In June the sweet pink
boutonniere flowers of the climbing rose ‘Cecile Brunner’ completely cover the
arch framing the entrance to my sister’s rose garden. One walks through
the arch and enters a burst of color and scent. Foxgloves, peonies and poppies,
a perfumed perennial geranium used as a ground cover, and the dark foliage of
purple-leafed heuchera and a weigela add drama to the scene. This is June
in a rose garden.
Ten years ago, when my sister moved
into a new home, the first garden
she and I planted was the rose garden. We chose the sunny south side of
her house which is overlooked by a small window. Here we could install a
garden that would look inviting May through October, but would be without
interest in winter.
My sister chose David Austen
English roses which have proven to be very good at resisting disease and
harmful insects. She fertilizes as needed, uses an insecticidal soap when
necessary, and keeps the area beneath and around each rose clean. We also
surrounded the roses with Chinese chives, an Allium
that helps keep the roses healthy.
The site was not ideal.
Because it was fenced, air circulation—critical for healthy roses—would be
limited. More seriously, the entire yard was clay soil. To address the problem,
my sister built raised beds. Here, she grows the roses, peonies and lilies.
the raised beds are
plants that have survived happily in the clay. In May, weigela and
columbine begin the show. A montana clematis climbs an old ladder.
Daylilies bloom in July. Clematis
ternifolia adds flowers and sweet scent in September. The
pink-purple flowers of Joe Pye weed tower over the shrubs. Japanese
anemone and hydrangea bloom into November.
and Miscanthus—offer plumes of flowers in late summer and
and complimentary shape throughout the summer. In a breeze, their gentle
swaying increases the dimensions of the garden.
At the front of the garden is a standard
Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’
covered in white leaves dabbled with pink and green. In spring, summer and fall
it looks like the full skirt of a dance dress. Green and white variegated
heucheras surround the willow, and a pale gray Adirondack chair sits beneath
Birds make their homes in whimsical birdhouses hung on the
fence and splash in a birdbath. When my sister’s granddaughter was small,
she had a small pink table and chair beside Rosa
‘Gertrude Jekyll’, where she served tea and mud pies decorated with flower
petals to various stuffed animals.
The garden I have described is feminine in pink and white;
other color combinations can be used for an equally romantic look.
Oranges and yellows would be fresh; red and yellow vibrant. I recommend David
Austen roses, rugosas or “old” roses—and ruthlessness. Any rose susceptible to
disease or unwanted insects needs to be removed.
My sister loves her Rose Garden and visits it every
the summer to cut flowers for fragrant bouquets.