Designing with roses

June is perhaps the peak time for roses, and the roses in my own garden are all in full flower now.

This unknown climber pre-dates my arrival. It has a light scent, and deep, velvety red blooms

Much as we love them, we tend to think of roses as being a bit old-fashioned. Too often in the past, roses were used in ways that were sterile and twee, with paths lined with lollipop standards, and hybrid tea rose bushes set out in isolation, often in a desert of bare soil, with heaps of farmyard manure around them.

Nowadays, the trend is for roses to be more of an integral part of the garden. Modern shrub roses, climbers and ramblers mix well with other garden plants, and can work with most garden styles, from the formal to the traditional cottage garden, and even the currently popular ‘prairie planting‘ (sometimes referred to as the ‘naturalistic’ or ‘new perennial’ style). There are roses to suit every style, and in most colours (except blue and black).

Rosa ‘Lady of the Lake’ – a repeat-flowering climber with open blooms, allowing pollinators access to their nectar.

When designing my own garden I chose roses from David Austin. His roses emulate the old, romantic roses, but like all growers, he bred for vigour, attractive foliage, disease resistance, and a long flowering period. Particularly important, he didn’t neglect scent, and most of his cultivars have good fragrance. When designing a garden, this is an important consideration, because scent adds another, very delightful element to a design.

Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ – repeat-flowering, and with a good, strong scent

Modern shrub roses work well in a mixed border, used in much the same way as you would use any other small to medium sized shrub. This is Rosa ‘Dame Judi Dench’ in a border and surrounded with perennials…

The garden is still in its infancy, and both rose and perennials will soon expand to fill the gaps.

In the further border, beyond the grass path, are two more shrub roses; ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ (as above) and ‘Tuscany Superb’; a rich claret, with yellow stamens…

These roses are sharing the border with shrubs including Philadelphus (Mock orange) and Corylus maxima ‘purpurea’ (purple hazel); perennials including verbascums, gaura, acanthus and asters; as well as shorter-lived plants like Ammi major and foxgloves. The border is fronted by young box plants that will grow together to form a low hedge.

Climbing Rosa ‘Constance Spry’ on a metal pergola by Harrod Horticultural

Roses are so familiar to us, we can easily take them for granted. But we shouldn’t overlook just how beautiful and useful they are in the garden, providing colour and scent, as well as lush foliage. There are roses for most situations, including shade, and many will flower from early June, right through the growing season. Climbers and ramblers will cover walls, fences, pergolas and arbours; or grow up into a tree. And shrub roses are perfect for the borders.

Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’
Rosa ‘Claire Austin’

Text & images © Strelitzia Garden Design 2022

By graham

Graham Wright is a fully qualified garden designer (Post Graduate Diploma) working mostly in the North Shropshire area. Prior to becoming a designer, Graham was for many years a gardener. His design ethos is to put the emphasis on plants and sustainability.

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