The rose garden at Sissinghurst is famous not just because of the wonderful roses but for the way the roses are complemented by the colours and textures of what is grown with them. Vita was never particularly interested in growing them with foliage but with other flowers which look good with them and extend the season too.
I first saw this wonderful garden many years ago and was inspired to grow old fashioned roses on hazel benders in the way they are done here.
The roses in the photograph show how it is done but ideally they should clothe the sticks and break out in flowers all the way down the stem.
Vita wrote lyrically about old fashioned roses in her book: ‘In Your Garden ‘ She was captivated by the scent and beautiful form of the Damasks, the Gallicas, the Hybrid Perpetuals and the Bourbons and also the romance and history. She was particularly keen on the Bourbons and they are indeed very beautiful and have inherited all the scent of their Damask parents. I followed Vita’s example and planted many of these old roses with romantic names. The trouble is that many of the Bourbons and Hybrid Perpetuals are incredibly beautiful and fragrant but are plagued with black spot. I am sure that if Vita was alive today she would plant David Austin roses as well as the old fashioned ones.
Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’ is a very healthy Gallica which doesn’t seem to be susceptible to blackspot.
I forgot to check the label but I think this is the lovely moss rose ‘William Lobb’ I am not sure who William Lobb was but I love the antiquey shade of this rose which usually seems to be very healthy.
Clematis look fabulous with roses. This Clematis texensis looks like ‘Etoile Rose’ to me.
I’m not sure but I think the next clematis is Clematis venosa violacea. It looks great with the roses and with Iris laevigata ‘Rose Queen’.
There are one or two yellow flowers in the rose garden which I thought strike a jarring note. But the persil white of this gorgeous Filipendula hexapelata is lovely.
A lovely white flowering shrub complements the roses too. It is the summer flowering Viburnum x hilleri.
It is important to have strong verticals with all this froth and there are plenty of gorgeous delphiniums. I love this tall Thalictrum too.
The next plant is the lovely Francoa sonchifolia which is easy from seed. I don’t know what other people feel about the Alchemilla mollis. I am not keen on the yellow here.
Much more satisfying in my eyes is the gorgeous Stachys macrantha. I saw it here for the first time years ago and tried to grow it. It never did very well, I think it needs quite a bit of moisture.
Lilium regale looks wonderful with roses. It needs to be well fed to keep going year after year but it is very quick and easy from seed. Don’t you love the little Osteospermum ‘Whirligig’ at its feet?
Vita’s favourite Allium was Allium albo- pilosum which we now call ‘Christophii’. It looks lovely planted in a froth like this. Vita said: ‘the general effect is of a vast mauve-and-green cobweb quivering with its own lightness and buoyancy.’
I think I must be the only person to dislike the hackneyed use of little box hedges to imprison flower beds. I think the days of this one are numbered as it has the dreaded box blight. I think it looks awful.
The dainty Angel’s Fishing Rod; Dierama grown with the green Ballota acetabulosa and the Verbascum makes a much prettier, softer edge to the bed.
I’ll finish with a Salvia and a Penstemon, both new to me.
I think this Penstemon is gorgeous and so unusual. It might be difficult to track down though. It hasn’t even got a name, just a collection number. Penstemon PC & H.148.
The lovely soft pink Salvia is definitely on my wants list. It is Salvia greggii ‘Stormy Pink’.
My present garden is mature with fully grown shrubs and trees. I no longer have a blank canvas to create a rose garden as I did before. Roses have to be crammed in wherever I can find a spot. Perhaps its just as well, those hazel benders need replacing regularly and the roses retrained. It is a prickly and time consuming job looking after everything. One needs space and ideally a team of fairy workers to care for it all whilst you sleep.