coming up roses

Several of our roses didn’t flower last year, despite growing like mad. We wondered if they didn’t have enough sun.

rambling rector rose, cottage garden blog

Rambling Rector didn’t bloom last year, but is smothered in sprays of flowers now

But they must have just been finding their feet (or roots) as they’re making up for it now. I’m beginning to wonder if some varieties, especially the ramblers, only flower on the previous year’s growth.

Alexandra rose, cottage garden blog

Alexandra opens in coppery pink then fades to a paler blush

We’re learning as we go with the roses. There seems to be a lot of strong opinion out there about things like how to prune, when to prune, whether to prune at all… The same goes for deadheading. And (gasp) whether to spray them.

Gardeners Delight rose, cottage garden blog

we’re hoping to train this Gardeners Delight up a tall tree stump in the centre of a border

So far we have been quite laissez faire  in our approach. We’ve given them a good start, preparing the soil with manure and fish blood & bone. But then we’ve stepped back and left them to it, apart from an occasional tying-in for the ramblers and climbers.

Jude the Obscure rose, cottage garden blog

Jude the Obscure – the best-smelling rose I’ve ever come across and absolutely gorgeous to boot

Some of them have a few unsightly leaves (I think it’s blackspot) and a couple of the blooms look a bit ropey where the buds were damaged by pests. I picked up a Rose Clear spray gun in the garden centre the other day. But it went straight back on the shelf when I read that it shouldn’t be used when bees are about.

I’ve heard that some otherwise organic gardeners make an exception when it comes to roses, but for now I’m sitting on the fence.

Bobby James rose, cottage garden blog

Bobby James has flung himself up this ancient Blakeney Red perry pear tree – 12ft so far, and still going strong

The first roses we bought were simple, single-flowered varieties, like Rambling Rector and Bobby James. I used to dislike the fancier  ones. But my tastes must be shifting as we now have several fuller-flowered ones in various girly shades. I love them all. And it turns out Steve is quite partial to a flouncy pink rose as well.

Harlow Carr rose, cottage garden blog

one of Steve’s choices: Harlow Carr

Cariad rose, cottage garden blog

another one of Steve’s: Cariad (Welsh for ‘love’)

It’s strange to think that we never grew roses before we lived here. Now we have them all over the place. Clambering up trees, climbing over arches, in borders, in pots and dotted here and there at the edge of the garden. Even the flouncy ones have a relaxed charm that feels right at home here.

Golden Showers rose, cottage garden blog

we’re hoping the Golden Showers either side of this arch will meet in the middle this summer

But their prettiness is only half the story. I’m sure there must be such a thing as a connoisseur of rose scent. The range is quite astonishing, from the fruity Jude the Obscure to the clove-like Rambling Rector and the musky Cariad.

cariad rose, gardening blog

Cariad looks like a waterlily from the side

We’re only just getting to know our roses. But since they live for around 35 years I’m sure they will all become old friends.

paul's scarlet rose, gardening blog

both of my grandmothers grew this rose: Paul’s Scarlet

What’s your favourite rose? And where do you sit on the spraying debate?