For me, the Rose Garden at Sissinghurst is the most exquisite example of how a rose garden should be. Roses of all varieties, shapes, colours and even textures crammed cheek by jowl alongside herbaceous perennials, annuals, biennials and bulbs. This style of garden has moved away from the traditional rose garden where plants are grouped together by colour or class, lined out in rows or beds and it’s all for the better as far as I’m concerned.
Using biennials, such as wallflowers, digitalis and hesperis as well as tulips brings the garden to life by early April and colour continues until well into October with the use of asters, nerines and some wonderful hips produced by the roses. Annuals are a key ingredient to the summer rose garden and perhaps my favourite are the sweet peas (Lathyrus odorata) with their wonderful scent and colour. It would be hard to choose my top sweet pea but strong contenders are ‘Midnight’, a beautiful dark wine red, ‘Bicolor’, with its heady mix of deep purple and dark red and, new to us this year, ‘Kings High Scent’, a creamy white, tinged with mauve which as the name suggests, has an exceptionally strong scent. Various varieties of Nicotiana (including affinis, ‘Langsdorfii’ and noctiflora) add some height and a simple lime green elegance while two types of Verbena, ‘Merci’ and ‘Sissinghurst’ are adding interest lower down. The opium poppy ‘Lauren’s Grape’ is a good self seeder and my final choice Cerinthe major ‘Purpurescens’ stands out as a ‘must have’ annual. These are all produced in our Nursery but some are allowed to self seed which gives us plants at different times throughout the season. By adding these annuals and herbaceous perennials into the planting scheme we can add so many different layers of colours, textures and height to the beds.
In the photo above you can see Allium christophii, Paeonia sp and the sweet pea ‘Bicolor’ along with the Rose ‘Ulrich Brunner Fils’ adding different heights but using the same colour palette as the roses, while below we see the Siberian iris, lupins and delphiniums adding a colour not found in roses; blue.
The roses are trained up poles, draped over walls, standing alone and alongside the tapestry of perennials and annuals creates a feast for the eyes from the ground to the very top of the walls.
Good examples of some National Trust gardens with interesting rose gardens are Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire and by contrast, the newly restored rose garden at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire which has a more traditional feel. Any more recommendations gratefully received, I can never tire of looking at roses whatever their setting.
Claire – Gardener