... Is a Rose
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Oh, my aching muscles...

By Pamela Richards

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.

Beyond 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.

Ornamental grasses—Pennisetum and Miscanthus—offer plumes of flowers in late summer and fall, 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 it.

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 day of the summer to cut flowers for fragrant bouquets.

Pamela Richards is a Seattle-area garden designer, 206-781-2314,



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