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The first flush of roses arrived a little earlier than usual this year, then just as everything was coming together nicely in the flower garden, the heavens opened. Welcome to summer!

By Tom Pattinson
Wednesday, 03 July, 2019, 12:45

The immediate effect on roses is a drooping of stems under the weight of water, and a gentle shake of each after the deluge, possibly offering supports where necessary, is often enough to save the day. Some promising buds will be lost through saturation and rotting so removal (deadheading) starts earlier.

Disappointing though it was to see seven varieties in this garden adversely affected when just into blooming mode, it was insignificant alongside the thousands of drooping heads we faced as volunteers at The Alnwick Garden.

Remarkably, these are minor setbacks. Thousands of flower buds already formed will quickly replace the blooms lost, and after light, corrective pruning, more flower buds will develop on the rain damaged stems.

What is it that draws our attention to a rose variety so much that we must have it?

Is it the fragrance, form, flowering period, history, varietal name, or a combination of these?

Three roses in our garden form the basis of a modest collection. R. Gallica (apothecary’s rose) and Cuisse de Nymphe (crusader rose) represent living history.

The former is the Red Rose of Lancaster, introduced before 1300 and used by herbalists in days of yore.

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The latter is a white-tinged pink rose, brought back to this country by a knight returning from the Holy Land. Both types have survived so long because they sucker freely.

An established Gallica occasionally sends flowering stems up through a nearby privet hedge.

A fragrant Bourbon rose ‘Boule de Neige’ (Snowball), is a mere youngster by comparison. Introduced in 1867, the round, white, fragrant blooms have long been associated with cottage gardens.

These roses grow happily in the company of some relative newcomers chosen for their fragrance and form; ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ and ‘Chandos Beauty’ for example.

And it was a fragrance test I had in mind recently when friend Robert and I faced gardeners’ questions at a recent event organised by Lesbury in Bloom.

Nine named rose cultivars were lined up in containers and members of the audience were invited to sniff out their favourite for scent. ‘Deep Secret’, a gorgeous red, pipped the pink ‘Chandos Beauty’, my current favourite, by one vote.