Roses were first introduced to Europe from China in the late eighteenth century but fossil evidence shows that they have been in existence for millions of years. They are known as a symbol of love, make excellent cut flowers, are used as an essential ingredient in the perfume industry, or as rose petal confetti. But for the gardener, roses offer a variety of planting solutions in the domestic Irish garden.
There are approximately 150 species of roses with thousands of cultivars. They are deciduous or semi-evergreen and are, for the most part, fully hardy in Irish gardens. Some believe growing roses to be complicated but this is really not the case. Each type of rose has some specific requirements but in general they all require plenty of sun and good fertile soil. They are usually pruned in late winter, between February and March. In all cases, the first pruning step is the removal of any dead or damaged wood before shortening and shaping the plant. Roses like to be fed regularly throughout the flowering season.
Shrub Roses are for the most part English Roses made popular by the renowned breeder, David Austin. They are grown for their wonderful fragrant flowers and they can grow upwards from 5ft. Popular examples of the shrub roses are ‘L D Braithwaite’ which has stunning ruby red flowers and ‘Abraham Darby’ which carries an abundance of delicately coloured apricot pink flowers.
Bush Roses fall in into two categories: Hybrid Tea and Floribunda. Hybrid Tea have an upright habit and can grow from 3 to 6ft. They have a single flower on each stem. ‘Prima Ballerina’ is one of the most popular Hybrid Teas on the market and bears very fragrant pink flowers throughout the summer. Another popular example of the Hybrid Tea rose is ‘Nostalgia’ with beautiful fragrant cream flowers edged in deep red.
Floribundas are smaller than the Hybrid Teas and bear clusters of flowers on each stem. They come in a variety of colours from the red ‘Trumpeter’ to yellow ‘Korresia’ to pink ‘Fragrant Cloud’ to purple ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and a wonderful yellow, fully edged in red, ‘Irish Eyes‘.
People often ask the difference between climbing and rambling roses. A climbing rose has a very stiff upright growth habit and will repeat flower throughout the summer, while Ramblers are less stiff in their habit but will have only one flowering period in a season. The most popular of the ramblers must be the strongly fragranced, creamy white flowered ‘Rambling Rector’ and the award winning ‘Graham Thomas’ golden yellow climbing rose is a world-wide favourite.
Carpet roses are an excellent ground cover plant as they are low growing with a strong spreading habit and bloom continuously throughout the summer. They are available in a variety of colours; red, pink, amber, gold and white.
Patio or miniature roses are the smallest of the varieties as their name suggests. They are a small compact bush rose and grow to approximately 15 to 30 inches. They are available in a wide range of colours and tones and will brighten up even the smallest of outdoor spaces.
There is a rose for every garden, large or small and with little effort a fragrant, colourful addition to bed, border or patio container is within each and every gardener’s reach.