“You can never have too many roses!” So said Monty Don recently in his book Nigel – My family and other dogs which, incidentally, is a delightful read being as much about his garden at Longmeadow as it is about his canine companions. I’ve said this before but I didn’t used to think I was a rose person. I always left roses to my Mum who seemed to have the knack of pruning them to produce some spectacular blooms. However, more and more I have come to appreciate roses in the garden, not just for their beauty but also for their scent, their long flowering period and their attractiveness to wildlife. The number of roses in our garden has crept up steadily on us and, until just before Christmas, numbered nine. However, with our two recent acquisitions, which John is preparing a bed for, we are now up to eleven.
The new acquisitions are going to be planted with a backdrop of roses themselves. We have extended the flower bed in front of the cherry tree trunk which itself is backed by the small white flowering shrubby climber or rambler. It’s a rose that we inherited with the garden and we have no idea what it is! All we know is that it grows vigorously and produces charming little star-like white flowers which attract a multitude of hoverflies.
One of the newcomers is a yellow Rosa Mutabilis. We already own the pink variety which has turned out to be a real performer. It will start flowering sometime during May and will continue right into the autumn. The flowers emerge a rich peach colour and then deepen to pink. It is a single flower with a lovely scent which all contributes to it attracting the bees. We are now planting the yellow variety to complement the hot border that I created last year. The flowers should emerge a deep buttery yellow and then fade to cream. It is also due to be a repeat flowerer but sadly this one says it lacks scent. It does, however, have the advantage of having relatively few thorns – unlike its pink relative!
The other newcomer is Rosa Helenae which, if the write up is to be believed, will make up for the lack of scent in Mutabilis. It is described as being very wildlife friendly, producing lots of orange hips for the birds in the autumn and also having good autumn colour. Helenae is a creamy white with a yellow centre and produces its flowers in large clusters. It should flower profusely throughout the summer. It’s going to be planted at an angle so as to scramble up the trunk of the cherry.
Of course what this means is that, come every future February, we will now have considerably more pruning and feeding to do! Although due to the poor weather, it was March this year before I worked my way around the garden clutching my trusty box of organic rose fertiliser. I try to remember to feed all the roses in February and again in June to either keep them flowering or boost a potential second flush. We also mulch them each Spring with stable manure. We must be doing something right as the plants do seem to be flourishing.
At the far end of our garden we have some shrubby roses that don’t flower terribly well but do smell beautiful when they do. They are Rosa Canina – the dog rose. I do hope Monty Don has some planted somewhere at Longmeadow – it would seem appropriate!