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Enrich your garden with roses

These cherished blooms are an essential addition to every garden. Plant ravishing roses, says Debi Holland.

Pink roses

Roses are the quintessential English garden flower. 

Roses epitomise the traditional image of a country garden embodying the whimsical dream of days gone by where head gardeners methodically tend to the gardens of sprawling estates. From Vita Sackville West’s Sissinghurst to Mottisfont and RHS Rosemoor, the humble rose has captivated people for centuries; even Henry VII’s Tudor Rose became the symbol of unification and peace and emerged as the national flower of England. To this day these cherished blooms attract global attention and rightly so. 

Although roses can sometimes be deemed more labour intensive than other plants, they repay any input required by showering gardens with months of colour and often scent too. Plus many modern varieties have been bred for health, vigour, scent and abundance of flowers. Pollinators will also thank you; single and semi-double flowers are particularly beneficial to your garden’s wildlife, their pollen-rich flowers attract bees and many other pollinators.

These beautiful plants are tough and able to cope with a diverse range of growing conditions, but their main criteria for success is sunshine, they love bathing in light, although there are also some varieties that can thrive in shade. Keep them well-fed, watered and topped up with organic matter and they will reward you with an abundance of blooms.

Wall of rambling rosa "Rambling Rector'
Roses can be vigorous climbers. Rosa ‘Rambling Rector’. Image: Debi Holland

Roses can be vigorous climbers, ramblers, prolific flowering hybrid tea and floribunda, large grandiflora or shrub roses, good ground cover, miniature and modern to name a few. From the heady scent of ‘Munstead Wood’ to the striking dual hues of ‘Ferdinand Pichard’, to the copious sunshine blooms of ‘Graham Thomas’ and aptly named ‘The Generous Gardener’; there is a rose to suit almost every garden colour scheme and location.

What rose will you choose?


The first thing that springs to mind when we talk about roses is often their scent. From a youth spent submerging rose petals in water to make perfume the aroma always casts me back to past times. Inhale the heady scent of ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, ‘Gabriel Oak’ and ‘Harlow Carr’ or the deep romantic delights of damask roses. Rose fragrance is exquisitely complex and has kept rose lovers captivated for centuries.

This season, Richard Jackson Garden is offering Rose ‘Aloha’ that produces exquisite dual-coloured coral and pink petals which exude a fruity aroma, or immerse yourself in the strong scent of romantic climber ‘Rose de Tolbiac’ whose blowsy, slow-growing double pastel blooms will fill walls or obelisks or relish the upright shrub rose ‘Sophia’ whose honey-sweet fragrance from golden petals shine like a sun rays all summer long.


Many roses are self-supporting but others need a helping hand; their large sprawling nature can be trained and coaxed to cover arches, pergolas and obelisks to create a stunning garden feature. Walk through a corridor of roses underplanted with herbaceous perennials or use an arch as a gateway to a secret garden.

Try Richard Jackson Garden’s Rose ‘Vanilla’, this lightly fragrant climbing rose boasts large creamy-white blooms that flower from June to November; an elegant climber which will add traditional charm to any garden. Or plant showstopper ‘Grand Award™’; this compact climber is ideal for pergolas or as wall cover. It also has the added bonus of having excellent disease and wet weather resistance. 

Utilise all available garden space by growing vertically; it is a great way to pack even more plants into your garden and enjoy a summer of climbers dripping with floral fantasies.

Complementary planting

Traditionally roses used to be grown in dedicated rose gardens, these spaces would be devoid of other plants so the eye could focus solely on the luxurious roses before them and highlight blooms in all their splendour but these days not many of us have enough space to have a separate rose garden, there are simply too many beautiful plants we want to squeeze into our gardens, but the good news is that roses make fabulous companions to many other plants so you do not have to pare down your choices, you can have it all!

Fill your borders with a succession of spring bulbs from narcissus to tulips to alliums to provide months of fantastic floral interest before roses develop their leaves.

For summer blooms underplant with Nepeta racemosa ‘Purrsian Blue’ which has attained the RHS Award of Garden Merit, award winning Salvia ‘Merleau Rose’ or lavender and penstemon to infill lower stems with silver-tinted foliage and sprays of aromatic pollinator-friendly purple flowers, or choose clump-forming hardy geraniums (Cranesbill) like‘Dreamland’, this low maintenance weed-beating ground cover performs best in full sun but can also grow in part shade and flowers for months. Partner roses with contrasting coloured flowers to really make your roses pop.

Rose lined border mixed with other plants
Roses make fabulous companions to many other plants. Image: Debi Holland

Wildlife hedges

Wild or species roses make fabulous floral hedging as do many large shrub roses. Ideal for attracting wildlife from foraging insects to mammals and birds, hedging provides nesting sites and habitat as well as a safe space for moths and butterflies to lay their eggs. Hedging is also used as shelter or corridors for mammals like mice and hedgehogs to move between gardens and is an integral part of the food chain providing pollen for pollinators.

Not only are rose hedges good for wildlife they act as natural security barriers for properties; no one is going to want to venture through those thorns! 

There are a multitude of large shrub roses which can be planted as a single colour theme or interplant varieties to paint a kaleidoscope of hues. ‘Hyde Hall’ and ‘Queen Elizabeth’ are pretty in pink, explore the dark side with crimson-red ‘Thomas à Becket’ or lighten up with creamy ‘Lichfield Angel’ or pale yellow ‘Vanessa Bell’.

Dog rose, (Rosa canina), is a thorny British native which weaves through surrounding shrubs to form a dense hedge covered in pretty pink and white single open flowers with exposed stamens, leaving easy access for pollinators or opt for the deep magenta hues of Japanese rose, (Rosa rugosa) ‘Hansa’ both forming attractive autumn rose hips.

Rose hedge
Rose hedge. Image: Debi Holland


Even petite patios, terraces and balconies can enjoy the exquisite charms of roses by choosing potted miniature, dwarf or patio roses. Potted roses will require a little more attention to keep them well-fed and watered but the effort is well-placed to be rewarded with these long-flowering perennial plants.

Try the intensely sweet fragrance of ‘Rose Claus Dalby’ whose repeat-flowering, cup-shaped, creamy white blooms cover this elegant shrub rose providing beautiful cut flowers through to autumn. Or try the salmon pink blooms of ‘Flower Power’, the apricot pink semi-double ‘Conservation’ or ‘Lavender Jewel’.

Roses also hold great personal meaning; their longevity lends themselves to special occasions from birthdays to anniversaries or perhaps you just want to celebrate a special person in the name of a rose. Enjoy the glorious rose season and ponder have I got room for one more?


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