Social climbing English roses

epitome of summer: Kathleen Harr and below, A Shropshire Lad Climbing.
epitome of summer: Kathleen Harr and below, A Shropshire Lad Climbing.

ROSES sum up British summer gardens to most people – it’s that whole romantic perfumed blooms around a cottage doorway idea.

I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with them.

Anyone growing up in the 70s will be familiar with the scentless, hybrid tea rose, randomly dotted around the edge of a lawn, summed up by the weak Blue Moon. (It wasn’t blue, roses shouldn’t be and just because you can breed them, it doesn’t mean you should!)

They weren’t part of a cohesive border, with just bare soil underneath them.

I recently persuaded my mam to have her roses given a decent burial after 40-odd years’ service in the front garden (for top blooms, you should replace them after 10-12 years).

They were riddled with blackspot, dead growth and rarely flowered.

I do have roses, even a couple of hybrid teas. Last year I bought National Trust, with big crimson blooms, at the Alnwick Garden and a scented yellow climber’s been a resident for years.

There’s a red floribunda of unknown origin that’s gorgeous next to a cotoneaster in the front garden.

But my heart is with “old roses”.

There’s the newly-planted Rosa glauca (grown for its foliage and hips as much for its flowers). I’ve a cream rambler, with peach buds, growing through an apple tree, beautiful, but it only flowers once a season, and falls victim to downy mildew very easily.

Last year, I bought four floribunda Harlequin climbers in a sale (they’re supposed to change colour from red in bud, to orange then fade to pale yellow). They’re tacky but fun in a hot colour scheme. However, the first one to flower seems to be just cream!

At Chelsea, the David Austin and Peter Beales stands were exceptional.

They both have massive selections of plants that have the beauty, vigour and perfume of old roses, but the benefit of repeat flowering throughout summer, like hybrid teas.

As this is the time roses start to bloom, plan what you’d like for next year. You can put container-grown plants in throughout the year, although the tradional time is winter for the bare-rooted, dormant sort.

I’d be inclined to wait until autumn, even if the rose is in a pot. If you go on holiday or forget to water, it will really suffer.