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Designing with Roses

Every garden should be a rose garden.

Roses have a reputation as finicky plants that need more attention than a two-year-old, but when you plant the right roses in the right place they flourish in your garden, and the care you give them is repaid generously — with more flowers than you can count, and plenty of old-fashioned garden romance.

One hard-working rose bush is a good thing, but you needn’t limit yourself — it might be just the beginning. Michael Marriott, a garden designer with David Austin roses, recommends making room for bold groups of roses that will stand out in a flower bed among annual and perennial flowers. When he designs gardens, he might choose one spectacular rose for a small flower bed, or a cluster of 10 roses in a very large mixed border. The shimmering apricot blooms of ‘Abraham Darby’, which grows up to five feet tall, will not get lost among flowers in a mixed bed; crimson ‘Darcy Bussell’ is more compact and appropriate even for a flower pot.

“My golden rule is to plant something wildish with roses,” Marriott says. Verbascum, foxgloves, and other tall, spiky plants are classic companions for roses. Roses are also pretty with eryngium (sometimes called sea holly), which has striking round flowers surrounded by bristling collars. Roses look stylish with bold clumps of ornamental grasses, and they have classic charm in herb gardens. The handsome yellow ‘Graham Thomas’ will clamber gracefully along a fence rail; ‘Claire Austin’ can be trained up a trellis or over an arbor.

Let new roses have a little bit of extra space to grow for their first year or two, and then you can let annuals and perennials jostle them a little. Try roses with geraniums, dianthus, asters, daisies, or dahlias — mix it up a little. “That’s the fun part of gardening,” Marriott says.

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Are you looking to take your gardening enthusiasm and skills to the next level? Network with others who share your interests? Utilize your gardening talents to benefit local communities?
    If so, contact the local Cooperative Extension Service for information about the Master Gardener program in your region.
    For both professionals and gardening enthusiasts, the Master Gardener program provides invaluable training and educational opportunities. The volunteer aspect of the program helps improve and beautifying the local community.
    To find out more, check out these two websites or enter the words “Master Gardeners” to search any search engine. (Junior Master Gardener programs)