I thought it was high time that I wrote a few words about my greatest plant obsession-roses.
I dream of roses- their voluptuous shapes, their heady scent, the way they add romance and nostalgia to any garden scheme. I only have to spot a rose in a border and I’m feverishly trampling over anything in my way just so that I can bury my nose in the soft folds of its petals and inhale slowly and deeply……..I call it the cocaine for the middle aged middle class woman!
Such is my obsession that my preferred nightime reading on sleepless winter nights is a David Austin rose catalogue (www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/) where the descriptions set me off dreaming of future summer days surrounded by perfume and petals and prettiness. Here’s an extract:
“Munstead Wood….there is a strong, warm and fruity Old Rose fragrance and notes of blackberry, blueberry and damson.” Mmmmmm.
Even the names are seductive: ‘Lichfield Angel’, ‘Blythe Spirit’, ‘Gentle Hermione’. And who was ‘Madame Legras de St. Germain’ ( “Most beautiful and refined blooms of ivory- white tinged with yellow”) to have such a rose named after her? And I’m curious about the Gallica rose ‘Duchesse de Montebello’ ( “spreading growth, with a good fragrance and some of the fruitiness of a Bourbon”). Does this describe the Duchesse I wonder? Was she a bit fruity with the Duke?
But I digress. Seductive as these catalogue descriptions are, those of us with smaller gardens need to refine our choice using three main criteria, and look for those roses described as long flowering, scented and disease resistant.
Although, I’m ashamed to admit that I do also entertain a few roses that have only one of these qualities. But that quality is the most important of all to me- scent. So i put up with Zephirine Drouhin having bare legs and leaves smudged with black spot because she smells so divine. And I conveniently forget that my adored Albertine rose flowers for a mere three weeks in summer, because , when she looks like this and smells like a long lost Edwardian summer, I can forgive her anything:
So here are just a few of my favourite long flowering scented roses:
Starting with the shrub roses, all of which can be kept to 4 ft with pruning in February, and kept flowering with weekly deadheading and a feed of blood, fish and bone in March and June:
Gertrude Jekyll ( so highly scented they make actual perfume from her):
Harlow Carr- tough and healthy, I am training mine up a small crab apple tree.
Graham Thomas- yellow, voted the world’s favourite rose- a fresh tea rose scent is lovely.
Ferdinand Pichard- causes everyone to smile as it’s striped red and white like a raspberry ripple! Gorgeous scent too.
Jacques Cartier- very tough and reliable, growing in less than full sun- delicious scent and perfect button centred flowers- love it!
Felicia- an old Hybrid Musk rose, developed by the Reverand J. Pemberton in the 1920s when vicars didn’t have so much spiritual work to do presumably?! It flowers in huge clusters and the scent is given off freely into the air, so that you don’t have to bury your nose in it to get it. Divine!
Crocus Rose- buds are soft apricot opening to cream. Looks wonderful in my white, cream and blue border.
And a few climbers are useful too, although on short structures such as tripods, arches and to clothe the posts of pergolas I always use shrubs as they’ll climb to 6ft if tied to an upright, which is more than enough height.
Open Arms- the short climber that I use in most of my garden designs as it flowers all summer long and stays clothed in flowers down to the ground:
New Dawn- prickly but scented and long flowering:
Blush Noisette- possibly the best cluster flowered climber there is. It starts flowering in June and doesn’t stop until the frosts. Adds romance to any pergola as it looks like a rambler ( but isn’t- it’s a scented tea rose):
Lady Hillingdon- “good in a bed, but better against a wall” as I like to quote from the catalogue!:
So put up pergolas – mine is in green oak that silvers as it ages- and get planting roses now for next year’s flowering. And before you forget, order a few rose catalogues for those long wintery nights……