'Francis E. Lester' is garlanding the railings and threading through the bush ivy. The big heads of scented single roses in apple-blossom shades will be on display for six weeks or so. Though only flowering once it will set lots of pea-sized hips that will ripen to a deep-red by autumn. Lovely.
The first flush of the garden roses is well underway. They can prove irresistible. Last year there was a successful prosecution of a rose thief, arrested in the early hours of the morning climbing over the railings with a bucket of stolen blooms - our gardener, used to clearing up the sad remains of sniffed and discarded blooms, thought this was a great use of police time!
Though not at the top of any wildlife-friendly planting guide, roses do support wildlife. Rose sawfly larvae will soon gnaw their leaves to herring-bone skeletons, aphids will gather in great herds on new soft growth, leaf-cutter bees will cut semi-circular snippets from the leaves to line their brood cells. Single-flowered varieties will be busy with eager pollen-hunters. The double will be busy with noses, as garden visitors stop for a sniff.
Our roses are growing in poor, rubble-rich soil. They are unsprayed and only fed the odd bucket of compost once in a while. Despite the usual complicated advice that is usually given for rose growing, strong varieties really are tough easy shrubs. Of course, the varieties we grow have proven themselves over time and any that couldn't cope and wanted fussing have long since been thrown on the compost heap. Death to the weak!
Rosa chinensis sanguinea, flowers in waves through the year, even in the very dry soil beneath our wild pear tree. All the new growth ends in loose clusters of elegant uptight buds that open their petals in a big red flop. The single flowers are unscented. The foliage is healthy with strong red tints. An old China rose, it has been grown for hundreds of years, and with good reason. It really is a very good shrub, pretty, tough and trouble-free.