June is perhaps the peak time for roses, and the roses in my own garden are all in full flower now.
Roses can provoke a mixed response. On the one hand, they’re the icon of the English garden, and the nation’s favourite flower. On the other, they can seen as somewhat old-fashioned. I think this is unfair.
Roses have suffered from being badly used in the past. Mid-century rose gardens tended to be sterile and twee, with paths lined with lollipop standards, and hybrid tea rose bushes set out in isolation, often in a desert of bare soil, with heaps of farmyard manure around them.
Nowadays, the trend is for roses to be more of an integral part of the garden. Modern shrub roses, climbers and ramblers mix well with other garden plants, and can work with most garden styles, from the formal to the traditional cottage garden, and even the currently popular ‘prairie planting’ (sometimes referred to as the ‘naturalistic’ or ‘new perennial’ style). There are roses to suit every style, and in most colours (except blue and black).
When designing my own garden I chose roses from David Austin.[1.] His roses emulate the old, romantic roses, but like all growers, he bred for vigour, attractive foliage, disease resistance, and a long flowering period. Particularly important, he didn’t neglect scent, and most of his cultivars have good fragrance. When designing a garden, this is an important consideration, because scent adds another, very delightful element to a design.
Apart from the climbers, I’ve used shrub roses to add colour and scent to the borders. They benefit from dead-heading (a job I rather enjoy), but while correct pruning helps the overall shape, they’re not too fussy. They hold their own in a shrub and perennial border, as seen here…
Roses are so familiar to us, we can easily take them for granted. But we shouldn’t overlook just how beautiful and useful they are in the garden, providing colour and scent, as well as lush foliage. There are roses for most situations, including shade, and many will flower from early June, right through the growing season. Climbers and ramblers will cover walls, fences, pergolas and arbours; or grow up into a tree. And shrub roses are perfect for the borders; used like any other small to medium sized shrub.
text & photos © graham wright 2022
[1.] There are many other rose breeders around, producing some superb cultivars. I have to say, prices for David Austin roses are higher than most other breeders. I’m not sure if that’s always been the case, and whether the company are playing on his fame (David himself sadly passed away a few years ago).