Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Roses

This I suppose is about the results of some of the compost making. I have always loved roses, but they do have to be the old-fashioned variety with a wonderful scent (below is Fantin Latour - a relatively late rose for us, this is from 1900). I was lucky enough to be brought up somewhere with a garden stuffed with old roses - they were there when we moved in, and as my parents were never, happily, of the slash and burn school of gardening, there they stayed. We all had a favourite rose, though we hadn't a clue what it was called, and when my parents finally sold the house and moved, we all took bits of this rose. Fortunately it is quite easy to propagate by digging it up and splitting it. I have now found out, thanks to the excellent Peter Beales, that the mysterious rose is Cuisse de Nymphe or Maiden's Blush. It has the most heavenly scent, and the whole family used to look forward to its blossoming. It isn't yet quite out here, but when it is I will put up a photo of it. This rose dates from 1400: as our house had its origins in a medieaval nunnery, I like to think that that rose, or its ancestors, had been in the garden for hundreds of years, looked forward to by all the people who lived there before us.

Alas our old original garden is no more: the new occupants were of the slash and burn school of gardening, and it's bleak and designed to within an inch of its life now. None of the beautiful, straggling untidy things were allowed to stay: all gone now in the name of neatness.

Still, as I am incredibly wet about getting rid of things in the garden, even if I don't like them, I have quite a bit of straggling untidiness in my own garden, and absolutely no design, though I must admit a bit of design would probably be a good thing! However, we have worked hard at shoehorning in roses wherever we can, and they are coming into their best now. To the left is Comte de Chambord, whose only fault is that he is rather reminiscent of an HT when coming out, but we forgive him that as the scent is sublime and the flowers magical once they're fully out. He is a Portland Rose from 1860.

The last rose is Félicité Parmentier, who is a little inclined to flop (which may be due to my duff pruning: I'm not sure) but again has a wonderful scent. She is from 1834.

I'm not hugely keen on most of the modern
shrub roses, though it is certainly about time rose breeders got back to producing something that smells like a rose, rather than those dreadful, stiff, unscented and over-bright efforts that still infest many gardens (and yes, my own - I still have a few HTs we inherited with the garden, that I can't quite bring myself to uproot). We went to Alnwick Castle gardens and found their rose garden, which was, when we visited, confined to modern shrub roses, rather one-dimensional; I longed for a wicked wild rose to sprout in the middle of it all.

Our favourite rose grower is Peter Beales, whose marvellous book Classic Roses is utter heaven: goodness how I love that book.

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