LOOKING AFTER ENGLISH ROSES
Gardening, 8th July
I often get asked for suggestions for a really small climbing rose for a tiny garden, preferably one which will grow well in a tub.
There are very few true climbers that fit the bill these days. Those I might have suggested at the start of my gardening career would be unsuitable today for many of the mini-gardens attached to modern homes, but luckily I discovered a way round this when visiting David Austin’s Rose Gardens at Albrighton a few years ago.
As many of you may know, David Austin specialises in breeding what have become known as English roses. These are varieties with the characteristics (flower form, scent and the like) of old fashioned shrub roses, but are repeat flowering and can be pruned like floribundas to keep them to size.
Many shrub roses, but in particular, English roses, lend themselves to being grown as restrained climbers. This only entails pruning less hard and providing them with a suitable support to train them onto, like a trellis or obelisk (not forgetting, of course, regular feeding and checking for disease). In fact, this idea does not have to be confined to shrub roses, as a lot of stronger growing hybrid teas and floribundas can be treated similarly to produce climbers which can each be confined to an area of around 2m˛ - much smaller than most true climbers.
In my own garden, I have put this into practice several times over the years, often almost by accident when favourite varieties have grown taller than expected. I have ‘Baby Bio’ (a leggy hybrid tea) trained horizontally on a trellis, ‘The Pilgrim’ in a tub on a wrought iron panel against the cottage wall, and ‘Graham Thomas’ twisted around an obelisk in a border. What you get is a climber that is easy to dead head because of its size, hardly ever out of flower from June onwards, and needs little regular pruning other than tipping back the shoots in winter. As one of the meerkats which seem to be popping up everywhere in my garden at the moment might say, “Simples, isn’t it?”
(David Austin Roses, Bowling Green Lane, Albrighton, Wolverhampton WV7 3HB Tel: 01902 376300)
This piece originally appeared in the Spalding Guardian