Hip-bearing roses should not be pruned until January, or until the hips have naturally withered. Whether climbers, ramblers or bushes, however, all should be trained using the same principle – a technique of pulling the long, supple wands of growth down in an arc and anchoring them in position. The reason for bending the shoots horizontally is to prevent the sap from simply rising to the top of each stem; instead, flowers will be encouraged to break out from every joint. The basic principles of removing dead, diseased, weak and crossing growth apply, and all of the remaining shoots should be shortened by about a third. A proportion of the older wood should be removed completely to encourage strong growth shoots from the base. The aim is to form a framework with a balance between flowering wood and growth wood. The harder you prune and the less you bend, the more extension growth you’ll get. Shoots bent horizontally will be studded with flowers, followed by hips, along their entire length. To make the most of the hips, stop deadheading by mid-August to allow sufficient time for the flowers that follow to set fruits.
I am increasingly comfortable with the idea of allowing each garden space to have a single glorious moment, whether in flower, form or fruit. This rise and fall provides a natural rhythm in tune with the season and with the land.
The success of this philosophy relies on lavish planting and a focus on the given moment. Although the display at Sissinghurst depends chiefly on the rose flower, I eke out the season of interest by selecting roses for the brilliance of their hips as well as the beauty of their flowers. The period of splendour is so much longer in hip than in flower.
Planted on the fringe of woodland or at the back of a wide border where they are allowed to grow tall and floppy, the pretty, delicate foliage of the roses mixes well with other shrubs, and their hips add colour at a time when many plants are looking dull. Roses also make good hosts: some clematis species, such as Clematis macropetala and Clematis alpina, can be planted to grace their gaunt stems early in the season before the roses have broken leaf.
To my mind, the best way to grow roses is to encourage long trails of blossom, and later, chains of hips, to cascade downwards from a higher place. Trees such as ancient apples, pencil cypresses or pines are good companions for roses, whereas those with large leaves, such as Magnolia or Catalpa, might be less suitable. Try tying the roses in to a suitable tree at about 2-3m, and then allow the shoots to grow outwards and downwards. Plant 60cm from the trunk to allow for root growth, and support the new rose canes during the first couple of years.
Garden designer Gertrude Jekyll grew Rosa ‘The Garland’ foaming over shrubs, and rose expert Graham Stuart Thomas suggested growing roses on a wall, allowing the growth to fall forward, covering the plant with a sheet of bloom and later hips. The options are endless.