Gardener’s Notes: Smell the roses

Two colours of rose PNL-140717-094900001
Two colours of rose PNL-140717-094900001

Traditionally British gardens look their best in June and July only because the nations favourite flower, the rose, is out and so many of our summer perennials, writes Jacky Richardson of Preston Bissett Nurseries.

But if you find yours doesn’t, it is easy to rectify with a few more choice plants.

Rose and Clematis PNL-140717-094849001

Rose and Clematis PNL-140717-094849001

I cannot let this month pass without sharing some of my wonderful flowers and up there in my favourites like everyone else are David Austin Roses.

It does seem to be a very good year for roses. There are some outstanding David Austin roses to choose from and we all have our preferred colour schemes and combinations of plants. I have a magnificent deep dark red Munstead Wood shrub rose planted with two superb soft pink Wisley 2008, pictured. The blooms are as large as china teacups and multi petaled with exquisite scent which David Austin describe as warm fruity tones combined with raspberries and tea, which escorts me up to my front door.

The first flush of deep red flower opened against a mass of tiny white phaeum cranesbill geranium flower heads, a very easy perennial to grow. The two rose colours burgundy and shell pink made a perfect partnership. You could emulate this or you may prefer other good colour combinations.

Yellow would combine with coppery orange or white with yellow, red would contrast with orange, shades of pink would be very harmonising. Shrub rose are fabulous to plant, just treat as large shrubs in your mixed borders.

Under the roses I usually plant nepeta. The lavender blue fronds waft and create a perfect hazy blue border edge of colour and help deter pests, so it’s an excellent companion plant.

My roses are established and now in their third year. They stand about 3ft wide and about 4ft tall and will sit comfortably that size. It’s a myth they require a huge amount of special attention. I give them a dollop of farmyard manure in the autumn and in the winter I tidy up the new growth so they are not an odd shape.

Rich blue cranesbill geranium Rozanne , a plant I have often praised, provides an excellent ground cover between plants. It can be quite large spreading a few feet along the edge of my path. Where this is too much I would use the similar but smaller Azure Rush. Behind these and amongst my roses and shrubs sit white verbascum spires, spikes of blue Salvia Caradonna, and a swath of shocking but brilliant rose pink Silene dioica, the tough red Campion plant that never lets me down. It’s a small flower but a bold colour that really draws your eye into the border and seems to flower forever.

Another secret perennial prima donna I like to enjoy at the back of my border as it is rather tall for a perennial though sturdier than most, is pretty Euphatorium. Its worth looking it up.

I also have a secret thug of a plant I use where it is dry and compact, where I may otherwise have had to plant a sedum – Lychnis coronaria. It doesn’t need much and it provides a bit of height at about two to three feet in those awkward spots at the back while giving me silver foliage and in this instance more bold rose pink flowers to highlight the bed.

Once shrubs and roses have established for a few years, do not allow yourself to sit back. This is when the fun really starts. I don’t believe any bush should have limited interest.

Where the addition of a second flowering would lift a big green bush or a perfect colour pairing would make your rose perfect, add type 3 clematis (usually those we can chop back in February to a low set of buds) and by that I usually recommend many of the great viticella varieties.

Through one of my very pale roses I made a charming pairing with a deep purple clematis, pictured. The roots are very happy in the shade and the flowers are happy in the sun. I have C Prince Charles happily growing through a Berberis Thunbergii. That will be a mauve clematis flower against the red leaf of the berberis, I have C Polish Spirit scrambling through a very dark yew and numerous others surprises that have long since lost their labels and evade my memory until they appear again! These particular clematis enjoy similar growing conditions to roses and can be pruned very low every spring so it will not become an invasive problem, also these smaller flowering clematis are not of the strain that can catch Clematis wilt.

I hope after reading this you will feel encouraged to include shrub roses in your borders and I hope I have tempted you to try slipping in a little clematis into your existing roses or shrub. I feel it’s always good to add an element of surprise and something a little extra wherever you can. It makes gardening exciting and a constant joy.