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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.

Read the next Article: Growing Blueberries

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Several options are available to overwinter a favorite geranium. The first is to cut it back and pot it up as a houseplant for the winter to replant outside in the spring. The second is to pull it up, brush off any clinging soil, and hang it upside down in a cool, humid basement until replanting in spring. Or, you can cut 4-inch lengths of new stem and put them in water or damp vermiculite to root. Once rooted, transfer to individual pots and treat as houseplants.