Planning a Rose Garden
Planning a Rose Garden
You do not need a vast area to set up your rose garden: you could, if necessary, get a striking display from a border. All you need is a fairly sunny position, well drained and if possible well manured soil, and for preference neither pure clay nor pure chalk.
Making the Plan
Almost certainly the bulk of your display will be a bed or two of bushes (in other words, the non- standards, the non-climbers, the non-ramblers, etc). They will delight you with a glorious first flush. With many, after a few weeks the blooms will die away and the bushes will have a rest (do your part then by removing the spent blooms), coming back with a second crop in late summer or early autumn that will continue until the mists and frosts signal the end of the year.
A common mistake, however, especially by new gardeners, is failure to realize the improvement that can be effected in a rose bed by having blooms at different levels. So have one or more standards, dotted about here and there. As I have explained, these are mainly some of the popular hybrid tea and floribunda varieties grown on different stock producing a longer single stem, so you should be able to smell the perfume at head height instead of having to bend!
You can get them as full standards, approximately 1.3m (4ft) high, or half standards, about 1m (3ft). There are taller ones, very graceful, as they take a weeping or pendulous form, and these are an adaptation of the rambler. An avenue of standards on either side of a makes a very impressive show. Alternatively, you could have a tiered effect in a bed with a row of weeping standards at the back, hiding the fence, with full standards in the middle and a row of half standards at the front.
A further variation on the height theme is provided by dwarf or miniature versions. These are ideal for the front of any border: perfect scaled-down specimens that take up little room but give a lot of pleasure. The only cautionary point is that the soil around them must be kept well clear, for they can easily be smothered by rampant neighbours and can so easily be lost to view.. ‘Baby Masquerade’, which has an ever-changing colour scheme, is a good one for this purpose.
There is another low-growing category, not very widely used but tremendously effective, especially if you have a fair amount of room. There are certain roses that are ground-cover specialists: they reach a height of barely 45cm (1-1/2ft) but spread themselves over a diameter of about 5m (16ft). Their long rambling stems need pegging down, and in the early stages of growth their appearance is a little sparse. But soon their domain is covered with leaf, and then hundreds of small flowers appear, forming a glorious low dome of colour. A comparatively new one, and one of the best, is called ‘Nozomi’, a Japanese variety that has masses of small pink flowers and seemingly thousands of tiny leaves. It can be trained up or along a wall, but it looks marvellous as a low dome a metre or more in diameter.
By contrast, and providing yet a further dimension, you can have climbers and ramblers. For this purpose you need a wall or fence. Oldare also favourite sites. And such is the versatility of the rose that there is one species, Rosa wichuraiana, that has a hand in both low-growing ground cover and high-rise climbing varieties.
Rpsa wichuraiana is one of our oldest roses and rose types. It can be used as a shrub (white single flowers open mid- to late summer) or pinned down as a ground-cover specimen. It is also parent of a number of climbers and ramblers: ‘American Pillar’ among the climbers, and ‘Albéric Barbier’, ‘Albertine’ and ‘Dorothy Perkins’ being perhaps the best known among the ramblers.
Climbers and ramblers so closely resemble each other that a short identification may be useful. Generally, the ramblers are of trailing habit (the rambler-type standards, with their weeping style, make ideal specimens to enhance the appearance of a fairly large lawn), producing flowering shoots every year from the base. These bloom abundantly for three weeks or so and then die, and the old wood has to be cut away at the base every year to allow the new shoots to develop.
The climbers, which on the whole provide a longer flowering period, do not renew from the base but from higher up the stem. This means that the canes are sturdier than those of the rambler, and experience has shown that while the climber is ideal for training up a wall or fence, the ramblers are happier doing just that, trailing over, and covering, convenient open spaces.
But there are exceptions. The lovely fragrant pink ‘Albertine’ will willingly shoot up the side of a sunny wall, turning many a house or cottage exterior into a picture long before most of the other roses are out. One very useful climber is ‘Maigold’, a fragrant bronze-yellow beauty that thrives on a north wall, flowers early and prolifically, and seems remarkably free from the diseases that afflict most roses from time to time. But it has vicious thorns — a striking contrast to the thornless climber ‘Zéphirine Drouhin’ already mentioned.
Finally, if you have a fairly big area you can devote to your rose garden, you must have some of the oldto complete the picture. These are really the old masters. By modern standards their blooms may be small, almost insignificant perhaps, but they spread and make a wonderful sight as well as often conveying a delicious ethereal perfume. Moreover, they have stamina, in spite of the fact that generally they bloom for only a few weeks in the year. But go through a rose dictionary, or a connoisseur’s catalogue, and you will find the old names cropping up again and again.