Yesterday, on a supremely sunny, warm day, we visited Becky and John Hook at la Roseraie du Désert, about 50 minutes drive from Tostat. I inherited quite a few roses when we moved in, and along the way have probably trebled the roses in the garden originally. My best ever purchase was ‘Marguerite Reine d’Italie’ which flowers continuously and gamely all summer long in hot, semi-shady, stony position without complaint- and she was recommended by Becky Hook when I described the fairly ghastly position I wanted the rose for. A tough call. So, I have a very soft spot for their nursery, and was sorry to hear that they would like to sell up- but, for the moment, they are continuing the business.
They have fabulous roses, all grown directly on their own roots rather than grafted, so no unwelcome suckering guests ever. And the collection contains some very historic, and unusual varieties, mostly Teas, Chinas and Noisettes- so the perfume is often delicious. We were there pretty much at the end of the rose season this year, which seems really early, but April warmth really brought them all out, almost all together. Nevertheless, there were some lovely roses that caught my eye. So here is my selection from yesterday. Incidentally, many of them are remontant, but some are so gorgeous that you would willingly have them in your garden for just a day.
Please contact Becky Hook if you are interested in taking over their magnificent collection of roses, their business and their house and land, they are looking for a buyer.
It’s pouring with rain outside. Which is good, as we need it. But, these are the moments when you long for some of the summer stalwarts to shake a leg. They are, of course, under the ground. Impatience. The gardener’s curse.
I thought I would share with you some of the roses that I grow and which have survived beautifully on my regime of neglect and forgetfulness. Neglect, in that I rarely remember to give them a Spring feed, and forgetfulness in that I am always behind myself with Spring pruning. In fact, this year is the first year when I have done both, moreorless on time. I do have a resistance to time-specific garden jobs, it’s something to do with the notion that ‘Someone Else’ has deemed it so, and I resist. Like the few moments on ‘Gardener’s World’ when Monty Don says cheerily, ‘…and here are some jobs you can be getting on with in the garden this weekend’. I immediately think, ‘No…doing something else, you watch me’.
So here is my first’ tough rose’. Rosa Reine Marguerite d’Italie is my out-and-out winner. I was at the lovely rose nursery, La Roseraie du Desert, run by Becky Hook in the Gers about five years ago, just after we had manhandled tons of river rocks and rubbish out of the site of a collapsed barn which we were turning into the ‘New Garden’. A very euphemistic term at the time! So I was looking for a rose that would flower all summer, be scented, cope with quite a lot of shade and exist in slightly souped up not-very-good-soil with rocks. A pretty tall order. Becky Hook sold me this rose, and here it is. A good metre plus all round, and it does exactly what I asked with no complaint. Gorgeous old fashioned big roses that don’t flop or go flabby in a beautiful dark magenta, which actually never looks as good in a photograph. Brilliant.
And my next contender is…Rosa alba Cuisse de Nymphe or in English, ‘Great Maiden’s Blush’, is another stalwart. When we arrived 11 years ago, a small one had already been planted. Now, it can reach 2m x 2m and it blooms on and off in flushes over the summer, great clusters of delicate pink roses in swags, and is a delight. I don’t have the best nose, and I am not sure that it has a particularly good scent, although Peter Beales, the great roseman who sadly died in 2013, calls it highly scented! How embarassing! But for performance and no botheration, it is a really good rose.
Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ is a stunner, but what a thug. Give yourself armourplated cover to deal with it, and a massive space where it can do what it wants, and even then, you will be lopping it. But, for 2-3 weeks in June, it is a magnificent sight. It is currently strangling the unknown red rose, and so we do attempt rescue every now and then. I regard it as a lovable giant.
A rainy day job sometime for me is to identify this lovely old rose which blooms just beyond the back door next to the kitchen windows. It is no oil painting, long, lanky and very thorny, but the flowers are just gorgeous, shades of pink, cream and yellow and the scent even reaches my nose, rich and heady as it is.