I love roses and I can’t remember a time when roses weren’t in my life. As a small child, I remember that Grandad had 6 standard rose trees standing to attention in circular beds cut into the lawn. I don’t remember much about the roses as the tree was much taller than me, but I remember my Grandad’s pride in those standards; the pruning, the deadheading and the protecting from disease.
We always had roses in our garden at home, old gnarly things that were perhaps 20 or 30 years old. They would be pruned each year and the next year there was another show of perfectly formed, musk scented roses. Sometimes, I was allowed to cuts a few blooms to make a bouquet for my teacher (i know, I know, but I was 10!)
Then I had my own garden and of course I planted roses. Climbers for the fence; there’s Galway Bay, a coral pink. Our cat, Wossy is buried down amongst it’s roots; every year the blooms are her come to life again. It is appropriate that it is the most spiny, spiky and vicious rose I’ve ever known! Then a yellow climber, name unknown but bought for £2 in Woolworths more than 15 years ago. Great colours but no scent. Then I became a little more discerning and determined to populate the garden with scented roses. Gertrude Jekyll, who I think is still deciding if she likes it there and Madame Alfred Carriere, who has settled in very nicely and is making a bid to camouflage the shed.
Back in 2011, another bit of land with the greenhouse became available. It is a small space, 6×12 but big enough to make a cutting garden for roses and peonies. Everything was chosen for colour, form and fragrance, mostly fragrance. This was another harvest, but this time for the vase.
The internet is a fantastic way to learn and source almost anything, but it doesn’t come with sniff’n’scratch, so I headed to the Rose marquee at the Hampton Court Flower Show and sniffed! David Austen roses have a fabulous scent, but are top heavy. I don’t have time to wire stems, I want to put them in a vase and go. Then I found the hybrid tea corner and life changed. I had always thought these roses were difficult, prone to disease and growers needed a black belt in pruning to succeed. But it seems, that has all changed. These have been bred to be hardy, robust and fragrant. After much sniffing and sneezing, I settled on Chandos Beauty, a lovely shape, rich scent and pale peach. Then Chris Beardshaw, pale pink with a spicy scent and finally Lady Mitchell, deep magenta, double bloom shaped like an old rose and delicious scent. I purchased these from Harkness Roses, and received 6 very healthy bare root roses that went into the prepared ground in November 2011.
Here’s a picture from last year of all three blooms, plus a red rose (no scent) from the flower seller at Clapham Junction station.
The pale pink is Chris Beardshaw, Chandos beauty is the peach and Lady Mitchell the dark magenta.
And here they are pruned and ready for action this year. The key trick with pruning is to cut away from the bud, this keeps the bud dry and helps prevent die back. The RHS has a very helpful section on rose pruning.