Everything’s Coming Up Roses.

The roses are at their intoxicating best this year, can you remember them ever being as fabulous as they are right now? Perhaps it’s all the early spring rain or maybe they are always this beautiful but their sheer gloriousness takes us by surprise each year.

Many years ago I visited the garden, ‘Lime Kiln’, of a fanatical rosarian called Humphrey Brooke. He grew over 500 roses in a wonderful setting of 12 acres of woodland and ancient chalk pits.  Mr Brooke was very old when I visited him and his roses had grown unchecked for many years and in parts you really needed a machete to get through where paths were blocked and trees had been brought down under the sheer weight of massive roses. Mr Brooke told me that he didn’t believe in pruning, feeding or spraying. He only grew roses which were capable of thriving without aid. And thrive they did. He had the biggest Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ I have ever seen and you know how big that gets. The garden was wild and neglected, but such a magical place of enchantment and the fragrance everywhere was amazing. Mr. Brooke  told me that he had suffered all his life from bipolar disorder, then known as manic depression, but his garden and his quest to seek out lost old roses brought him great joy.  When I am a batty, old lady and too old to garden, I like the idea of giving my garden over entirely to roses  and letting them climb and meander everywhere enclosing the whole place in fragrance.

It was also about this time that I first visited Mottisfont Abbey and Sissinghurt  and became truly hooked on old roses. Vita Sackville West’s delicious descriptions of old- fashioned roses utterly beguiled me. At Sissinghurst I studied her way of growing them over hazel benders so that they were igloo-shaped and covered in blooms. Religiously, every year I would renew the hazel in my rose igloos and feed and pamper and spray the roses so that I could replicate the wonderful effect.  But that was in another garden and another life; these days I am a bit more laissez-faire when it comes to training my roses. If they want to tumble about or climb trees, they are allowed to. I like them growing in an abandoned luxuriance. I feed them, but mostly I let them do what they want with just a bit of support if they need it. And hypochondriacal  prima donnas that always look sickly with black spot or rust are simply evicted. Of course you never get rid of black spot entirely but as the famous rosarian Jack Harkness once said:’What’s a bit of black spot between friends?’ Actually, I once read that Christopher Lloyd claimed to have totally eliminated blackspot by having a three -inch layer of grass cuttings round each rose. This makes sense as the spores lie around on the ground.

Sometimes roses that are left to their own devices surprise you by climbing when they are not supposed to climb. Lovely ‘Grace’ is climbing up an apple tree and today I just noticed ‘Gentle Hermione’  at the top of a holly tree where she had no business to be, but good for her.

Rosa ‘Grace’ scrambling up an old apple tree.

Of course all roses are lovely, but I don’t much care for Rosa rugosa hybrids. Even though they are always nice and healthy with glossy leaves I cannot love them. With a few exceptions I eschew Hybrid teas and floribundas.  Old-fashioned roses make you swoon with their wonderful scent and beautifully shaped flowers. But like everyone else, these days I grow a lot of David Austin rose because they have all the charm and fragrance of old -fashioned roses and come in gorgeous colours.

Much as I love the sumptuous double blooms of old fashioned roses, I also love single roses and of course the bees do too.

My favourite single climber is Rosa cooperi which has enormous snowy white flowers and healthy foliage. It is said to be a bit tender and it needs a south facing position. I grew mine from a cutting and it has taken off beautifully.

Rosa cooperi. (R. laevigata.)

I have two single China roses which are not supposed to be totally hardy but I never have any problem with them. The first is the glorious Rosa mutabilis which changes colour from honey to orange to pink.

Rosa mutabilis

The other Rosa chinensis which blooms right up until November is the cherry red ‘Bengal Beauty’. I love this one. It looks good against the dark leaves of Cotinus coggyria.

Rosa ‘Bengal Beauty’

But for pure health and vigour in a single rose you can’t beat the modern shrub rose ‘Sally Homes’. And she flowers on and on.

Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’

Some of my ramblers are still to bloom. I showed lovely ‘Phyllis Bide’ in my secret garden in a recent post. The multiflora rambler Veilchenblau’ is just coming  into bloom in the weeping pear.

Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’

Last year I bought ‘Goldfinch’ because it is one I didn’t want to be without. This one was a great favourite of Vita Sackville West. She called it her pet and her darling. And you can see why, it is a combination of egg yolk and honey and has a delicious fragrance.


I have not bought the monster Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’for this garden but I did bring a seedling from my previous garden which clearly has filipes blood in its veins, it is trying to take over every tree in its path.
I have another beautiful but vigorous rose with Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ in its heritage. It is the lovely ‘Treasure Trove’. I first saw it in my friend Anne’s garden. But Anne is a master pruner and her rose is beautifully trained and doing exactly what its told and looks superb. Mine has very quickly reached the top of its tree and goodness knows where it will head next. But it is so pretty.

Rosa ‘Treasure Trove’

One of my prettiest ramblers is one which I fell in love with in Humphrey Brooke’s garden all those years ago. It is ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’. It grows absolutely enormous, to about 30 feet and although half of the plum tree it is climbing sheered off in the gales last winter, it is quite unconcerned and has decided to head for a nearby apple tree.

Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’

Climbers aren’t so territorial and so are better for growing up walls. Pale pink Rosa ‘New Dawn’ is an old favourite from 1930. It is healthy, repeat -flowering and easy from cuttings. I have it growing on the front of my house.

Another healthy rose is the German -born  ‘Karlsruhe’.(1957)  It is a deep pink and  has healthy foliage and a lovely scent. It looks good growing up a yew tree.

Rosa ‘Karlsruhe’

Ok you are getting rose indigestion so I will just mention two more climbers.
Zepherine Drouhin is thornless and has a superb perfume. It is a Bourbon though and like lot of its tribe, it can suffer badly from black spot but I forgive it because it is so lovely.

Rosa ‘Zepherine Drouhin’

And just one more, ‘Lady Hillingdon’ is a real aristocrat and although she hangs her head languorously, you forgive her because the apricot colour and the fragrance are superb.

Rosa ‘Lady Hillingdon’

So there we have some of my current favourite roses, but there are plenty more for another day.

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50 Responses to Everything’s Coming Up Roses.

  1. tonytomeo says:

    San Jose in the Santa Clara Valley is one of the best places in the world to grow modern (not more than a few centuries old) roses, but there is no space left for large gardens that can accommodate wildly growing roses. The hybrid tea roses that I grew up get pruned to improve vigor and resistance to disease and insect infestation. Many of those in the Heritage Rose Garden of San Jose do not get pruned, but do just fine. Rhododendrons grow wild just as happily in the Santa Cruz Mountains to the south. Most are developed for the sort of local climate. Nonetheless, I do almost nothing to them. I am only now pruning out some of the dead material, and tucking some down, just to improve their appearance in the landscape, but they really do not require it.

    • Chloris says:

      My father used to grow a lot of hybrid teas, they were lovely but had little or no scent and they required a great deal of attention. Eventually they had to be dug up because the plants ran out of energy and looked terrible. Old fashiond ones go on and on.

      • tonytomeo says:

        Some of mine are still out there, because those who live there have not bothered to replace them. They must be pruned aggressively in winter, which I find is the main problem with them. Most do not get pruned enough, and no one bothers to rake the debris from underneath, which is how the pathogens overwinter. My Pa dislikes the lack of fragrance. I just grow other flowers for fragrance.

  2. I love Roses – it’s my gravitar as well 😉 can’t separate from that flower

  3. Heyjude says:

    Wow Chloris you have an amazing rose garden! Wish I could walk around it, the smell must be divine.

  4. Ali says:

    I love that image of a rose garden gone wild! I share your ambitions to be an eccentric old bat amongst the roses.
    You have such a fantastic collection of roses! I’m lusting after ‘Zepherin Drouhan’, among others.

    • Chloris says:

      I’ve just been looking at your lovely rose post, you are clearly a fellow enthusiast. I think the love of roses does border rather on a mania. You can’t quite like roses.

  5. March Picker says:

    Oh Chloris, your roses are a joy! Please keep sharing them as they continue to bloom. I love the idea of roses “capable of thriving without aid”! Those would be for me. 🙂

  6. Liz, what an amazingly lovely collection of roses. The roses you grow in your garden outshine any I ever tried. Heat and humidity do not grow good roses, the foliage is what truly blows my mind.
    Can I join you in batty old age amongst the rose covered Witch Hazels? I will bring some mad tropicals for the greenhouse.

  7. those roses are lovely – thank you

  8. Kris P says:

    Glorious! If roses grew and bloomed in such profusion here I’d have dozens more of them. The notion of roses so large and vigorous that they can bring down trees is unfathomable to me. My most recent acquisition, ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’, won in a raffle held at the 2017 Garden Bloggers’ Fling, has been disappointing thus far but then none of my roses have done well – they must expect more than 3.78 inches of rain per year! (Yes, I irrigate but it’s not the same.)

    • Chloris says:

      Lady Emma Hamilton is a real beauty, the flowers are stunning, the stems are a pretty colour and the leaves are so healthy looking. Good luck with it.

  9. bittster says:

    Glorious! What a beautiful sight, I love seeing them free to ramble.
    I’ve been giving way too much thought to roses this year. I need fragrance, but just can’t handle looking at blackspot and mildew in October. So far the modern ones I’m growing keep healthy, but the lack of fragrance makes them so utilitarian when they should be opulent and indulgent. I think our humidity is much tougher on them here.

    • Chloris says:

      When I first grew roses I picked mostly old fashioned ones that I thought were the most beautiful and I also chose them for their romantic names. Many of them were martyrs to rust and black spot. Now I research them first and choose ones that are disease resistant. I’ve virtually given up on Bourbons and Hybrid Perpetuals. If you do a bit of research I am sure you will find roses that can cope with high humidity.

  10. Benjamin says:

    Amazing roses, well done, you! I don’t think there’s anything that beats the scent of roses…I wish websites could be scratch ‘n’ sniff. Cheers!

  11. Yum! I can almost smell them from this beautiful post! The roses are very lush and healthy here this year, too. 🙂

  12. mrsdaffodil says:

    What a great collection of roses! And what a great story. Instead of worrying about what will become of the garden, simply let it go to roses. Brilliant.

  13. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I love this idea too, and your roses are glorious,Chloris. A question though: if you were to turn a whole garden over to roses, how would it look when they were dormant?

    • Chloris says:

      You are quite right of course, it would look dreary in winter. It’s only in summer that I feel I could live on roses alone. In winter I think all I need is a garden full of witch hazels.

  14. Cathy says:

    Rose heaven – abundance of varieties, abundance of blooms, no doubt abundance of fragrance too. And they all look so happy to be in the garden of a not-yet-batty-nor-old lady and her very capable hands

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Cathy. Well clearly I am getting a bit batty. As Susurrus just pointed out, I called ‘The Generous Gardener’ rose ‘The Gardener’s Friend’. Goodness knows why.

  15. susurrus says:

    I enjoyed this ramble through your wonderful collection of roses. I’ve never seen a climbing ‘Grace’ before either! Just one suggestion – R. ‘Gardener’s Friend’ looks like it might be R. ‘The Generous Gardener’.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you, yes of course, it’s ‘The Generous Gardener’, I can’t imagine why I called it ‘The Gardener’s Friend’. See, the battiness is coming on already.

  16. Martha S says:

    Chloris, this posting is even more meaningful after having the privilege of meeting you and The Pianist and soaking up the beauty of your garden. You should be called The Generous Gardener!
    an American friend from the Carolinas

    • Chloris says:

      It was a delight to meet you all and welcome you to my garden. The Pianist and I and my friend Min all enjoyed it enormously. Do come again.

  17. Your roses are beautiful. You are so lucky to grow so many.

  18. Roses, a garden is never quite right without them. I loved all your images. Three of my favourites are The generous gardener, A simple life and Special Child. I must remember to take countless images this year. You are so right roses really have never looked better this year. Sally

  19. Chloris says:

    I just looked up Simple Life and Special Child as I am not familiar with them. They are lovely, I particularly like Simple Life as I love single roses.

  20. Christina says:

    Everyone is saying it is a good rose year; here too. I think in the UK because there was late heat to harden the wood; and here the spring rains have made a huge difference to everything. I rarely see R. ‘Sally Homes’ on English blogs; she is in almost every garden here. One that copes better with summer drought; mine doesn’t flower all summer but can be relied on to re-flower in autumn.

  21. Wow! Thank you for the wonderful rose slideshows. I had no idea you had such an impressive collection of roses. Clearly you are a true rose lover! Those yellow roses that are cousins or nephews or something to ‘Kiftsgate’ are very appealing, aggressive or not. In my own garden, I’m sorry to say I had to cut ‘Sally Holmes’ to the ground after this last winter. It is sending up new canes, but rather slowly. Also, maybe you can answer something that has puzzled me: what exactly is the difference between a rambler and a climber?

    • Chloris says:

      Sorry to hear about your Sally Holmes but I am sure she will recover and be on form again next year.
      Ramblers are much more vigorous and grow much taller than climbers. They are more suitable for climbing up trees whereas climbers are better for walls or trellises. Ramblers have an abundance of small flowers, most of them are not repeat flowering. Climbers have large flowers and most of them are repeat flowering.

  22. rusty duck says:

    Roses are having a good year, even for me and I usually struggle. Black spot comes with the territory down here, even at Rosemoor! I kind of have the same philosophy as Mr Brooke because I don’t have the time for a lot of molliecoddling but they do get pruned and a mulch when I have enough compost to hand.

    • Chloris says:

      I know the cleaner the air the worse the black spot. We get it too but some varieties are worse than others. My father used to grow hybrid teas and goodness, the pruning, the feeding and spraying that went on. In the end they all sickened and died anyway.

  23. snowbird says:

    I really enjoyed this post, the bipolar guy reminded me of the witch who inspired you….I too will let everything run wild when I get to old to deal with it. Oh…your roses…I shall revisit and see them all close up on my screen! xxx

  24. Chloris says:

    I first saw Humphrey Brooke’s garden when I was a young and green gardener. I read about it and cheekily rang up and asked if I could visit. It inspired me with a lifelong love of old fashioned roses. Up until then I only knew the hybrid teas and floribundas that my father grew and loved..

  25. Brian Skeys says:

    I visited a friends garden yesterday, she has rambling roses growing up old apple trees in the orchard. I don’t think there is any better picture in an English garden.

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