It’s all coming up roses

Outdoor Living

Rosa Variegaata Bologna is a beautiful scented old Italian rose but prone to black spots.

This month sees the timeless rose take centre stage in our gardens

In the garden
Eriko Uehara Hopkinson

June is without a doubt the most treasured month in the gardener’s world, boasting an abundant display of peonies, wisterias, rhododendrons, azaleas and lupins, to name a few. Picture stepping out into a garden with all those scents – heaven!
June is primarily, however, the month for roses.
I can’t forget about the time I visited the rose garden at Regent’s Park in London, some 35 years ago. The scent from the overwhelming number of roses was indescribable (in a good way!). Since then, I’ve dreamed about creating my own rose garden someday.
I am no rose expert, but after years of reading books about roses and visiting countless gardens in Ireland and Europe, I started to collect roses in my garden. My favourite bedtime reading was rose catalogues!  
So, this month, I would like to share my love of roses here.
I love roses for their scent, but I also value beautiful foliage. I plant my roses amongst other plants, like geraniums, irises or lupins, to avoid mono culture (and repeating drama) in the garden.
The first roses I planted in my garden were old shrub roses, ‘Rosa Mundi’ and ‘Charles de Mills’. They are both beautiful Gallica roses (one of the first species of rose to be cultivated in central Europe) and very healthy. I never experienced black spots on them, and their matte green leaves remain as a lovely background after the flowers have finished.
‘Rosa Mundi’ is said to have been named for Fair Rosamund, the murdered mistress of Henry II, and has loose semi-double flowers with raspberry pink ripples, which bees love. ‘Charles de Mills’ bears full double magenta flowers. Though they only flower once, both varieties are extremely healthy, tough, and abundant in flowers with an intense fragrance.
Climbers and ramblers provide the opportunity to add a vertical element to your garden, adding a sense of romanticism and diffusing intoxicating scents from above.
‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ is a popular climber, with tiny delicate pink blossoms that create an airy effect. In my previous garden (Orchard Cottage) I planted one by an elder tree. Both plants flowered simultaneously, and it made a lovely combination. We also had the famous ‘Kiftsgate’ – it climbed up two hawthorn trees and when the large flowers covered the trees, it was spectacular, like a waterfall of blossom. But it’s a shamelessly vigorous rose; unless you have strong supports or a large garden, it will be hard to manage.
On the other hand, ‘Ghislaine de Féligonde’, the pale apricot rambler I fell in love with at Drimborne House Garden last year, is a repeat flowering, almost thornless, healthy rose.
Another solid favourite is David Austin’s ‘James Galway’ – it’s healthy and produces many flowers in one season.
For a long time, I may have been a rose snob, in that I only loved native roses, old fashioned cottage roses and English roses. I avoided non-scented modern tea roses and carpet roses. But now I see their uses, and some new cultivars like the ‘Your Eyes’ series are really good performers, so I have become more open minded.
Also, David Austin’s repeat flowering English roses are all attractive and hard to resist!
My recent favourite is a new cultivar, ‘Emily Brontë’. Its flowers are soft pink with small central petals of pale apricot – an exquisite rose. ‘Olivia Rose’ and ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ are both reliable.
Roses can be useful as a wind break. ‘Rosa Rugosa’ grows wild on the shore of northern Japan. It’s cultiver ‘Rosalie d’Hay’ and ‘Hansa’ have semi double flowers and are extremely fragrant. So, plant them near your washing line and you won’t need a scented fabric freshener!
I don’t have space here to talk about native roses, Chinese roses and other wonders, but if you are interested in having a bee-friendly garden, choose single flowered roses, such as ‘Kew Garden’ or ‘Rosa Moyesii’.
Since I try not to use the chemicals on my flowers, all of the roses I’ve mentioned here are very healthy and disease resistant. However, early pest detection is very important, so I’d recommend going out to smell and talk to your roses every day, with the secondary objective of checking for greenfly!
And don’t forget, roses love fluffy soil around the base of stems and air circulation.

Eriko Uehara Hopkinson is a member of the Clew Bay Garden Trail, a chain of beautiful and unique private gardens that open to the public during summer to raise funds for charity (see for more). Each month an article by a trail member will appear in these pages.

Clew Bay Garden Trail
Our annual Clew Bay Garden Trail season has started. We would love to share our garden with you, so please pencil in the schedules.
Saturday and Sunday, June 25 and 26: Drimbawn Garden, Hammerbeam
Saturday and Sunday, July 2 and 3: Hammerbeam
Saturday and Sunday, July 9 and 10: The Clog Factory
Sunday, July 31: Haven
Sunday, August 7: The Water Garden
Saturday, September 3: Coill an Chúir

For the full programme and descriptions of each garden, visit or find the Clew Bay Garden Trail on Facebook.