So I’ve spent the last rose shopping. We just had some work done on the house to move an external door, and a plan to plant a climber where the door used to be has expanded into a project to cover up as much of the pebble-dash rendering as possible. We love a lot about our house, and it was a good compromise for us, but the external rendering isn’t one of the pluses.
My idea is to cut some holes for beds into the concrete driveway and then plant three climbing roses with smaller shrubby roses underneath for groundcover. I decided to go for roses because whatever covers up the rendering should be attractive, my wife wanted something scented, and I didn’t want anything likely to leave marks on the wall. Even climbing roses aren’t really true climbers, they’re sprawlers that need to be tied in place. It means more effort up front but less problems with removal or hacking them back.
The things I was looking for, the things the perfect rose for us would have, were:
- Thornless, or if thorned then flexible/trainable enough so family members and guests don’t get caught and shredded in passing
- Strongly scented
- Repeat flowering
- Single flowers and attractive to pollinators
- Good disease resistance, since I don’t plan on spraying
- For the climbers, growing big enough to cover most of a two storey wall (e.g. 4 – 5m), but not so vigorous that I need to be up a 5m ladder every month trying to stop it going over the top and engulfing the house
- Nice colour – white, pink, scarlet are good, yellow and orange are a much harder sell
Needless to say, it’s pretty hard to find any rose that meets all of those criteria. The harder ones are the thornlessness, which I basically gave up on, and the single flowers. Repeat flowering tends to be a property of highly bred roses, and many of those have also been selected for double flowers.
So, after much agonising I can now reveal the compromise to achieve something for both myself (wildlife friendly, nice colours) and the wife (scented, long flowering).
The roses below go in order from largest and wildest to smallest and least wild (double flowers). All of the climbers are supposed to be strongly scented.
This one is very much my choice. It’s basically a wild rose that flowers late but over a period of 2 – 3 months. It’s supposed to be very strongly scented, as in you can smell it tens of feet away, and very attractive to bees. I’ve seen conflicting reports about size and David Austin claim it needs a warm wall to hit 4 or 5m, so we’ll just have to see how it works out. Hopefully it can cover 10 – 15 m2 of wall if it can get high enough and spread horizontally as well.
The Lady of the Lake
This one is is one we can both go for. It’s a highly bred, repeat flowering English rose, but the flowers are only semi-double so you can actually see the stamens and stigma. In the pictures it looks an attractive shade of pink. It should be a big less vigorous than r. moschata, and I thought we might train it around the bathroom window and over the door.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles
This is very much not a wild rose in terms of flower shape. A bit fluffy for me in shape and probably useless for wildlife, but chosen for scent, colour, and lack of vigour. It can go against the single storey utility room wall.
Groundcover / Shrub Roses
A low growing groundcover rose. Single flowers, supposed to flower continuously over a long period. Probably not strongly scented.
Another groundcover rose, repeat flowering. My wife loved the colours. I agree the mix of gold and orange looks really good, I just need to decide which climber to match it with. Supposedly not strongly scented.
This one is more of a small shrub. Supposed to have a very strong scent, and it looks like a good colour match for Tess of the d’Urbervilles, or maybe it would look good under the pink Lady of the Lake. Double flowered.
So I guess the scores, based on available internet info, are:
|Right size for the space||6/6|
Which I guess means my priorities ended up being colour, size > repeating > scent > single flowering > thornlessness. I wish I’d been a bit more successful in finding single flowered varieties that also had the right size, repeat flowering and scent, but combining single flowers with repeat flowering in particular is pretty hard. For example, many ramblers, and especially the fairly common single flowering ones, do not repeat.
I’ll let you know in a year or two how it all works out…