gardens. At the centre of the larger garden is a pool with the lovely R. ‘Raubritter’ with its pretty globular flowers cascading into the water. In the smaller garden there is an pergola planted with R. ‘Debutante’ and R. ‘Bleu magenta’; a winning combination.
The climbers on the walls are all beautifully trained. The most eye-catching is this lovely ‘Lady Waterlow’. I would love to have this rose. I suppose all the roses at Mottisfont are sprayed but this rose looked very healthy and vigorous.
Another climber that I loved was a Noisette called ‘Crepuscule’. It is a gorgeous shade of apricot which is a shade I can’t resist. It is a similar colour to the wonderful Hybrid Musk ‘Buff Beauty’ which I would never be without.
I have a climbing Tea rose on my wall , ‘Lady Hillingdon’ which is a similar colour but more butterscotchy. It is a rose that I love but I wish she wouldn’t always hang her heads. This one at Mottisfont is hanging her heads just like mine does.
Apricot, peach, butterscotch; these are all shades I find irresistible in roses. I have the wonderful ‘Alchemyst’ growing on the back wall of my house even though it does get black spot and doesn’t really match my Suffolk pink walls. It is a gorgeous rose with a strong fruity scent. It was called The Alchemyst because of the way the flowers change colour as they mature ending up as a rich gold.
A gorgeous apricot David Austin rose that I am very fond of is the beautiful ‘Grace’. I seem to have run out of sunny spots in my garden but Grace does very well in the shade of the apple tree.
A totally different coloured rose that people seem to either love or loathe is the David Austin Rosa ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. It is not a blue rose of course, I can’t imagine why breeders are always trying to produce blue roses, or pretending that purple roses are blue. It is a lovely antiquey, washed out purple and it does fade to a slatey sort of colour which I suppose you could pretend is blue. Although I don’t know why you should want to. Val Bourne recommended growing it with Origanun laevigatum ‘Herrenhausen’ when she came to talk to my garden group. I would love to do this as the colours of the flowers are a perfect match. So far I haven’t been able to find a source for this oregano which is a shame because I used to grow it and it is a lovely plant. My ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ never looks as wonderful as the one I saw at Marilyn Abbott’s amazing garden, West Green in Hampshire.
Mind you, having a beautiful moon door built into your wall sets things off very nicely.
It is difficult to know where to stop once you start drooling over roses , so just two more. I was rather taken with this Hybrid Perpetual, ‘Cecile de Chabrillant’, which I saw at Mottisfont. It is such an unusual colour.
I wouldn’t be tempted to try and grow it though. I have found Hybrid Perpetuals very prone to black spot. In the past I have tried the beautiful ‘Emperor du Maroc’, ‘Baroness Rothschild’ and ‘Paul Neyron’. They all had to go in the end.
I will finish with the most deliciously fragrant rose in my garden. ‘Mme. Isaac Pereire’. It is a Bourbon and like all its tribe it is thorny and straggly. You have to train the stems to a nice shape or it will make a very gawky bush. And- it gets blackspot. But the flowers are sumptuous and the smell incredible. So I forgive her.