Kate Hardy

Make the most of English roses

Kate Hardy
'Olivia Rose Austin'

'Olivia Rose Austin'

Karen Murphy advises on how to nurture this most English of flowers

They are the epitome of the country garden, but roses have taken a bit of a beating lately. Not literally, of course, but stories of them getting diseased too easily, and tales of great gardener Christopher Lloyd ripping them all out of his garden, calling them ‘miserable, thorny blobs’, have dented their popularity. These days, billowing perennials seem to be the order of the day, and usually perform much better. 

All roses are not created equal, however. It’s usually the old breeds that let people down, succumbing to mildew and blackspot. Paired with all the strategic pruning and feeding they need, it’s no wonder some gardeners have been getting fed up with them! 

And now a revolution is taking place, as rose breeders have concentrated on creating new varieties that are robust and disease resistant, and come in a heady array of lovely colours. Gardeners are sitting up and taking notice – long live the rose! 

If you’re thinking of reintroducing them to your garden, look for the label when you go to the garden centre, as it may have the year it was bred and notes on its likely vigour and health. Here are a few to consider, which are all just as stunning as the well-known roses from the past.

‘Joie de Vivre’ from 2011 is an award-winning salmon-pink, a ruffled and resilient floribunda. If you prefer straight pink, ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ from 2014 teems healthily with soft pink blooms and has a fruity fragrance. ‘Mary Berry’ from last year is creamy yellow, and grows brilliantly in most conditions. Dame Judi Dench also had a rose named after her at Chelsea, in glorious apricot, which has been noted to be very resistant to rain damage.

A good tip is to plant your roses among other plants instead of in a dedicated bed, which not only gives a nice modern, cottage look, and ups the interest factor, but also lessens the chance of rose disease spread, should it prevail in your garden. 

If you have problems with blackspot or mildew, remove all affected leaves and spray with RoseClear or Fungus Fighter early in the day when bees are less likely to be around. Deadhead blooms regularly, too, so they stay shipshape, and repeat-flowerers will continue to bloom.


3 essential... veg garden jobs

1 Weed around veg

Make sure you weed around onions and parsnips, or they will not swell as large.

2 Feed fruit

Feed fruit in containers with high-potassium feed such as tomato food and keep watering.

3 Neaten strawberries

Peg down new runners to create plants – or remove them if you have too many.

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