In recent years we have done a great deal of work with roses - building a rose arbour and planting a huge rose wall. This has led to us looking at how we can use roses in other areas of the Gardens, primarily by mixing them into other mainly informal displays. Over the years we have found that the more common Tea roses are both hard to grow and use. This is due to the climate at Aberglasney and the type of Gardens we have. As a result we have had to try more unusual or wilder roses which unlike Tea roses we have found to make excellent garden plants.
The great advantage of these roses is that they suffer less disease. Many also have attractive foliage, nice hips and sometimes autumn colour and this means they can be mixed with other shrubs. Another bonus is that many flower in midsummer, a time when it is often hard to get flower in the shrub border.
The Rugosa types are extremely useful plants as they flower all summer and make a good foliage plant with hips and autumn colour. They make excellent hedges or screens, we often use them at the back of borders to add height too.
We also grow many ramblers which provide a wonderful burst of colour as well as scent in early summer. As they are so vigorous they make a big impact and are excellent for covering large walls. They can also be grown as free standing shrubs but they do take up a huge amount of room.
There are some excellent shrub roses that are much more manageable, we grow the Gallica roses in the formal cloisters where mixed with Lavandula angustifolia and Erigeron karvinskianus put on a wonderful display.
We are also trying a great number of old fashioned and wild roses in different areas of the Gardens. This is really exciting as they allow for new combinations and add interest at different times of the year. Generally roses need a fair amount of sun and therefore what you grow with them needs to have the same requirements. When you use shrub roses in borders there is the opportunity to plant next to and under them to give a long season of interest. So far we have tried snowdrops and Hellebore for early spring, Narcissus and Tulip for mid spring and Allium ‘Purple sensation’ for late spring. By this time the roses come into flower and with some variety you will have blooms all season. Cranesbill, Delphinium and Hollyhocks will make great midsummer companions.