Everything’s coming up roses!

Can a garden ever be complete without roses? Perhaps so – but not mine.

As I dead-headed this year’s bumper June display, I tried to do a head-count, but lost count. There must have been hundreds, and ten times as many waiting, as buds, in the wings. Yet I have only nine rose bushes, one of which – Violacea – won’t, in the course of a year, bear more than six or seven big, blowsy, faded mauve blooms.

Queen Elizabeth was here when I moved in, and is, officially, a cluster-flowered bush rose – although I prefer to think of her as producing bouquets, in a delicately scented delicate pink; and she thinks she’s a tree. I don’t argue: she’s taller than me!

Also here was the gloriously scented, deep pink, Bourbon climber, Zéphirine Drouhin. She is far too polite to bear thorns. Not so the name-long-forgotten, hot pink climber I planted to fan across a bare patch of fence. She prefers to look over the fence, so my next-door neighbour enjoys her hot pink bouquets as much as I do. David Austin’s delightful, softer pink Scepter’d Isle is much shorter, but blooms longer and later than any other in my garden.

On the patio, three tall planters overflow with cascading miniature The Fairy. Each produces countless, dainty little clusters of pink flowers, so I often snip off a few to tuck into napkin rings for dinner guests, or tie into a gift-wrapping ribbon.

Nothing but pink, you must by now think – but no, my all-time-favourite rose, highly scented Ingrid Bergman is a deliciously deep crimson. When her buds first burst, their centres are almost black, but as the fully double blooms unfold, their colour grows more vibrant. And her fragrance is that of a dizzyingly rich old cologne.

Do I have a formula for rose-growing success? No, I don’t. I’m not brutal enough with my pruning, and I frequently forget how hungry these plants are, so they don’t always get their share of fertilizer. Yet they bloom and bloom and bloom, more abundantly every year. I put it all down to a real gardener’s tip which I read five or so years ago, and have followed ever since – because the effect was almost immediate. From the moment the first new growth appears, until every last flower has fallen, spray them against pests and diseases every fortnight. Do try this – it works wonders.

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs www.perfectlyworded.co.uk, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and www.HotelsThatWereNot.com, a website showcasing properties with a past.
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