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By kowhai


Roses. I always said that I’d never be bothered with roses, although as a flower I appreciate them, and I constantly find myself admiring the splendid roses in other people’s gardens, while sadly reflecting on the fact that most of the ones I admire are decades old, are perfectly sited (in all day sunshine, for instance) and have probably received a huge amount of well informed TLC during their life time.

My reasons for being less than keen on cultivating roses include their propensity to disease (e.g. the dreaded black spot), the importance of pruning and feeding, and what, it seemed to me, was their generally high maintenance. So, when attempting to get the garden into a shape that resembled my own preferences, I ignored roses, other than what I’ll call the ‘legacy’ roses which we inherited.

Well, sooner or later my reservations were bound to be overcome, and when, after a searing summer (2006 I think) I decided to try to drought proof the already dry south facing border, the thought that roses might be a good thing to plant came to mind. I didn’t want to go for a border devoted entirely to roses, but to include them in a kind of mixed border. In real rose gardens, the roses tend to be planted in bare or mulched beds, which, while highlighting the roses, makes for a rather bleak garden. So, I decided to distribute the roses around, discovering by trial and error which ones would thrive and where they would do best.

For some reason, this season seems to favour most of the roses that have been planted (and in one or two cases, replanted from an ill favoured to a better place in the garden.) And, while reviewing the number of roses we now have in the garden, I found that there are three legacy roses, and eight ones that we have planted. So much for not growing roses!

One that is doing really well is Rosa Complicata (see first photo), a ‘proper’ rose in that it is a single flower, resembling a wild rose, but much larger. It has decided that it likes being in the bamboo/cordyline bed at the end of the garden, and this year for the first time is producing lots of multiple flower buds and flowers. So, it is performing as described by Robin Lane Fox, the FT’s gardening correspondent, in an article which I discovered in the gardening file — and dated from last century! 1998 no less.

We also have two ‘splashed’ roses: Purple Tiger (2nd pic) and Ferdinand Pichard (photo 3) and The former was relocated at the end of last season from the end of the garden, where it didn’t thrive, to a maximally sunny part of the garden, and it is now performing marvellously. The flowers a quite long lasting, and they look good among the neighbouring pink salvia and the geranium.

And then there is Rhapsody in Blue (photo 4). As is obvious from the photo, it isn’t really blue, being a kind of bluish purple, and the flowers change colour, covering a bluish spectrum as they do so. This year it’s flowering in abundance, so what passes for TLC in my treatment of it and its other rose companions seems to have worked!

I guess that there’s a lesson to be learned from all this: don’t let prejudices rule gardening decisions. Having overcome my prejudices against growing roses, I am now enjoying the ones that we planted, and, to judge from their performance this season, they look like getting better year by year.

More blog posts by kowhai

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Very beautiful and well done!

18 Jun, 2010


They're gorgeous, what lovely colours.

18 Jun, 2010


Like you I didn't used to like roses in my garden I think I thought they were too fussy-looking for me. But now I have many and they are mixed in with the other plants aswell. I'm glad you have got round to growing them now. I've come to like them aswell.

20 Jun, 2010

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