Saturday, 17 June 2017

How to choose roses for your garden - Use the sniff test

Close up of flower Rosa "Lady Emma Hamilton"If you want to add colour, scent, and a touch of glamour to your garden, then all you need to do is plant some roses. A traditional component of British gardens, there are now hundreds of varieties available with a wide range of colours and fragrance. The best time to buy one is right now, because the best way to buy roses is to go out and smell them!

I'm assuming, maybe wrongly, that you've already decided where you're going to grow your roses. They're versatile plants and will grow in various conditions, so you can choose to grow them in a mixed border, in pots, or a dedicated rose bed. 

The best way to choose roses for your garden

You can choose shrub roses to grow alongside other plants, or climbers and ramblers to cover arbours and pergolas, or against walls. The more sun you give them the more flowers you'll get, but they'll grow well even on shady walls so you can use them to fill slightly problematic areas of the garden.

Rosa "Sceptre D'Isle" in a small formal bed backed by laurel and surrounded by box

GREEN FINGERS TIP: If you are planting a new rose, try and avoid placing it in a spot where there were roses growing before. This will reduce the risk of pests and diseases affecting the new rose. If you really have to have it in the same place, then it's worth digging out the soil in that area to about 18 inches deep and replacing it with fresh rich compost to give the new rose a really good start. 
Roses look good, and some keep flowering all summer, but the main reason for growing them is surely the scent.

Many plant species have scents that resemble each other, but no other plant quite recreates the scent of roses. It is a distinctive smell that most people will instantly recognise and enjoy. 

Few roses are without a decent fragrance but some smell more than others and everyone will have their personal favourites so if you are choosing roses, the best way is to get out here and give them the sniff test.

Rosa "Wedding day" covering an arbour
Rosa "Wedding day" covering an arbour
Imagine getting your nose right into the middle of the flower of Rosa "Sceptre D'Isle" (right) and breathing in slowly and steadily. 

That is the best way to decide if it's the scent you want to enjoy every day in your own garden. 

You can decide beforehand whether to grow shrubs or climbers and even what colour rose you want, but for the smell, what better way to shop than to visit a garden, smell the roses, note the variety and then buy your own in the plant sales area, or head back to your local garden centre and seek it out.

Rosa "Scepter D'Isle" flower close up
Rosa "Scepter D'Isle"

I visited the fantastic Bodnant Garden a few years ago. There's a huge amount of wonderful garden to enjoy there but one of the highlights is the terraces filled with roses. 

Like many gardens open to the public, the varieties are labelled so you can identify any you like. Of course it's possible you may not be able to buy older or unusual varieties, but at somewhere like Bodnant there are plenty of alternatives. And it is possible. 

I loved Rosa "Lady Emma Hamilton" (top picture) when I smelt it at Bodnant, and it's a David Austin rose, which I later found in a garden centre and planted at home.

The Green Fingered Blogger amongst the roses at Bodnant
The Green Fingered Blogger amongst roses at Bodnant

Hestercombe in Somerset has a small rose garden next to the Great Plait, and Abbey House Gardens in Malmesbury has a beautiful box edged rose garden backed by tall yew hedges. At gardens like these wandering around at leisure in mid June, burying your nose in the blooms, is sheer heaven. 

Every garden should have at least one really good scented rose, and this is by far the best way of choosing one. So this weekend, get to a stately home with a rose garden near you, sniff out your favourite, and bring it home.
What's your favourite rose? Use the comments box below to tell me your personal favourite and where you sniffed it out.Please share this post with your friends and family by clicking on the relevant social media button below. Get them sniffing out their favourite roses too.

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