We speak to Ian le Gros, curator at the RHS Garden Hyde Hall, who shares his tips on how you can create a rose garden from scratch.
Assess your growing conditions
Ian’s first top tip is to find out a few things about the conditions you’ll be growing the roses in; how much sun does your garden get? Which way do your walls or supports face if you’re thinking of growing climbers? How much space do you have?
Choosing the right rose
The range of rose cultivars available is huge and can make planting a new rose garden something of a daunting task so figuring out the conditions you will be growing roses in and narrowing down your options to just the cultivars that will flourish in your garden will save you from being overwhelmed.
RHS Plant Finder is a handy tool to help with this and Ian admits that the RHS’s own gardeners sometimes turn to it to confirm their ideas.
Preparing the soil
While you’re finding out about your garden conditions, you may as well get stuck in and start preparing the ground. Ian and his team will be doing the same this autumn.
Mark out the area you want to transform and dig it over before adding in some well-rotten manure or garden compost to enrich the soil. Then comes the best bit; choosing your roses.
Ian recommends Rosa ‘Golden Celebration’, a rich golden-yellow full-petalled cup Rosa ‘helenae’, a creamy white coloured tree climber and the classic Rosa ‘Climbing Iceberg’ with pure white flowers and a vigorous scrambling habit.
Be careful to pick out healthy roses if you’re buying them in person, or order from a well-respected grower if not. Like Hyde Hall, you will want your new garden to stay looking beautiful for years to come and it is well worth putting in a little bit of extra effort and expense now if it means avoiding problems down the line. Buying what might seem like a tempting bargain could come back to bite you later on if you accidentally get sickly roses that fail to flourish.
How to plant
Once you’ve got them safely home, tease out the roots of your new rose plants and place each one in the centre of a hole, dug to roughly twice the width of the plant’s roots and the depth of a spade’s blade. Cover gently over with soil, tie in any climbers, water well and you’re on your way to the garden of your dreams.
Ian will be shaking up the traditional look of a rose garden at Hyde Hall and planting perennials in and amongst his roses. If you’re doing the same, remember to space them out sparingly. It seems like such an obvious thing to forget but plants grow and will expand out to fill spaces, particularly if you’re planting something like geraniums or lavender which will spread along the ground.
Mix up the heights
Choose your perennials with an eye to height as you’ll want something to balance out the roses, particularly if they’re climbers. You don’t want to end up with three or four rose bushes stranded in the middle of a sea of ground level plants and should aim for a mixture of heights. One or two small trees or large shrubs towards the back of the bed will give structure and draw focus and small to medium height perennials like pinks, aromatic herbs and peonies will help conceal the leggy rose stems.
Words by Stephanie Shepherd
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