Few plants get close to roses for the weight of cultural symbolism they bring to our lives. The language of flowers as a means to communicate unspoken feelings is perfectly described by the red rose for passion and romance, the yellow rose for friendship and devotion or the white rose for purity and innocence.
Indeed, the rose is so deeply embedded in our culture that much like the garden lawn the rose unquestioningly occupies a place in the mind’s eye when painting a picture of the idyllic British garden. And rightly so, but if you do decide to plant a rose in your garden its impact can be diminished or increased depending on where you place it and which type you chose. The tiniest space or grandest estate can benefit from roses although understanding their context is probably the most important decision when buying your plants. It’s the same principal whether planting an oak tree, a shrub, some bulbs or roses, get the correct plant in the correct spot and it will simply look as if it’s always been there; easy on the eye with no fuss or hideous visual clashes. For instance, if you have a small garden you might like to consider putting your rose into a beautiful container thus making it a true feature plant rather than squeezing it into a bed and loosing it amongst competing shrubs, flowers, sheds, gates and paths. A small space can also be exploited by placing a tall object in it; it makes the space feel bigger because the eye is drawn upwards instead of to the boundary confines. A rose rambling up an obelisk can perform this duty admirably but don’t use half measures, if you’re planning to go skywards then go skywards, 7-8 feet at least. Equally, a larger space can be enhanced with roses used with thought rather than dotting them randomly around the borders. If you make a real feature of them either singly or as multiples they will give far more impact than when diluted with other garden plants or features.
A rose is available for most needs and garden situations whether it’s for growing up a north facing wall, making a hedge, climbing into trees, training up a pillar, ground cover, scent, stunning flowers or impressive winter hips. The best way for you to work out which rose would suit which spot is to spend some time visiting gardens open to the public. Taking notes and photographs really does help to concentrate the mind and save costly mistakes at the garden centre.
Roses grown in containers can be planted at any time of year but those bought either bare-rooted or dug up and put into a container can only be planted between autumn and spring. The RHS website is a great place to go for more rose information as well as links to specialist suppliers whose prices, choice and advice can be superior to garden centres.
If your interest in roses only goes as far as Valentine’s Day you might like to consider that UK roses don’t flower in February and that those with a cheap price tag will have incurred a hefty human or environmental cost elsewhere.
I like roses if they are used in the correct context, my favourite is ‘Iceberg’, its flowers start out a blush pink before turning pure white, it flowers all summer and into autumn and it works well planted in a group surrounding either an evergreen plant or a feature such as a statue, bird bath or obelisk.