Thursday, 23 July 2015



I have been a rose lover all my gardening life. In the early days a garden with roses was a sign of wealth, but with good training we could order a hundred Rosa canina briar very cheaply and bud our own plants with nearly 80% take. Later I discovered a new rootstock, Rosa multiflora, which was more difficult to bud, but gave terrific roses.
I grew hybrid teas, floribundas, ramblers and climbers, and a few shrubs. My council house in St. Mary’s was too small for large roses, but I could use three walls for climbers, so it was Zephrine Drouhin on the west wall, Etoile du Hollande on the east wall and Gloire de Dijon on the north wall. Today, these would not be my favourite choice, as we now have many more to choose from and more information at our finger tips just a mouse click away.

As life moved on and I moved from one house to another my gardens slowly got bigger so my choice of roses also changed as I had more space to try out some really big cracking roses.
I now grow climbers on many walls and fences but also give space to some shrub roses.
Rose breeders have spent so much time over the years bringing out the most colourful flower to increase sales, but with little regard for the plants health. The gardening public do not have access to the range of chemicals available to commercial growers so we have a problem with disease from black spot to mildew and rust. So when a rose grower brings out his latest catalogue describing his brilliant new varieties all with strong healthy foliage, take it with a pinch of salt. I have tried numerous bush and shrub roses over the years, only to discard them as they suffered uncontrollable rose diseases. However if you go back to the old roses still available before the rose breeders mucked them about you will find most of them to be quite healthy.

A few favourites
Ispahan was introduced from Persia hundreds of years ago. It is a deep pink, highly scented damask rose growing up to eight feet tall with very healthy foliage. One of my favourites.
Canary Bird is a similar size but is one of the earliest in bloom with deep yellow single flowers arriving in late spring.
I no longer have a north wall, but would recommend climbing Iceberg or my other favourite massive rose Mme Alfred Carrier, also with white flowers and a lovely scent. This one has grown twelve feet tall with me, and takes some controlling.
My south walls are clothed with my grape vine Brant which needs the heat to ripen up its grapes but also the deep red climbing rose Dublin Bay. It is really fantastic as it reaches over sixteen feet tall and smothers itself with red flowers, but unfortunately it has no scent.
Another deep red but with a great scent for a south wall is the climbing sport of Ena Harkness. The flowers have always had weak necks so the large blooms hang down, but as a climber this is an advantage. Another massive red scented climber that needs plenty of space is Etoile du Hollande.
Gertrude Jekyll is a shrub rose that can also make a perfect climber if you train it up a wall. Mine is restricted to about ten feet tall. It gets covered in early summer with scented old English pink roses, and often has a second flush in autumn.
For the garden with room to spare another three large growing roses worth a trial are Morning Jewel, Gregoir Staechelin  and Alberic Barbier.

Wee jobs to do this week

Start Continue to sow summer salads such as lettuce, radish, rocket, corn salad, mustard and mizuna. I find that spring onions give poor germination outdoors up north, so I sow them in cellular trays in my greenhouse then transplant them into the soil when a decent size. There is still time to sow beetroot, autumn carrots and a fast growing pea such as Kelvedon Wonder on land recently cleared after lifting the first early potatoes.


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