Gardening with Roses

Rosa 'Flower Carpet White' gearing up for a late flush. Geranium Buxton Blue and Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea' accompany.

Rosa ‘White Flower Carpet’ gearing up for a late flush. Geranium ‘Buxton Blue’ and Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’ accompany.


Ever since I started gardening, I have had roses. As a child I grew one called ‘The Fairy’, twiggy and prickly but filled with tiny, pink, very double flowers in summer. My first rented house with a garden had two standard roses growing which I tended, and a year later starting my own garden roses were some of the first things I planted.

However now that I am redesigning the garden, I have been considering what plants I want to keep, and which ones I don’t. Roses were high on my ‘thought list’ because they are very tricky to garden around, being so prickly. Their shape with a narrow base and widening out means weeds grow readily underneath which I can’t then get to, or they get invaded by hardy geraniums and campanulas which smother new growth leaving smaller roses in particular with awkward, leggy shapes and flowers only at the ends of trailing stems. The end result hasn’t always been very satisfactory to me, let alone pleasing. So I considered removing all the roses and growing more of the other flowering shrubs that were easier to manage. Viburnums, Deutzias, Hydrangeas, Dogwoods, hardy Fuchsias etc.

Then Rosa Graham Thomas came into flower. And continued to flower steadily for the next two months. At that point I realised nothing really compares with roses. Not even peonies. I may not have the right ones in the right places for my garden, but roses just keep giving and giving all summer long. Their flowers are beautiful, the petals can be dried and eaten, Bees love them, as do many other insects, especially semi-double or single roses, and birds like the hips in autumn and winter.

So no, I’m not going to do away with roses. Instead I have placed an order for three new ones for the front garden, dowsing to help narrow my choices to those most likely to succeed. Then next year I will plan more for the back garden. I look forward to flowers all summer.

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