You don’t have to display roses in an old-fashioned formal bed. They come in all sizes and there are different varieties for different locations. There are roses with amazing scents, some with astonishing beauty, and others with extraordinary, vigorous growth that’ll sprint up a tree, using it as a frame. They can be trained over arches, up pergolas, and are undoubtedly one of the great summer sights.
The best way to make a selection is to get a colour-illustrated catalogue from a specialist nursery to see the full range of roses and their heights and colours. Then visit a rose garden, check them out, and look for good combinations with other plants.
- 'Maiden’s Blush' – an old Rose with blush-pink flowers appearing once in early summer on a medium-sized shrub. AGM, Height 1.5m.
- 'Gertrude Jekyll' – repeat-flowering English rose with rich, dark pink flowers, paler at the edges. AGM, height 1.2m.
- 'Crimson Glory' – a modest climber with beautifully-shaped, rich red flowers in early summer, with later sporadic flowers. Height 4.5m
- 'Aloha' – a short climber with a long summer-autumn show of richly scented pink flowers. AGM, height 2.4m.
- 'Diamond Jubilee' – a vigorous Hybrid Tea with a profuse show of yellow flowers, paler at the edges. Height 1.2m.
- 'Zephirine Drouhin' - has been known to keep going until Christmas. Thornless, with cherry pink, strongly scented flowers; can be grown as a bush or modest climber, though blackspot can be a problem. Height 3m.
- 'Etoile de Holland' – climbing Hybrid Tea with beautiful rich red flowers and a delicious scent in mid- and late summer. Height 5.5m.
- 'Francis E. Lester' – ever-reliable rambler with masses of scented, pinkish-white summer flowers. Height 4.5m.
- 'Golden Showers' – prolific climber, also good on a north wall, with summer to autumn flowers. AGM, height 3m.
- 'Goldfinch' – yellow rambler with a strong summer scent and vigorous growth. Height 3m.
- R. filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ (see plan database) - the ultimate rambler, a real powerhouse with a spread up to 15m, producing a great tangle of growth and creamy white, late summer flowers. AGM, height 10.6m.
- R. sericea pteracantha – a species rose grown for its large, triangular, pointed, translucent thorns. Height 2.4m.
Site and soil: the first ingredient is a sunny site (though some roses will tolerate shade) with well-worked, rich soil including lots of organic matter, and decent drainage. Avoid the extremes of acidity and alkalinity.
Planting and pruning: container-grown roses can be planted at any time of year, but bare-root roses are only available when dormant. After planting, remove any dead or spindly growth, and cut back hard to within about 15cm of the ground in late winter/early spring to promote new growth from the bottom. This equally applies to climbers, and to a lesser extent ramblers; the former’s new growth should be trained out in a fan shape if possible (tied to rows of sturdy wall wires), promoting new growth and flowers from a low level, otherwise they’ll all be up in the air and you’ll never be able to smell them. When growing up trees and pillars, spiral the new growth up and around.
Subsequent late winter/early spring pruning: climbers and ramblers can be left alone, especially if they’re growing up trees, though they can be cut back after flowering if they are accessible and getting out of control. With bush roses, the rule is the harder you prune, the more new growth and the greater the number of flowers, though they will be smaller. A light prune means less new growth, but fewer, larger blooms. With shrub and species roses, make sure the centre doesn’t become congested with old, unproductive wood. Thin out as necessary.