Planting Roses for Effect
Planting Roses for Effect
Who would be without roses? The quintessence of the summer flower garden, you may be equally as beguiled by the beauty of their appearance as by their heavenly scent.
The names alone of the old roses are evocative, with their memories of nineteenth-century princesses, little-known French ducs and docteurs, generals and maréchals, all the long-forgotten blue blood from the Almanac de Gotha. Gallica and Damask, Centifolia or Moss, Alba, China, Portland and Bourbon, climbing or rambling, shrubs — old-fashioned or otherwise — hybrid musks, hybrid perpetuals and what used to be hybrid teas (now large-flowered) and floribundas (now cluster-flowered) roses — and many more — how can one choose from such a sumptuous diversity?
Try to have a look at a rose in bloom, and see whether you like it or not. You may find, on looking it up by name, that it is ‘a weak grower’, or ‘a martyr to blackspot’, but you may well consider such a lovely thing worth slaving over with sprayer and . The other criterion is, does it have a scent? It is so disappointing to sink one’s nose into a bouquet of velvety petals and find nothing.
The modern large-flowered and cluster-flowered roses, often criticized for their gawky growth, are nonetheless good garden plants. With their cheerful willingness to flower over a long period, they deserve a place planted in small groups in the mixed border. Choose them in a colour that complements their surroundings and plant some mounded, bushy plants nearby to help disguise their rigid habit.
But you may have lost your heart completely to the old-fashioned sorts (by this term I mean all but the modern large-flowered and cluster-flowered roses), in which case remember that many of them only flower for a few weeks. For the remainder of the summer they are rather uninspiring, dusty-green bushes. Invaluable for the small garden are those that are repeat-flowering or, like Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’, that is never out of flower from late spring to late autumn, or Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’, a beautiful yellow modern rose, but with all the attributes of an old-fashioned one, named in honour of the great plants-man and rosarian.
A word of warning, do make absolutely sure you have really fallen in love with a rose, it is no use taking it out and putting back one you think you like better in the same position. Specific replant disease is not just an old wives’ tale: in some way the soil is poisoned by the roots of the discarded rose, and the new rose will remain sad and stunted (although other unrelated plants will not be affected). One solution is to change the soil, to a depth of 75cm (2-1/2ft) or so.
Growing roses up trees
You will sometimes see Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ recommended for growing up a tree. It is indeed an incredible sight in full bloom, a tumbling waterfall of thousands upon thousands of creamy-white flowers in a great foaming mass.
A Chinese species, described in books as ‘vigorous’, Rosa filipes is a monster rose of great beauty that grows with wild and rampant enjoyment, its new shoots reaching to 3.7m (12ft) in a summer. But what the books neglect to point out is that this rose has built-in special equipment for climbing through thick Chinese undergrowth — backward-pointing needle-thorns, barbed-like fish-hooks, that cling to anything nearby, from shrubs to large trees, with a special preference for passing human flesh. You might presume that you could control such a rampageous plant by pruning, but in order to do this you have to approach it, when one or more of its hooked talons will probably make a grab for your hair. Such an untameable rose should be given a large garden and masses of space to make a beautiful, but impenetrable, thicket.
Consider instead Rosa ‘Alberic Barbier’ (creamy yellow), ‘Albertine’ (pink), ‘Rambling Rector’ (white), ‘Cecile Brunner, Climbing’ (shell-pink). A good choice for climbing up ain a small garden is ‘New Dawn’, with pale, silvery-pink flowers that last through summer and into autumn.