More roses!

16 December 2017

This year we finally decided to move the four heritage apple trees growing along the hedge next to the Bowls Club. They’ve never thrived, as their stems and branches have been snapped off at various times over the last few years, and they never quite managed to recover completely. When we came to lift them, we found they’d made hardly any roots. They’ve now been replanted over at the community orchard in Astral Park, well away from hedges, and hopefully, well away from vandalism, too.

The plum tree in the middle has always been more vigorous, and is now really growing away well, so that’s been left, along with the gingko nearest the war memorial, and the large cherry tree in the corner by the car park.

We thought of replacing the apples with rose bushes to add more colour and scent to the gardens, but thought that they might look a bit underwhelming there. Then Ian Haynes from the Town Council suggested standard roses, which would have some presence, and add colour, height, scent, and a touch of formality to the gardens. Perfect!

We had quite a list of requirements – first and foremost, we needed roses that bees find attractive. Many roses fit the bill, but many others don’t, particularly those with more than a single row of petals. In theory, bees prefer single-flowered roses, which give them easy access to nectar and pollen, over double-flowered ones, whose petals get in the way, but the bees don’t always seem to have know that, and clearly colour and other factors are involved.

We wanted roses that were bee-friendly, repeat-flowering, had a long flowering season, were relatively disease-free, and vigorous but not too vigorous. Oh, and scented, too – an unperfumed rose seems to be a bit of a wasted opportunity. They had to be available as standards, which take much more time to produce than other kinds of rose, so fewer varieties are available in that form. And they should have been grown in the ground, rather than in compost in containers, and preferably have not been treated with bee-harming pesticides.  Searching online didn’t really solve the problem, so we rang Peter Beales Roses, who were unfazed by the spec, incredibly patient and very helpful, and came up with the answers.

It’s not really surprising that there were only a few varieties that satisfied all the requirements, but fortunately we’ve found two that look really great – Rhapsody in Blue and Remembrance. Once established in a couple of years, they should contribute colour and scent at shoulder height, for several months. But just to make sure of the scent, we’ve also found room for an Alfred de Dalmas bush in the third bed down, near the bench on the Bowls Club side.

We thought the plants would arrive at the end of December or early in the new year, so it was quite a surprise when they arrived at the end of last week. After a few texts and changed arrangements, four of us braved freezing rain to put them in this morning, including our Duke of Edinburgh’s student, which was well over and above what we expect. We added a little fish, blood and bone to the bottom of each planting hole and mixed the soil fifty-fifty with leaf mould as we put it back around the plant. Once the soil’s settled in a couple of months, we’ll underplant the beds, probably with hardy geraniums. Can’t wait for the flowers and the scent this summer!

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