Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A bed of Roses


If your garden was very small and you could only grow a few plants, there is a good chance that a rose would be selected. They have perfect flowers, scent, are easy to grow with a wee bit of knowledge and can last for years.
Last February I covered some basic thoughts on roses as a pleasant way to brighten up the long cold winter.
Previous articles can be seen on my gardening blog at
We are now in mid summer, according to the calendar I believe, and the roses are back in full flower again for the second flush. The first flush had a lot of promise and was quite brilliant for a week or so, but it is hard to put on a fantastic show in a Scottish monsoon.
It certainly sorts out the favourites, and tests their ability to survive blackspot.
I have been fairly ruthless in grubbing out anything that is prone to disease, though it is hard to lose some of your favourites. Margaret Merril is a gorgeous white with terrific scent, but does get a bit of blackspot. She is too good to lose so I resort to some chemical spraying, (Systhane containing Myclobutanil) whenever there is a couple of dry days in between showers.

Types of roses

Demand for roses has kept the breeders busy for years. We now have every colour we need and a rose for every situation. They can be planted in beds as bushes, borders as taller shrubs grown with minimal pruning, as climbers and ramblers along fences, pergolas or trained up walls, and for the very small garden there is a wide choice of patio roses. These may be small, but they are perfectly formed.
Breeders must now turn there attention to bringing back more scent in new roses. Scent was a low priority in the rush to extend a new range of colours, but now people have patios and spend time relaxing around the garden, scent is a must have. The other breeders priority must now be to create a plant with health and vigour. If the changing climate is to be milder and wetter, this will favour the build up and spread of diseases, and as most effective chemicals have been withdrawn, the gardener has no means of combating disease. The only answer left is to dig out any plants prone to disease and only grow resistant types. This does mean the loss of many past favourites such as Golden Showers, Blue Moon and the old English shrub rose L D Braithwaite which had lovely deep red flowers.

Favourite bush and shrub roses

This is always a personal thing as everyone has their own favourites and as roses last for years it is not always feasible to keep trying new varieties.
National Trust is my best red rose with perfectly shaped flowers held upright on strong healthy shoots. However it has no scent, but E H Morse has great scent and excellent deep red flowers. Another great red rose is the very vigorous and highly scented Ingrid Bergman.
Julie Goodyear is my best yellow with Arthur Bell nearly just as good, but Julie has the vigour and more flowers. Graham Thomas, a tall shrub, has taken over from Golden Showers as my yellow climber, as it is not defoliated with blackspot. I am very sorry to lose Golden Showers, as it had brilliant deep golden flowers, and was very prolific but with climate change and withdrawal of chemicals it could not survive blackspot attacks.
Great pink roses are numerous from Silver Lining to Perfecta (a very old but reliable variety), then for scent the deep carmine Wendy Cussons is hard to beat. For the perfect bloom choose Myriam if you can find it. Dearest is a great pink floribunda. Pink shrub rose favourites include Lavender Lassie, Ispahan and Wisley.
Iceberg was always my favourite white floribunda and Margaret Merril a brilliant scented white hybrid tea.
Picadilly is hard to beat as a bicolour and has healthy disease free foliage and Rose Gaujard a lovely pink/white bicolour
New roses are prolific, so todays favourites will quickly be replaced by another, but it is always good to try out something new.

Favourite Climbers

My best red climbing rose at present is Dublin Bay, but it has no scent. Climbing Ena Harkness is a terrific red with well formed and scented hybrid tea shaped flowers. As a bush rose its failing was always a weak head which hung down. This trait is a distinct advantage in a climbing rose as you can look up into the full blooms.
Gertrude Jekyll has to be my best pink with very scented flowers with the Old English rose shape.
Climbing Iceberg is a great white, but suffers mildew too much, so it will never compete with the very old favourite Mme Alfred Carrier. This is very vigorous and needs a lot of space to grow. This noisette rose was bred in France and introduced in 1879 and is still in great demand.

Summer cultivation

Dead heading once flowers have finished is essential for appearance as well as preventing the bushes from spending their energy producing seeds at the expense of flowers.
Keep the soil weed free and give a mulch of compost in spring to conserve moisture.
Use a good pesticide and fungicide to prevent any build up of greenfly or diseases. All of these chemicals available at garden centres are now very safe and environmentally friendly.
The pesticides previously available to control all the garden problems are now all off the shelf.
Climbing roses usually benefit from some summer pruning to cut back flowered shoots to a strong bud that will grow and give some late flowers. There is usually a lot of weak and blind shoots that can be removed to allow more light and air into the centre to ripen up remaining shoots.
Tie in any straggling shoots so they do not get broken.


1 comment:

  1. Your Dublin Bay up the front of your house was lovely, John. We now have one albeit much smaller.