Reviewing my Old Roses

I've always associated old fashioned roses with survival. I imagine such plants buried underneath the brambles, neglected in the old cemetery, yet still growing, and still flowering, living through decades of neglect.

 Madame Caroline Testout in pink, Chevy Chase in cherry red.
Archway Roses

The Choosing

So when I was choosing roses for a new project in the orchard, old fashioned roses on archways seemed the perfect look.

The theory was that I wouldn't be fussing over these plants. They would be buffeted by Canterbury's legendary dry wind - the nor-wester. They would have far too much fresh air even to think of getting diseased. And as for rust and fungal nasties? Forget it! No humidity, dry summer heat - no problem!

These lucky roses had lots of space, sturdy archways to spread over, beautiful sunshine, no air pollution - and the company of seven hundred hearty Hazelnut trees. Irrigation is essential in any garden venture where I live, so each rose even got its own little dripper.

 Delicious colour, great rose.
Celine Forestier

Even the purchasing of the roses was carefully though out. A very reputable rose nursery which specialised in the old fashioned varieties was sourced, and visited in person. Choices were made with as much intelligence as a naturally blonde older-lady gardener can lay claim to. Fragrance was the key. Money was no object.

So, my little collection of mainly old fashioned heritage beauties, it's your second summer at Mooseys - time for some feedback.

The Good

Madame Caroline Testout - you are without a doubt the most beautiful pink rose that I've ever grown. You know instinctively how to drape and arrange yourself over bent metal - perhaps your namesake was a dancer? But what's with those little specks of rust on the undersides of your leaves? Aargh! And Sombreuil - I like your subtle style. You're discrete, but certainly you show much promise. And you do look really really old!

Easlea's Golden Rambler- good for you! Huge flowers, wonderful colours, and no obvious bad habits. I've peered very closely at your healthy stems and leaves - not a speck of a problem!

 A top rose.
Easlea's Golden Rambler

I hope that you can ramble modestly enough, and don't get it into your head to attack any neighbouring Hazelnut trees. If this was a reality survival show, you'd certainly make it to the final!

The Bad

Firstly, Ghislaine de Felgonde. Your flowers are far too small! Budget growth, budget sized blooms - perhaps you have a budget heart. I hope you're not going to take all my lifetime to grow to a respectable height.

 Ghislaine de Feligonde
Beautiful - But Far Too Small

And you, Souvenir de la Malmaison. Your flowers form tight little brown balls even when there isn't the slightest sniff of rain. Canterbury is reasonably drought prone. Get it sorted! I am SO not impressed! Don't you ever forget that I'm the one with the spade...

The Ugly

Gloire de Dijon - there's a distinct lack of glory in you, and I feel very sorry for Dijon! You display a horrible lack of green leaves, and an equal lack of flowers. I would suggest that these are two important prerequisites for a rose.

 Not a good look.
Disgraceful - Gloire de Dijon

You have absolutely no vigour, and are the ugliest rose I've ever seen. I am so disappointed that I even refuse to spray you.

The Others

I did cheat a tiny bit, and planted just a few modern climbers. Chevy Chase is one such who is vibrant and healthy, with rich cherry red flower clusters. Meg is another whose single apricot blooms were magnificent earlier in the season. And there's fluffy Phyllis Bide, who always puts on a good dithery show. But all is not well with the moderns, either.

 Come on you two - how about a little red rose passion?
Phyllis Bide with Red Archway Roses

My two bright reds are taking their time to get established. Etoile de Hollande, you are supposed to be fragrant. So - where's your smell? And Parkdirektor Riggers - you're about as romantic as your name. Try and loosen up and fling a few more flowers around, will you? Red roses are supposed to symbolise rapturous passion.

The Solution

I've tied in the rose canes, and every archway is weeded and watered. Now it's a waiting game, seeing which of you roses will take the hint and step up your performance. Some of you might not make it. Ask the Head Gardener - age is no excuse!