It is difficult to match the singular beauty and romanticism that a rose bloom can evoke. I am happy to say that this plant has been a reassuring companion throughout my career. I look back on those fledgling years during the early 80s when I was an apprentice gardener working for Sheffield Parks Dept. I received my first master class on pruning from an elderly gentleman called Stan. He gave me the gift of his 40 years experience and enthusiasm and he taught me how to appreciate the natural beauty and fragrance of roses.
Since then I have been hooked on roses and I always look forward to this time of year when you can expect roses to look their very best, if the weather is kind!
This year is an excellent year for roses, I was out this morning looking at our Rose Revolution Borders here at Harlow Carr which are located just east of our main entrance. The rose blooms are looking particularly lovely at the moment and are covered in bees. I am pleased to see that they are free from aphids and black spot. Not a bad feat when you consider that we do not use any chemical pest & disease controls.
Instead we rely on a combination of good cultural techniques and nature. This practice involves carrying out traditional pruning techniques, planting roses with companion plantings, adding organic fertiliser and mulching with well rooted manure. Combine these techniques with modern biological predatory controls such as lacewings and ladybird larvae, and this appears to be a successful and enviromentally friendly approach to rose care.
I have also noted that our garden bird population do a fine job in early spring when they fly over our rose beds and pick up a quick aphid takeaway on their way to work!
There is also alot to be gained from clearing away the old rose leaf litter in autumn and again in early spring this helps to reduce potential problems with black spot.
If you take a stroll along the Rose Rev borders you will see some beautiful blooms and your nose won't be disappointed either, the fragrance of many of the varieties is mouth watering.
One of my favourites is Rosa Gertrude Jekyll, this is a superb rich pink highly fragrant variety which was bred by David Austin in 1986. In my opinion one of the finest in his collection, this rose will grow up to 4ft - 5ft in height and is covered in flower at the moment.
Look out for Rosa Harlow Carr another David Austin variety and a RHS bicentenary rose. This has a soft pink rose with a warm alluring fragrance. This rose has been under-planted with Allium christophii and the combination of both blooms is picture perfect.
Roses should never be grown alone, in my view they like companions, a friend to compliment them. With this in mind we have mixed our rose plantings with perennials to include Salvia sylvestris Mainacht, Stipa tenuissima, Eremurus robustus to name a few. Later on in the season plantings of Aster x frikartii, Verbena bonariensis and Miscanthus contiunue this colour theme into late autumn.
If you continue up the main path you will see fine examples of Rosa complicata a superb single pink rose bloom up to 4 inches across. Apricot/orange Rosa Crown Princess Margareta, Rosa Falstaff with its rich dark crimson blooms and another one of my favorite varieties Rose Wildeve which in my eyes has got a translucent beauty about it with pink apricot blush flowers and a delicate fragrance.
Venture over to our main borders and you will see some fine examples of roses growing with herbaceous perennials and grasses. But if you look beyond the borders to the right in the direction of the Woodland you will spot growing in a large oak tree a fine example of Rosa Brenda Colvin. This rose up until this week had been a mystery to our garden team. Fortunately we had a visit from Michael Marriott a rose expert from David Austin roses, he kindly identified the variety for us.
I hope you enjoy our display, let me know your favourites, and remember roses are the flowers of love, so why not spoil a loved one with a visit to Harlow Carr.