Call me old-fashioned, but there is something about roses that ticks every garden box for me. Extrovert, intoxicating, diverse. In the front garden, I have grown a hedge of Wild Eric roses, which – even if I say so myself – is stunning. As people pass by, they almost always stop to admire them and their fragrance. Quite a few ask me for the roses’ name as they feel encouraged to try something similar. I smile to myself. They have no idea.
They may be the most beautiful flower in the garden but they are high maintenance, and I mean diva-style maintenance. The amount of work required is unbelievable. For starters, you have to select well. What is the job description? Do you want a climber for a pergola or a rambler to cover an unsightly shed? Is it for shade or full sun, back or the front of the border, single or repeat flowering, strong or mild fragrance? Obviously the colour and style will play a significant part as the new candidate will need to blend in with the overall planting scheme.
Selection done, now the real work begins. Placement is very important as intense competition from other roses and exposure to windy sites should be avoided. Each year, the soil will need to be replenished with nutrients and then mulched. The roses require constant feeding, watering and dead-heading. Reasonable adjustments or tweaks will be required when the roses under-perform due to pests or disease. For those high flying climbers and ramblers, training is essential to ensure they grow along the chosen path and don’t go rogue on you. Standard tree roses also need support and encouragement if they are to have a dramatic effect. Even when the blooms are spent and the autumn arrives, there’s work to be done with pruning and cutting out the dead wood, and selecting new candidates for the coming spring. And then the process starts again.
It’s uncanny, isn’t it? Growing roses is rather like cultivating a workplace culture that nurtures individuals to grow, blossom and showcase their individual talents and style. It takes time, careful selection, hard work, continuous investment, and is not without its thorny challenges. But when you get it right, it’s impressive. Very impressive.