Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Coming up roses

The construction of my little tribute to Christopher Lloyd continues... I got my roses in the post today from Peter Beales, all very exciting as I ordered them at the Chelsea Flower Show. Gardeners are patient folk - can you imagine anything else where you pay for something for delivery five months later...

Anyway - I whipped out this afternoon to get them in the ground as soon as possible. The "conventional" one is Rosa "Perle d'Or" - lovely old-fashioned scented shrub rose. Then I've indulged my passion for species roses, in my opinion criminally under-used. These are fantastic roses, super-reliable and tough, and without the "blowsiness" of the cultivated types. I know most people want romance with their roses, but they're fantastic plants in their own right if they're allowed to show what they can do. Just look at a Rosa canina (dog rose) scrambling through a dense hedgerow and putting out its shell-pink blossoms - or Rosa alba, also known as the White Rose of York, which has to be the toughest rose I know. It grows happily in shade and on poor soils, making it a really valuable rose for people who can't usually grow them.

My two species roses are Rosa setipoda - mainly for its long, wierd hips in autumn - and Rosa pimpinellifolia, an ancient low-growing variety with black hips. The hips are actually one of the best things about species roses - they haven't had them bred out of them so they keep them well into autumn. It rather puts the lie to the idea that roses have a short season.

The only disadvantage is that they're all, without exception as far as I can tell, extremely prickly! Rosa pimpinellifolia's other name is Rosa spinosissima, which says it all really. I'd better invest in some heavy-duty protective clothing when pruning time comes around...

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