The Quintessential English Rose

Roses are one of the most well known garden plants. These iconic beauties come in a range of colours, many with scented blooms, and can be grown in borders, containers, over arches, pergolas or as a ground cover. They are easy to grow and live for a long time, if looked after.

All images copyright to David Austin Roses

Roses are timeless, one reason that roses are never out of fashion is that they work brilliantly in many situations, including modern, cutting-edge schemes, cottage gardens, traditional gardens, wild gardens and seaside gardens. At the same time, they combine well with many other plants. There are so many different roses, there is probably one for any spot in the garden, from a patio rose in full sun to a climber on a north facing wall.

If you want great roses, you do need to tend them well in the first couple of years to get them established. Roses are easy to grow and are remarkably tolerant. To achieve good results, it is only necessary to get a few basic points right. I would recommend planting roses with a mycorrhizal fungi. This can be purchased in small packets from your local garden centre. Mycorrhizas are beneficial fungi growing in association with plant roots, and exist by taking sugars from plants “in exchange” for moisture and nutrients gathered from the soil by the fungi strands. The mycorrhizas greatly increase the absorptive area of a plant, acting as extensions to the root system. This improves root system results in greater vigour, higher resistance to drought and more abundant flowering.

In dry periods the roots of new plants will not yet be sufficiently entrenched to keep them in top form, so regular watering is required. Whilst roses do definitely benefit from being well fed, they can have too much of a good thing, and suffer from being over fed. An ideal fertiliser is Vitax Q4, which may be used alongside a slow-release nitrogen-based fertiliser to get good growth during establishment.

Rose varieties are divided into six main groups; hybrid tea, floribunda, shrub, climbing, rambling and groundcover. Hybrid tea roses have a large single bloom at the end of a long stem. These are the most popular roses sold as a cut flower e.g. Rose Peace. Floribundas are shorter bushes with smaller blooms in beautiful clusters e.g. Rose Iceberg. Shrub roses are known for their more sprawling habit, (growing from 5 to 15 feet), their hardiness and large clusters of blooms. Within this group are the English roses e.g. Rose Graham Thomas. Climbing roses are by nature, natural climbers that love to climb up nearly anything. Many require pruning to keep them in control e.g. Rose ‘Schoolgirl.’ Ramblers usually have numerous small to medium sized flowers in large bunches and are ideal for covering arches, pergolas and growing into trees e.g. Rose ‘Wedding day’. Groundcover roses are a variable group that spread wider than they are tall, usually with smaller, repeat flowering blooms. They are well named as they produce long spreading branches which grow along the ground e.g. Rose ‘Flower Carpet’ series.

Roses don’t need to be planted in an old-fashioned separate rose bed, in fact they work well planted amongst perennials, shrubs and bulbs. Provided they are well fed and have sufficient light they will be happy. English/Shrub roses have natural, shrubby growth which makes them ideal for both traditional rose borders and combining with other plants in mixed borders. Their habit can be bushy, upright or elegantly arching and their heights can vary from quite short to tall. When planted in small groups, they will grow together to form one dense shrub which will give a bigger impact.

Roses to suit any situation.

Roses for north-facing or shady walls:-

Albéric Barbier, Madame Alfred Carrière, A Shropshire Lad & Graham Thomas

Shrub roses for partial shade:-

Harlow Carr, Thomas à Becket, Penelope & Boscobel

Very vigorous climbing/rambling roses:-

Filipes ‘Kiftsgate’, Rambling Rector & Veilchenblau

Roses for sunny walls, pillars & arches:-

Compassion, New Dawn & Schoolgirl

Roses for groundcover:-

Magic Carpet & Flower Carpet series

 Roses with exceptional fragrance:-

Gertrude Jekyll, Golden Celebration & Lady Emma Hamilton

Modern roses for a mixed border:-

Arthur Bell, Fragrant Cloud, Chinatown & Peace