Life’s a bed of roses

By Tamsin Westhorpe

Yes, January and February can be gloomy, but they are months in which gardeners can plan and plant.

Now is the perfect time to order bare root roses and with that in mind my thoughts turn to last summer. The roses in my front garden gave me so much joy and the flowers just kept coming. ‘A Shropshire Lad’ with its peachy pink, fruity scented blooms was a triumph and the single pink blooms of ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (a plant I bought from Kiftsgate Court Garden in Gloucestershire) didn’t disappoint. In the kitchen garden at Stockton Bury the pale pink flowers of ‘Wollerton Old Hall’ were simply breath-taking against the red brick wall.

Wooler‘Wollerton Old Hall’ Ⓒ Tamsin Westhorpe

Imagine the joy of receiving a bare root rose in the post in the next week or so. Buying roses in this way makes them easier and cheaper to deliver and they are often a lower price than potted plants. If you aren’t ready to plant your rose as soon as they arrive, they can be stored in a frost-free place for a couple of weeks, but I prefer to simply heel them in in the veg patch until I have found the perfect spot.

‘For Your Eyes Only’ Ⓒ Tamsin Westhorpe

When faced with the floral delights of specialist rose nurseries such as David Austin Roses it is hard to whittle down your selection. The advice given now by specialists is exemplary and many divide their catalogues into roses for shade, scents, pots etc. However, I’m keen to share a few that I simply can’t resist, in the hope you will treat yourself.

If you only have room for one rose then I highly recommend the pink, repeat flowering ‘Gertrude Jekyll’. I’m so grateful that the rose named after one of our all-time gardening goddesses has such robust and reliable qualities. It’s the only rose my mother grows as it’s great for picking, has a wonderful scent and is easy.

Gertrude Jekyll Ⓒ David Austin Roses

Where space is an issue, or you are growing in pots the light orange ‘Sweet Dreams’ is a treat. A pair of these neat plants either side of the door makes for the perfect welcome.

Those with small gardens can have great fun with climbers. Growing up rather than out they are the answer, especially if you pair then with a clematis. The pale pink, musky flowers of ‘The Generous Gardener’ really will give you that roses around the door look that we all dream of. I would partner this rose with the purple clematis ‘Etoile Violette’.

My back garden is north facing which reduces my options. There are possibilities though. One to try is the single yellow flowering shrub rose ‘Tottering-by-Gently’. It makes a great addition to a shrubbery and can even be used as part of an informal mixed hedge. The single flowers will see the bees flocking to your garden.

Rosa 'Tottering-by-Gently' and Phlox × arendsii 'Luc's Lilac' Ⓒ David Austin Roses

Being an impatient gardener I’m keen to grow roses that provide early flowers. For this I turn to Rosa ‘Helen Knight’. She offers canary bird yellow bloom in April – yes April! This shrub rose needs space and is very prickly, so avoid planting her where you will get caught up by her thorns. Flowering on old wood this is a rose to let loose rather than tightly prune.

Rosa ‘Helen Knight’ Ⓒ Tamsin Wethorpe

The last on my list of must-have roses is a China rose, Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’. I can promise you that this beauty produces a rose every day of the year. The single blooms come in a mixture of dark, pale, and salmon pink. You can let this rose leap to the roof tops or keep it pruned back to form a smaller plant. Grow against a wall – the warmer the spot the more flower you will be blessed with.

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis Ⓒ Tamsin Westhorpe

Learn with Michael Marriott

Michael Marriott is one of the world’s leading expert on roses and was Head Rosarian at David Austin Roses where he worked for 35 years. Wherever you are in the world, Michael will help you plan and nurture a beautiful rose garden. He will help you choose the right rose for your situation, and advise on everything from pruning roses, to fragrance and colour combinations. Find out more

Tamsin Westhorpe

With over 25 years’ experience in the horticultural industry, Tamsin has plenty of practical, hands on advice to share. Her career has seen her edit The English Garden magazine for six years, write scripts for TV gardening, lecture at Kingston Maurward College in Dorset and care for parks and gardens. She is now a freelance writer and curator and gardener of Stockton Bury Gardens, Herefordshire (listed by The Times in the top 20 gardens to visit July 2017). Tamsin is also an RHS Chelsea Flower Show Judge, co-Chair of The Garden Media Guild and a prolific speaker at many high profile events. She has recently written her first book ‘Diary of a Modern Country Gardener’ published by Orphans Publishing and is the voice of the popular Candide Gardening podcast ‘Fresh from the pod’.

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