Although our garden is exposed, there are still some roses that grow well. I find that the old roses do better than some of the modern hybrids and I am very fond of the ‘species’ that may not have the showiest of blooms, but have ornamental ‘heps’ through the autumn as well as good autumn leaf colours. Once the leaves have fallen, many make twiggy mounds that are a feature through winter.
Rosa glauca (rubrifolia) is one such plant with smoky grey blue leaves held on dark stems. It makes a mound of twiggy growth and the single, bright pink flowers are set off by the blue of the foliage. In late summer and autumn, translucent red hips appear and are loved by birds as they begin their autumn feast! This is a lovely rose to grow in a mixed border with perennials and shrubs where the leaves make a great backdrop for other plants.
Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ needs plenty of room, so we grow it in a shady corner, where the bright green, upright stems do not cause damage – they are very well armed with thorns! In time, the plant makes a vigorous, arching mound and is one of the earliest roses to flower. The perfectly formed single flowers of deep red have a central garland of golden yellow stamens. The flowers are beautiful enough but the real feature of this rose comes in the autumn when the orange, bottle shaped heps appear – a real all rounder as even the bare stems are attractive through the winter months.
Neither of the two roses above are particularly scented but the spiny Burnet rose ‘Stanwell Perpetual’ has richly scented, double pink flowers over an impressively long season. The plant grows well in poor sandy soil, which is unusual for Roses as they are usually greedy plants requiring well conditioned soil and fertilizer twice a year. Rugosa roses too, are less fussy about soil and carry a strong scent. I have the pure white double flowered variety ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ which is a joy through the summer, despite the hedgehog like spines on the stems! The Rugosa roses make excellent, suckering hedges and are very useful in coastal locations where strong salt laden winds are a challenge! The rounded hips, produced in autumn are bright orange at first and mature to deep red – a feast for the eyes as the leaves fall and for wild birds and small mammals through the winter.
Other roses that are useful for exposed sites are the ground cover varieties which form an impenetrable mass of stems and are rarely without flowers from early summer until well into the autumn. As well as the disease resistant ‘County Series’, which includes deep red ‘Suffolk’ I would not be without Rosa ‘Bonica’ another variety that gives and gives until late autumn. The flowers are a beautiful shade of deep pink held above mounds of leathery green leaves that persist on the plants through the winter months before they are ousted by new ones that begin coppery red and age to deep green as they mature.
Many species roses are such useful plants for exposed sites and I love the way they change with the seasons; fresh growth in spring, flowers through the summer and the hips in autumn and winter.