The Beauty of Being Single

Walking into the Rose Garden at Sissinghurst in June can feel like walking into another world.

The Rose Garden 2014

The Rose Garden 2014

The scent, colour and sheer variety of roses and flowers is a visual feast for the eyes with everything competing for our attention at once. Quite naturally our eye is drawn to those roses that are big, blousy and loud. It’s hard to ignore ‘Variegata di Bologna’, ‘Paul Ricault’ or ‘Fantin Latour’ when their sheer size and extravagance creates such a commanding presence in the garden, compelling us to admire them.

I must confess that when I first started working at Sissinghurst I was completely captivated by all the wonderful double roses bombarding me and it took me a while to learn to appreciate the quieter members of the Rose Garden.

At first, I barely gave the single roses a second glance, but gradually my appreciation of them has grown. I began to notice the luminosity that single roses often have, the golden stamen and simple flowers that really capture everything that is beautiful about a rose. Many of them are species roses and it’s true that nature needs no interference from us to produce the best combination of flower and foliage, with simple and charming roses nestling amongst the leaves. Others are natural hybrids and a few have been bred by Rosarians who understand that single roses have a beauty all of their own.

But which ones are worthy of a mention?

My all time favourite has to be Rosa ‘Complicata’ which we grow on a south facing wall here. It’s probably a hybrid of Rosa canina or Rosa macrantha but its parentage is lost in the mists of time. No matter; the flowers ensure it will always have a place in rose books and our gardens. Clear pink petals that fade to white towards the centre and golden stamen that act as a magnet for bees make it, as Graham Stuart Thomas says ‘without doubt one of the most strikingly beautiful of single pink roses..’

Rosa 'Complicata'

Rosa ‘Complicata’

My second favourite is Rosa ‘Paulii Rosea’ an altogether different rose to ‘Complicata’ being a ground covering shrub with shoots growing along the ground, piling up on themselves. ‘Paulii Rosea’ is a sport of the original bred by George Paul sometime prior to 1903. A paler pink than ‘Complicata’ with crumpled petals like creased silk. It doesn’t seem to be very vigorous in the garden at Sissinghurst and is tucked away in a side bed. Worth seeking out if you visit and another favourite of Graham Stuart Thomas who wrote ‘… this has a beauty of flower seldom excelled by other single pink roses.’

Rosa 'Paulii Rosea'

Rosa ‘Paulii Rosea’

Infact, there are many pink single roses worthy of a mention including Rosa ‘Anemonoides’, Rosa x polliniana, Rosa glauca, Rosa villosa and Rosa eglanteria. All beautiful and garden worthy.

Yellow singles include Rosa ‘Cantabrigiensis’ found in 1931 as a seedling in the Cambridge Botanic Garden and grown here in the Cottage Garden. It is a gentle yellow; soft and pale that sits well in the shady area under the parrotia tree. ‘Golden Wings’ bred in the US in the 1950s is also a good yellow; bright but not garish with dark golden stamen.

For white roses there is ‘Nevada’, a creamy white that looks good in the White Garden and for those who like apricot/peach-pinks there is no better choice than the hybrid teas ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’ or ‘Ellen Willmott’. For a red rose choose Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ and for a lilac single choose ‘Lilac Charm’. There is certainly no shortage of good ones to choose from.

A good Rose Garden consists of many elements, each with its own part to play in creating that feeling of drama, excitement and completeness. Single roses can serve to enhance our appreciation of the magnificent doubles that abound, as well as represent the other end of the rose spectrum. But they have their own special beauty too which is as great as the doubles any day.

Helen Champion

13 thoughts on “The Beauty of Being Single

  1. Lovely post Helen, I’ve just bookmarked it. I feel just like you, single roses are so beautiful. Currently I am not growing any in my own garden apart from Rosa rugosa but hope to add some.


  2. Thank you so much for the email of the rose garden. It is looking beautiful and I am sorry to have to inform you that I will not be able to do my volunteering as a de-header at the moment as I am nursing a dear aunt of mine who has terminal cancer and lives in Purley so too far away to come. However I will get in touch with Wendy when I am back in Staplehurst to see if I can help in other ways if it is after the rose season!

    Best wishes

    Margaret Thornton

    Sent from my iPad



    • Hi Margaret, really sorry to hear that your aunt is unwell. Do visit the Rose Garden any time even if you can’t volunteer as it is looking lovely and we look forward to welcoming you back to the volunteer team in the future. Helen


  3. I grow Mrs Oakley Fisher firstly because I had seen it at Sissinghurst, but since having it in my garden I too have learnt to love single roses. Some being Appleblossem, Frulingsgold, Glauca and Moyesii.. to mention a few. Where would we gardeners be without their fleeting beauty. Thank you for your truly inspirational posts. Sue


  4. Hello from Charlottesville, Virginia, USA. I’ve recently subscribed to your blog and have enjoyed seeing the photos. I manage a small “Cottage Garden” on the University of Virginia grounds and would like your recommendation for a rose that will be next a brick wall, in a very warm spot, facing north, that doesn’t get too big. The goal is to eventually have all perennials mixed with kitchen herbs. I am planning a trip to Britain next April, and Sissinghurst is on the list to visit. Thank you very much!


    • Hi Shannon, if your rose is destined for a north wall I presume it will be quite shady although you also say it is a warm spot which perhaps means that it is sheltered? Do you want a climber for the wall or a free standing rose? Happy to give some suggestions if you could just give me a bit more information. Helen


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