My city garden in East London is a true sanctuary, a peaceful place that offers rest and recovery from the pace of urban life. Roses are a key component to the classic English Garden style that I love, adding an element of romance and magic that I would not want to be without. They are a must have in cottage gardens too but roses have a place in more contemporary schemes as well, lending softness and beauty as a contrast to the clean lines of modern urban outside spaces. And most important of all, they give you that incredible, unbeatable fragrance. Close your eyes, draw in their scent and the hustle and bustle of the city disappears into the background.
If space is limited, use the verticals and train a rose to grow across a wall. Over the years I have added one or two every season and now there are roses covering all the fences that surround my garden. Neighbours are often very close by in small city gardens and roses are perfect for creating a secluded feeling. Sitting in my garden fully surrounded by roses, I am transported to a different place and it is hard to believe that busy London is right outside. There are varieties to suit most situations – I have James Galway growing on a north facing trellis fence and it is truly magnificent. Trained into a classic fan shape stretching four metres across, it is covered in blooms with densely packed deep pink petals in midsummer.
Roses are amazing for adding height to beds and borders too and this is just as important in small spaces. At home I have Gertrude Jekyll growing on a tripod made from rustic looking sticks I found in my local park.
It is very beautiful in flower but looks brilliant in winter too with the bare stems spiralling up the structure. Even if I had less space I would still try to create the same look and feel. On a balcony, a large container with a carefully chosen repeat flowering rose will bring beauty and joy for many months. I would choose a climber and let it wind its way up a structural obelisk, or plait it through the balcony railings to create an extravagant floral fence. And don’t forget your front garden - no matter how small, there is always room for a rose. I find it an act of great generosity when gardeners choose to put roses at the front of their houses for passers-by to enjoy and in summer, I always try to leave the house five minutes early whenever I am going somewhere just to have enough time to stop and smell the roses.
All rose lovers dream of having an abundance of different varieties – I have a wish list longer than my arm, but in reality a handful of them are enough to give you the sense and feeling of a rose garden. In fact, in a smaller setting with fewer plants, each one moves into the spotlight and you really see the individuals. And a single thriving rose plant is enough to let you take some flowers into your home. Every bloom is so very precious but if you cut just one or two to take inside, their scent will fill a room. A rose cut from your own city garden in a bud vase on the breakfast table – to me that is the ultimate luxury.
It has been half a century since David Austin introduced Shropshire Lass in 1968 and it remains an important Rose in our collection.
By following these simple steps, you will ensure your bare root climbing rose gets off to the best possible start.
By following these simple steps, you will ensure your potted shrub rose gets off to the best possible start.