Before they go …

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‘”Belle de Crecy” is supreme among all the old roses and for fragrance it is hard to beat’ (Graham Stuart Thomas, The Old Garden Roses).

Graham Thomas also mentions that it is not a good plan to plant this rose next to ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’ – and, of course, that is just exactly what I have gone and done. However, the Belle is always shrouded in white nigella when she flowers, so that goes a way to soften the impact.

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I’ve now planted 39 roses in the garden since the winter of 2011/12 when we arrived. Many flower more than once. But, like snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, lilac, bearded iris (the list goes on …) those that flower only once, like Gallica rose ‘Belle de Crecy’, always seem to me worth celebrating, because I’ll miss them (if not exactly weep) when they are gone.

So today I’m really appreciating them (and breathing in their scents as deeply as I can) before they go.

First up are my two Alba roses. Although once-flowering, they produce so many buds on such large plants, that their flowering can go on for as long as five or six weeks. When they are finished, it’s the signal for me to cut the bronze fennel back to stop it seeding everywhere. (It does this anyway!)Before they go 065
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I think my favourite of the two is ‘Celestial’ (also known as ‘Celeste’), dating from 1759. It’s hard to tell this from my other Alba, ‘Great Maiden’s Blush’, but ‘Celestial’ seems to me to have smaller, pinker, marginally more open and less double flowers when in their prime. The foliage of GMB also looks bluer (the blue tinge on the Alba’s healthy foliage is one of its distinguishing marks). Before they go 147
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Below is ‘Great Maiden’s Blush’ (known as ‘Cuisse de Nymphe’ in France). An extremely old rose, dating from before the sixteenth century. This is a classic cottage garden rose, tolerating some shade – one of the healthiest and most popular of all the old roses.
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And then comes my favourite rose of all – is that possible? ‘Fantin-Latour’, an ‘cabbage’ or Centifolia rose. It was named for the French artist whose favourite flower was the rose. It may only flower once, but seems to go on and on. Hopefully I will have a vase of these flowers by my bedside if I die in June!Before they go 020

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Before they go 013Walking down the Rose Walk, the next once-flowering rose I come to is the Damask rose, ‘Mme Hardy’ with perfect little green buttons in the centre. You may remember it if you read my ‘Vase on Monday’ a fortnight ago. It was named for the wife of the French rose breeder who introduced it in 1832.In a vase 006

Next up is ‘Belle de Crecy’ – worth stopping and sniffing her again. I noticed that she really hated the rain at the beginning of May. The first flowers that arrived from mid-May were poor, but with the heat they improved dramatically.
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At the end of the Rose Walk, before I turn the corner down to the Long Border, there’s a gorgeous Crambe cordifolia, whose flowering is even briefer – but just as dramatic – as the roses. Yesterday’s rain left the plant without that cloud of white floating above it, but thank goodness I took the photo on Friday.

I think perhaps I should divide it next spring, or take root cuttings in winter. It produced only one large flower spike this year and I suspect is feeling a little cramped.Before they go 104
At the end of the Rose Walk you can turn right (instead of left towards the Long Border) and pass out through our garden gate onto the village’s grass path leading down to the river.

It’s fairly shady there and I planted once-flowering ‘Alchymist’, because it enjoys the shade. ‘Alchymist’ is actually a modern climber – introduced by Kordes in 1956 (the year I was born!) – but unusually it flowers only once. This is the first year it has really got into its stride. I hope that it will eventually tumble over the garden wall onto the public path – and perhaps be persuaded up to the Mirror Garden above.
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Rambling rose ‘Ghislaine de Féligonde’ is a bit of a cheat on this post, because she has another flush later in the season (and a rather unremarkable effort in between). But now is her ‘moment’. She is less vigorous than some (to only about 10 feet) and has taken a bit of coaxing to start climbing up the low garden wall (with the grass river path on the other side).

I was so keen to get going and plant roses in the early spring of 2012 that I didn’t stop to think what I was going to do about the vast quantities of Virginia creeper we have on our walls – a problem for another day. In the end I think it will be painstaking spot-treatment with glyphosate for the creeper. And at least you can rip it away from the roses easily when you see it starting off early in the season.
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Ghislaine is one of those roses that changes in colour quite dramatically with time – when  I took my pictures many of the flowers had faded from their initial luscious apricot to the mature creamy version. But you can still see the delicious little apricot buds in this picture.
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In the Long Border is the old moss rose, ‘William Lobb’, introduced by breeder Laffray in 1855. I read a comment online that described this cultivar as ‘monstrously huge’. And Nick immediately dubbed it the ‘monster rose’ when he saw the plant in its second year. So that gives you an idea … The orange hemerocallis now flowering in his neighbourhood is an ‘interesting’ combination.
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This is the only moss rose I grow – you can see the ‘moss’ on the buds. I was reading this morning that the rose works well on a tall hazel tripod – so maybe I could govern the situation? I must try  – at the moment he’s flinging determined arms all over everything else in the border. The effect is pretty when the rose is flowering (and he’s an old friend, so there’s no question of being disloyal). But the thorns are a bit painful when you come to weed … Before they go 120
Down below in the Hornbeam Gardens, right next to the entrance from the orchard (where I planted the largest hornbeams) is ‘Rambling Rector’. It’s a Multiflora rambler, well suited to growing into trees, so hopefully will clothe the wall below the shed in time (having smothered the hornbeams first).

Although managing roses that are beginning to be mature in areas of the garden that haven’t been properly cleared is tricky (here the rose is coping both with Virginia creeper and brambles), I’m still glad I planted them so quickly after moving here because only three or four summers in I am already finding so much pleasure in ‘discovering’ them when I walk the garden every day.

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Before they go 170This is the Rector from the other side of the entrance – going out of the cut flower area in the Hornbeam Gardens. I think I’d like to get an arch for him to climb over.
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Multiflora rambler ‘Veilchenblau’ has been very, very slow to establish (no wonder with all the weeds it’s had to cope with). Fortunately Christina at Creating my Own Garden of the Hesperides recently encouraged me to be more patient … (Her own plant would put mine to shame – fortunately they never have to meet each other!)

Before they go 166I see signs of hope this year: the new growth is healthier, stronger looking. This is the same problematic bramble/Virginia creeper wall as the Rector is coping with.  You may also notice that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for roses in that violet-blue colour, which is not to everyone’s taste!
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There is one once-flowering rambler left to come. A pink Wichuriana rambler called ‘Ethel’, who I planted to cover the shed and meld with an elder next to it. So far she wants to grow out, rather than over – and is so prickly that she’s pretty painful to ‘encourage’. A job for two and a long ladder (and some thick gloves).

Lots of buds on 14 June, as I write, but not a hint of colour yet. I must make sure I walk her way every day over the coming fortnight  …

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Now (given my existing addiction and the ever-growing list I keep handy by the computer), there’s a question I really shouldn’t be asking. But I’ll ask it anyway. Do you have a favourite once-flowering rose?

19 thoughts on “Before they go …

  1. johnvic8

    I envy your space and patience. We grew them in the past, but age (mine) has taken its toll on the roses. Yours are so beautiful; it’s clear why you are so pleased with them.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I only photograph the good bits, John! But they are starting to do better after 3 years – and yes, I do love them, wherever I meet them.

  2. mattb325

    The roses are truly spectacular – I really like all of the purple once-flowering roses. It’s not a colour commonly seen in the rose garden (I think many people have shied away from it over the years), but it makes a lovely impact

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks Matt. Obviously I agree about the violet colour! I guess it is a little harder to stop it shouting with other colours – but actually, we decided yesterday that it even looks ok with orange hemerocallis.

  3. Sarah

    What a beautiful collection of roses. I can imagine what it must be like to walk among them in the sun. It’s been very chilly in the UK recently and the four roses in my shady garden are only just getting going so I’ve been garden visiting whilst waiting: Polesden Lacey on Wednesday in the sunshine and Nymans today on a dull and cold day. Roses do need warm sunshine in order to fully release their scent I think. My favourites are the old-fashioned roses such as Boule de Neige, Madame Knorr and Felicite Parmentier, all growing at Polesden. But the one that took my breath away today was Rosa Guinee, growing against the honey sandstone wall in the courtyard of Nymans. I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite from my roses and tomorrow I hope to pick a bowlful of the three that are in flower to enjoy inside.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks for your suggestions Sarah!Lucky you visiting Nymans! Guinee made a strong enough impression on me in the past that I still have a picture of it in my head. I think perhaps I’ll add Felicite Parmentier and leave it at that for the Albas. Boule de Neige is already here (although smallish). A Bourbon that repeats not badly – hopefully a real treat in the future but I noticed it didn’t like cool early spring weather.

  4. Island Threads

    I love your roses Cathy, the violet/blue would be a strong bias for me as they are my favourite colours, and with your hot temperatures the perfumes must be divine, without the rain of course,
    where I am it’s the rugosas that do best and for me Blanc double de Coubert as it flowers well here, for you though probably the rose that was in the garden when I moved here, it has a fantastic perfume and beautiful full double flowers which start out as pinky/apricot buds and slowly change through to creamy white full open flowers, but I do not know it’s name, wish I did,
    thanks, I enjoyed your rose walk in the sunshine, Frances

    1. Cathy Post author

      I love Blanc Double de Coubert and have it here – unfortunately I think the rugosas don’t do quite as well (take a while to establish) on my clay. Hope you post a picture of your gorgeous rose later on!

      1. Island Threads

        Cathy I doubt if I will be posting photos of any roses this year, roses clearly like warmth, they are not even budding yet, rugosas like a very free draining soil, that’s why I put mine at the higher part of a slope, apparently one of the common names for the common magenta rugosa is beach rose because it grows wild on beaches, as your garden is on a hill even with clay I imagine there must be fairly good drainage, so it must be due to the heaviness of clay, Frances

  5. gardeninacity

    You have a lovely selection of roses – I think my favorite is ‘Rambling Rector’. Great name, and I love white roses. I have only a few roses in my garden, and I think the only one that counts as once-flowering is the wild Prairie or Illinois Rose (Rosa setigera). It has 2″ flowers that open deep pink and fade to white and has the habit of a climber.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Great suggestion Jason (just googled). I have a bank where I am thinking of planting some of the wilder, species roses (for hips as well as flowers). I have a number of our native dog rose ready to put in there (can’t bear to kill them when they appear). Your rose might be a very nice addition too.

      1. Cathy Post author

        Oh – but it is (we are a bit obsessive about roses over here!) Peter Beales, from whom many of my roses come, sells it.

  6. Chloris

    I loved this post because like you I am mad on roses. What a collection, you have some beauties including many of my favourites. But how can you pick just one? I certainly can’ t; I have so many favourites. Where to put them all is my big problem, in my mature garden it is very shady. Still I do have quite a few.

  7. rusty duck

    Glorious. Roses are a struggle here (my clay soil?) but I persevere because I love them so much. I’m thinking I should be feeding them more, but what with?

    1. Cathy Post author

      I love them too, but sometimes I think I should branch out a bit (cornus perhaps?). I’ve have (occasionally!) been boosting mine with manure/garden compost/wood ash in the spring. And I have a rose fertiliser (which I rarely get round to using!)


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