Outdoors: how to pick the perfect rose

Glorious scent and colour can be yours — even with poor soil in a north-facing garden.

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Smart gardeners browse the rose catalogues right now so they have the pick of the crop, sent bare-rooted, this winter.

Beware the perfumed trap, though, of being seduced by looks alone, or you could be landed with climbers that soar metres above their moorings, shrub roses that sulk in soil they dislike or great beauties that, for three heady days in June, give their all, then nothing at all.

London’s predominantly clay soil suits roses well, but if you have thin, sandy or otherwise poor soil, a rugosa rose is the one for you and, as a bonus, that attractive apple green foliage shrugs off blackspot. If you think rugosas are short on glamour, check out Roseraie de l’Hay when it’s in full bloom — the large, ruffled, velvety crimson flowers, richly perfumed, are nothing short of sensational.

North-facing or shady walls are tricky for roses, but some will be quite content, if flowering a little less prolifically.

Shell pink New Dawn is a good choice and Madame Alfred Carrière, the antique French beauty with full, frilly blush-white blooms, is an even better one in my view. On a white north-facing wall, vigorous Danse du Feu, aptly also known as Spectacular, will deliver a striking and long-flowering contrast of bright vermilion double flowers on glossy green leaves.

You don’t need to choose a twee miniature variety for a container, but you do need a compact, bushy show stopper that flowers through summer and ideally has a luscious fragrance that can be enjoyed at close quarters.

Many of the smaller David Austin English roses, such as rich pink Princess Alexandra of Kent, deep wine Darcey Bussell and butter yellow Charlotte tick all these boxes, making ideal choices.

Rose of the Year 2015 is For Your Eyes Only, a little heartbreaker at less than a metre high, with sunset-shaded flowers that are blotched crimson at the base. New primrose yellow Eye of the Tiger has a similar crimson centre and promises to be as tough as it is enchanting because, like For Your Eyes Only, it is bred from Rosa persica, the wild red-centred yellow rose that grows in the deserts of central Asia. Give these beauties your sunniest spot next summer.

Looking for a rose to fill an awkward corner or cover a tricky slope? Low-growing and low-maintenance, ground-cover roses will romp obligingly over a spare patch of ground, smothering it with small flowers for weeks on end. What they lack in perfume, they make up for in flower power.

If you need convincing, grow any of the aptly named Flower Carpet series, and just watch them go. For a large dollop of scarlet, plant Suffolk, the classic groundcover red rose with golden stamens that are followed by vermilion hips. The outstanding Grouse 2000, meanwhile, has the dainty charm — and the disease-resistant vigour — of a soft pink wild rose.

If you need a rose for an arch, choose one that will swarm but not swamp, and that will keep on throwing out flowers through summer.

Ramblers tend to have neither quality, but short and so-sweet Phyllis Bide is an exception, bearing masses of lemon and pale pink flower sprays for months.

Veilchenblau is less compact, but is perfect for a pergola, and few roses can compete with those extravagant trusses of unusual white-streaked lilac flowers that smell distinctly of oranges. Climbers have a stiffer growth and most, such as New Dawn and white Climbing Iceberg, will flower all through summer.

Summertime, unlike many climbers with bare stems at their base, produces sweet-scented lemon flowers from top to toe. If you want a compact climbing rose with real impact, Warm Welcome, which throws out masses of sizzling orange flowers for weeks on end, is the one to choose for a pillar as well as a pot — short, sassy and very versatile.


David Austin: 01902 376300

Peter Beales: 01953 454707

Harkness: 0845 331 3143

C&K Jones: 01829 740663

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