Grow roses for the fu­ture, not the past

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

Old-fash­ioned roses have posh pedi­grees, but don’t be snooty – mod­ern breed­ing has im­proved hy­brid teas and flori­bun­das for a health­ier fu­ture, says Val Bourne

There’s a lot of snob­bery in the gar­den­ing world, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to grow­ing roses. All too of­ten the so-called old-fash­ioned rose, with the fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory and the fancy name, is cho­sen for rea­sons of style rather than health, vigour and flower qual­ity. When the hu­mid months of July and Au­gust ar­rive, black spot ( Di­plo­car­pon rosae) strikes with vengeance and any leaves that re­main are stunted, spot­ted and yel­lowed. That’s when most gar­den­ers reach for the fungi­cide, in sheer des­per­a­tion. The very brave dig up their sickly in­cum­bent be­cause they can’t stand the sight of a dis­fig­ured rose lin­ger­ing on any longer.

The late Christo­pher Lloyd fa­mously went for the last op­tion and re­moved all the roses from his Great Dix­ter gar­den in 1997, la­belling the rose a “mis­er­able and unsatisfactory shrub of stick-like thorny blobs”. His geo­met­ric rose gar­den had been de­signed by Lu­tyens in 1912. Orig­i­nally 10 beds con­tained hy­brid Five healthy mod­ern roses with old-fash­ioned looks

A good name, for this is an up­right rose (above) with clus­ters of semi­dou­ble, cupped blooms in shades of yel­low and apri­cot. David Austin 2012. A pink flori­bunda with ruf­fled, heav­ily scented flow­ers that The swirl of salmon-pink petals, cupped in pink (be­low), give this an old­fash­ioned look. A cut-flower favourite. Rosen Tan­tau 2005. teas in shades of pink. They had been cho­sen by his mother Daisy and each bed con­tained one va­ri­ety. They in­cluded the shell-pink ‘La Tosca’ (1901), the pale pink ‘Earl of War­wick’ (1904) and the sil­ver-pink ‘Vis­count­ess Folke­stone’ (1886).

He re­placed them with fiery can­nas and dahlias, en­er­getic and vi­brant plants more suited to Lloyd’s ir­rev­er­ent tem­per­a­ment. This caused shock waves in the hor­ti­cul­tural world and was con­sid­ered at best an act of van­dal­ism, at worst sacri­lege.

How­ever, Lloyd’s bat­tle be­gan long be­fore he fi­nally reached for the spade. Writ­ing in The Wel­lTem­pered Gar­den, pub­lished in 1970, he summed up his plight. “If we can’t grow de­cent roses with­out spray­ing them a dozen or more times through the grow­ing sea­son, then the an­swer is surely to grow some­thing else.” Lloyd was not a fan of sprays and in those days DDT (dichlorodiphenyl­trichloroethane) and lin­dane-based BHC were still part of the gar­dener’s chem­i­cal ar­moury.

Lloyd was wor­ried about earth­worms and breed­ing birds – and quite rightly. With all this in mind he ad­vised his readers “not to com­mit

your­self to beds of roses” but to “plant them with other shrubs and plants.” Few gar­den­ers as­pire to plant­ing ded­i­cated rose beds now. These days we pre­fer to in­ter­plant with tulips, as­tran­tias, vi­o­las, well-be­haved hardy gera­ni­ums, cos­mos, pen­ste­mons and ver­bas­cums. Not only do these pro­vide colour from April un­til Oc­to­ber, they also sus­tain all-im­por­tant pol­li­na­tors which roses (usu­ally be­ing fully dou­ble flow­ers) can’t.

As­tran­tias and um­bel­lif­ers, both full of tiny flow­ers, are par­tic­u­larly good for hov­er­flies which will lay their oval, white eggs singly near aphid colonies. The preda­tory lar­vae will soon eat up aphid in­fes­ta­tions. Birds will also frisk your plants, to feed their fledglings, and la­dy­birds will visit – so don’t reach for in­sec­ti­cides or “green” al­ter­na­tives such as soft soap and gar­lic. Al­low na­ture to do the job for you. these plants per­form very dif­fer­ently. Mod­ern roses are bushy, clothed in good fo­liage and their flow­ers have be­come fuller and softer, too. So much so it’s of­ten hard to tell a flori­bunda from a hy­brid tea these days. Some have heav­ily quar­tered flow­ers (the “old-fash­ioned” look) and they come in a wider range of colours, in­clud­ing am­bers, tan­ger­ines and yel­lows, not just pink and white.

I stum­bled across the mod­ern flori­bun­das by ac­ci­dent some 11 years ago when I was given ‘Cham­pagne Mo­ment’, a flori­bunda named Rose of the Year in 2006. With an empty gar­den to fill, I was very glad to plant any­thing. I soon dis­cov­ered that ‘Cham­pagne Mo­ment’ was a stun­ner with warm-white, cham­pagne-tinted clus­ters of flower and shiny cop­per­t­inted fo­liage. I now have sev­eral in my rose and pe­ony beds and their fo­liage and height marry to­gether well. More im­por­tantly it’s al­ways look­ing glo­ri­ously healthy.

The Rose of the Year, which be­gan in 1982, is a two-year trial held in six dif­fer­ent Bri­tish lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Aberdeen, Hamp­shire, North­ern Ire­land, Cheshire and East Anglia. The win­ner must en­dure the dry sum­mers of East Anglia, the cold win­ters of Aberdeen, the heat of south­ern Bri­tain and damp con­di­tions in the more west­erly lo­ca­tions. One rose per year is cho­sen and crowned at the Hamp­ton Court Palace Flower Show each year.

‘Cham­pagne Mo­ment’ (Kor­van­aber) was bred by Kordes Roses, a Ger­man com­pany which made the brave

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