Apparently, you can’t get more English than a Rose. But, if that is true, what does it say about the English – quite pretty, often prickly, only come out in the summer and shortly after they make an appearance they get struck down by a summer cold? No, it can’t be that the rose defines the nation’s national characteristics. It must be something else, but to be honest I don’t know what it can be.
What I do know is that people either love them or hate them. Like horticultural Marmite, a garden is either full of them or devoid of them. Out of choice, my gardens tend to be a little light on roses unless a client has a passion for them. I just think that there are other plants which offer more for less effort – all that pruning and deadheading doesn’t tend to suit the busy lives of most of my clients.
However, I am looking for a rose for the gardens at our North Yorkshire studios. At the moment the gardens are very much in my head, but this year they will be emerging from my imagination and into the ground itself. Part of my vision for the garden is a climbing rose above the door. Colour wise I have narrowed it down to white or pink. I do like a red rose (I had them at my wedding all those years ago), but red is a bit ‘in your face’ for around a door. I have discarded peach or apricot – don’t care what you call them, I don’t like them – too wishy washy. And as for yellow, well, it’s a bit ‘me, me, me’ isn’t it? White is pure, classy and a good foil for other planting. Pink is soft and romantic. I just can’t decide which I prefer.
So white or pink it is… Oh, and it must be scented. I want to be able to open the windows and smell the scent drifting in. I want clients coming to the door and wondering where that heavenly scent is coming from.
It must repeat – I don’t want a couple of weeks of flowers and then back to thorns and leaves, which rules out the rambling roses. It must also be healthy and vigorous – I don’t want it sulking because its got a bit of greenfly, or struck down by blackspot the moment after it has put a little effort into flowering. Which means that it has either got to be a proven old variety or a modern rose.
I’ve narrowed it down to five. And in no particular order, here they are:
1) The Generous Gardener
A pale pink English Musk Rose. Highly scented with leaves that stay on until late winter, often in combination with orange hips if not dead headed.
2) St Swithun
A soft pink English Rose from David Austin with beautiful blooms packed with petals.
3) Madame Alfred Carriere
A white old Noisette climbing rose, with petals tinted with pink. Flowers which keeps on coming.
A white climbing Old Tea Rose best on a warm wall – will the south facing wall of our North Yorkshire studios be warm enough…?
5) Claire Austin
A relatively new introduction by David Austin, but it certainly is a looker. A modern English Rose with a strong myrrh fragrance, but will those flowers keep on coming all summer long?
What do you think? All advice and suggestions welcome before I take the plunge!
Nigel is an award winning garden designer with studios in London and North Yorkshire. As founder of Medlar & Cob he uses modern, intelligent design to create timeless British gardens rooted in tradition. Take a look at his blog here here - medlarandcob.com/m. You can follow Nigel on twitter @medlarandcob. Read more posts by Nigel.