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Gardening in lockdown – early roses

However we feel pressurised by the pandemic at this time the garden reminds us that time moves on, nature continues as normal and the garden thus becomes a powerful presence in our daily lives and our ability to look to the future. Gardens give us some promise of good things to come.

Surely in early summers roses take central stage in many of our gardens. Here are a few of those adding colour and scent to our Avocet patch in early June. I grew up in a garden full of roses as my Dad was a keen gardener and roses were his first love. He grew them in a rose garden that took up the whole of our square front garden, up arches, against the house walls and over arbors with seats below. Our front garden was unlike the rose gardens of the fifties which would normally have a central rectangle of lawn with narrow straight edged borders around the perimeter. Roses were the only plant allowed. My Dad had no lawn just Cotswold stone paths winding their way beneath the roses and beneath the roses he grew lavenders, aquilegias and other delicate annuals and perennials.

We grow our roses in our mixed borders as shrubs or as climbers up posts, swags and obelisks. Here are some we are enjoying now. I wandered with my camera starting from the conservatory doors and followed pathways right the way around the garden front and back.

Rosa ‘Winchester Cathedral’                                     Rosa ‘Warm Welcome’

Rosa ‘Goldfinch’                                                  Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’

Rosa ‘Veichenblau’

Rosa mutabilis – variation in flower colour

Rosa ‘Bobby James’                                             Rosa ‘Wollerton Old Hall’


Rosa ‘Pauls’ Scarlet Climber’                             Rosa ‘Summer Wine’

Rosa ‘Summer Wine’ with Clematis romantika     Rosa ‘Red Velvet’

Rosa ‘Bengal Beauty’                                          Rosa ‘Raspberry Royale’

Rosa ‘Prince’s Trust’

Rosa ‘The Enchantress’

Rosa ‘Lady of Shallot’                                           Rosa glauca

Rosa ‘Jude the Obscure’                                      Rosa rugosa

Rosa ‘The Enchantress’ with Berberis ‘Helman’s Pillar’   Rosa ‘Geranium’

And there are so many more to come! Many of those still to come will be David Austin roses bred not far from us here in Shropshire, such as Rosa ‘Shropshire Lad’ a heavily flowering climber with a beautiful scent.

Just as I was ready to publish this latest lockdown post two more David Austin shrub roses came into bloom, R. ‘Fighting Temeraire’ (left) and R. ‘Lark Ascending’ (right).

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Christmas Rose

No, this is not going to be primarily about hellebore, sometimes known as Christmas Roses. They do not always flower at Christmas time, although in recent years the tendency to flower in December has increased here in our Shropshire garden.

I am talking here about the climbing version of Rosa Graham Thomas, a David Austin rose which we grow clambering over one of our garden sheds. We try to train some branches along the nearby fence but it likes to be on the shed roof best of all. It has been voted “The World’s Favourite Rose”. This seems particularly apt as Graham Thomas himself was one of the world’s favourite garden writers, having written 17 books in all. He was also an excellent artist working in both water colours and pencil, though he was best known perhaps for his role as the National Trust’s “head gardener”.

A second slow cold walk around the garden revealed that this year the hellebore are in fact performing in tune with their nick name, so perhaps I had better feature them too!

Here in winter its deep yellow blooms help to emphasise the depth of clear December skies. This rose manages to flourish all year, flowering almost every month of the year except straight after its annual pruning in spring. In winter it also displays large hips of orange and later red. Sadly it lacks the scent which pervades the garden in the humid warmer months. The David Austin catalogue describes this scent as typical “fresh tea rose fragrance” although “The under gardener”, otherwise known as my wife Jude, thinks it reminiscent of school dinners!

Several other roses have odd flowers on at the moment as a quick wander around with camera in hand illustrated. This sad rose bud didn’t quite make it to full bloom before being cut by the wind. The orange is the flower of a Calendula. They landed side by side on the bark surface of the new “Secret Garden”

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Scented Roses

A warm humid day brings out the best scent in the garden and roses are often considered the best blooms for sweet scents. But not all roses perform, with many hybrid teas completely without odour. When we began our garden in Plealey we wanted the best and most varied scented blooms so all our roses are New English varieties bred by David Austin. Luckily his nursery and trial grounds are not far away. The display gardens are amazing and give you the chance to fully experience the sight and scent of each variety. So chosing roses for our garden is so easy. We simply take a half hour drive, wander around the roses sniffing the blooms as we go and then make our final choice over a cup of tea served in cups decorated with paintings of roses of course.

We now enjoy here in our patch at Avocet “A Shropshire Lad”, “Falstaff”, “Teasing Georgia”, “Graham Thomas” and “Wenlock”. We grow them close to paths – close enough to enjoy their scents but not so close that we suffer from their thorns.

A Shropshire Lad