Plug into bulbs for 2022 – and don’t forget the stunning pink grape hyacinth!

alliumglobemcu

FORESIGHT required! We are in autumn 2021 . . . at least, that’s the destination if we thumb through the pages of a bulb booklet that’s just plopped onto the doormat.
Somerset-based mail order nursery Broadleigh Gardens clearly believe in despatching catalogues early – very early . . . three seasons early, in fact. 

So while some may sigh that current spring flowers are still strutting their stuff – well, my tulips are still hanging in there – and don’t need reminding about 12 months hence, others will be pleased to dig into the choices, plan ahead and get their order in.

As always, long-time Broadleigh owner Christine Skelmersdale – holder of the coveted Victoria Medal of Honour and an RHS council member for 11 years – gives customers plenty to mull over.

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Reflecting on how gardens have proved stressed-busting oases in this Covid-crushed year, Christine picks out the faithful daffodil as a sign of hope.

For a flower that delight us from January, or even as early as Christmas time, Rijnveld’s Early Sensation – right through to early May – Poeticus Recurvus – daffs are surely a force of variety to be reckoned with.

Broadleigh showcase three newbies – Spring Sunshine (12in, March), the dwarf Miss Muffet (11in, Feb-March) and the lemon-flowered Stint (12in), a lovely short variety for March and bearing one to three nodding trumpets per stem.

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The 32-page catalogue is filled with ample alliums, crocuses, muscari – Pink Sunrise, what a colour! – tulips, including some gorgeous lily flowereds, irises great and small, the graceful erythronium and plenty more to whet the appetite for a spring show to die for in 2022.

Contact Broadleigh at http://www.broadleighbulbs.co.uk / 01622 845990. There are numerous additions to the catalogue listings online.

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Beautiful bulbs: From top – The huge heads of Allium Globemaster, Narsissus Segovia, the extraordinary pink grape hyacinth Pink Sunrise, above – the new Broadleigh catalogue for planning several months ahead. Pictures courtesy of Broadleigh Gardens.

Shrubs will reward you year on year – not least this alluring Eastern star

Abelia engleriana Bluebell

THE WORLD of flowering shrubs overflows with versatility, vibrance and variety.
From abelia right through to zenobia – and countless numbers in between – shrubs are the gardener’s safe choice, especially if he or she is seeking three more top credentials – structure, easy maintenance and, in many cases, sheer beauty.
In short, they will give you years of pleasure.

As long ago as 1970, when I was a fresh-faced young thing still digesting the difference between a poppy and a peony as I wrote one of my first gardening columns, I tossed in the thought that the day of rose dominance was beginning to wilt.

I found an ally. A local nursery owner in Coventry, where I was working on the evening paper at the time, reckoned that roses would soon “abdicate” as queens of the great outdoors and would be replaced by ornamental shrubs and dwarf conifers.

Well, all these years on, I don’t see any evidence of roses fading into horticultural history – the conifers have toppled from grace somewhat – though there’s little doubt that the popularity of shrubs, especially among reluctant gardeners, has soared sky high since the sun rose on the 21st century.

I use the word “reluctant” as many shrubs virtually look after themselves, save for a trim from time to time, a feed and an occasional watchful eye, so anyone who enjoys pottering about the patch without necessarily taking a fervent interest, will find them perfect for their needs.

I’ve already mentioned abelia in my A-Z allusion – it’s a shrub that invariably gets first shout in ABC order – and I must hail this as a plant packed with performance-plus.

Indeed, I’ll go further and dare to suggest it is one of the best and most beautiful shrubs of them all.

It’s a genus that deserves wider appeal, for few shrubs are so generous with their blooms, many stretching across the entire summer and into autumn.

1970 gardening CET

Awesome abelia: Top – the beautiful Abelia engleriana showing off its colourful trumpets. Photo: Courtesy Bluebell Nursery & Arboretum. Above – My 1970 feature on the possible “abdication” of the rose as queens of the garden.

I already grow Abelia grandiflora, with its arching sprays of funnel-shaped, fragrant flowers, like baby foxgloves, in pink tinged white. Perhaps not the most spectacular, but a great evergreen doer.

Then I got myself the Mexican Abelia floribunda that bears stunning tubular bright cerise flowers, up to 2in long.

Now I’ve tracked down a real beaut – Abelia engleriana, a semi-evergreen choice from Szechuan province in China that delivers masses of scented, purple-pink, bell-shaped blooms, enhanced by an eye-watering golden-orange throat.

Like other abelias, engleriana throws up arching branches and will ultimately reach 6ft high unchecked, with similar spread. But a trim after flowering will painlessly keep the shrub modest in stature.

Just one caution – engleriana and its abelia cousins – there are 30 species and plenty of hybrids – fall just short of being fully hardy.

So while we in the South West can mostly grow them without fear of failure, Midland and Northern gardeners should keep the fleece handy and protect against icy winds.

I bought my Abelia engleriana from Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery of Ashby de la Zouch, Derbyshire (bluebellnursery.com / 01530 413700), an award-winning, family-run mail order and retail nursery. specialising in trees, shrubs, climbers and woody herbaceous plants, including a bevy of rarities and uncommoners as well as four more abelias. I have to say the service, packing and the abelia itself were second-to-none.

Coming up soon: A Top Ten of super shrubs that you may not find at the garden centre.

After the trials of covid, it’s time for the kids to grab a trowel and sow, sow, sow!

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IT’S AS obvious as summer following springtime, isn’t it? The earlier we celebrate the joy of gardening with our children the more likely they are to carry on growing their own flowers, fruit and veg into the years ahead.
It is a fact of human behaviour not unrecognised by the Burpee Seeds Europe team.
With National Children’s Gardening Week heading our way on 29th May and with many youngsters having found lockdowns and covid hard to cope with mentally, now, surely, is the perfect time to introduce little ‘uns to the adventure of sowing seeds.
It is astonishing how children react to tasting homegrown veggies picked fresh from the plot and the joy they feel as they see seeds sprout is wonderful to watch. So grab your wellies and a trowel and let’s go!

SUNFLOWERSMs Mars, Pikes Peak, Tiger Eye. These are the No 1 introductory seeds for children to get the feel of the garden. They are simple to sow, simple to grow and look pretty jolly too. Ms Mars is lovely because of its red colour and great for little ones as it can be grown in a pot, while Pike’s Peak can shoot up to 12ft or more and great for measuring or growing with your brother or sister for a sunflower race and Tiger Eye looking really stunning with its bright red band.

How to use: Feed the birds with the seeds after harvesting or dry the flowers for indoor displays.

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ZINNIA Forecast: Zinnias are zuperb and so easy to grow. Simply sow direct outdoors where they are to bloom anytime in May. Forecast has such a beautifully bright mix of flowers that they look like sweeties growing in the border.

How to use: Try to get kids creative by painting or photographing these gorgeous blooms. Zinnias are fabulous as pressed flowers and can be used to create pictures or birthday cards.

RADISH Ostergruss Rosa 2: With apologies for this titular handful, it is surprising how many children adore homegrown radishes straight from the garden, even though many – admittedly – aren’t keen on its familiar tang. This variety is quick and easy and is a distinctive rosy pink that can reach 8in long.

How to use: Little ones can be proud to use their own produce for popping into summer salads. Try making little radish men or other veggie art.

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CUCUMBER Bush Champion: Cukes are fun for kids to grow and this one is perfect for those who do not have a garden at all as it can be grown in a container.

How to use: They are super for making cucumber boats and filling them with cream cheese or houmous. Cut the ends off and dip into paint and use for vegetable stamping.

TOMATO Veranda Red, Shimmer and Honeycomb. Most children are surprised by the different flavours you can get with various tomato varieties. Honeycomb proved a great success with pupils who tried it at the RHS Hampton Court Festival because it tastes so sweet. For something rather groovy to look at, Shimmer is great fun with its gold stripes and nice thick flesh, while Veranda Red can be grown in pots and is also blight-resistant, ensuring that the little gardeners won’t be disappointed with their harvest.

How to use: Blindfold taste test . . . to see if children can guess the variety. Make your own ketchup, preferably with mum or dad helping. Draw the lifecycle of the tomato to see if the child remembers the journey from planting the seed to eating, from plot to plate.

Burpee don’t sell direct to the public but their seeds are found at good garden centres and retails stores.

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Kids’ creativity: Flowers and veggies, from top – sunflower Tiger Eye, zinnia Forecast, radish Ostergruss Rosa 2, tomato Veranda Red.

 

Yes, it’s those erodiums again – and the adventure of sowing a monkey puzzle seed

Erodium pelargoniflorum PW

PLANT passions have, from time to time, sent me frantically trawling catalogues and websites in search of that coveted floral jewel.
Once it was Primula auricula – I had a greenhouse full of them – and later I had a love affair with francoas, the pinky, shade-loving Bridal Wreath.
Well, it’s now the turn of Stork’s Bill, botanically erodium, to capture my attention.

I gave this 60-species genus from the geranium family a plug in a recent blog in which I featured two species, Erodiums manescavii and pelargoniflorum, which are, respectively, magenta-purple and violet-veined white with fragrant foliage.

This, though, was before I received a copy of the 2021 catalogue from Devon-based Plant World Seeds where – oh joy! – another erodium is listed. Erodium gruinum (18in) is described as a fascinating plant from Sicily and bears large violet-blue flowers all summer followed by remarkable, enormous corkscrew seeds which are commercially used for making hygrometers to measure dampness.

The advice from Plant World is “Wet one and watch what slowly happens.”

The advice from me is to take care of the seeds. You only get four for £3.55 so treat them like mini-nuggets of gold!

Erodium castellanum PW

Online at plant-world-seeds.com I discovered yet another species, Erodium castellanum (6in) said to be rarely offered and boasting gorgeous cerise blooms and parsley-like leaves. Some expertise and patience may be an advantage when sowing and, at £4.35 for four seeds, well, you know the rest. . . 

Interestingly, neither the last two species get a mention in the two-volume RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, thus reinforcing just how uncommon they are.

Elsewhere in Plant World’s lavishly-pictured, 72-page handbook you’ll find a wonderful array of ornamentals, climbers, trees and shrubs, grasses, tomatoes, peppers and plenty of other veg, all receptive to the seed sowing treatment.

Fancy growing a noble monkey puzzle tree, for instance? You’ll get four seeds of this Chilean giant for £4.55 and then follows an extended waiting game before the leathery, spine-tipped leaves and spidery branches reach their ultimate maximum eight of 150ft.

Enticing erodium: From top – Erodium pelargoniflorum, Erodium castellanum, above left Erodium gruinum, right the 2021 Plant World catalogue.

The name monkey puzzle is something of a misnomer. Apparently one was being planted at the Pencarrow Estate in Cornwall in the 19th century when a guest touched the tree’s branch, exclaimed “Ouch,” or maybe stronger, and said: “Climbing it would be a puzzler for a monkey.” Possibly, however, no monkey has ever tried to climb one as there are none in Cornwall or Chile!

But Araucaria araucana can live for 1,000 years, thriving on the slopes of rocky volcanoes and popular in UK parks. So here’s hoping a seed sown now will produce a spiky monster still flourishing in 3021.

Trivia factoid: A handsome monkey puzzle grows in the garden of a house just a few miles from my home. The village name: Monkleigh.

Phone 01803 872939 for a catalogue or open plant-world-seeds-com

The feathery foliage of a flower that looks like a geranium – but it’s not

Erodium manescavii

CURIOUS, isn’t it, how some of the loveliest plants are seldom seen in your average garden, simply because they don’t get sufficient air play?
The woodland spring gem erythronium and the shade-loving hepatica are two that nudge the senses. But the one featured here is a sort of hardy geranium that’s not really one at all.
That’s because it’s an erodium, a close cousin of the better-known geranium but, in my book, just as desirable, if not just a bit more.
Yet their fan club – and those of the other pair – don’t make a lot of noise!
True geraniums have a lengthy list of named varieties behind them. Erodiums, though, are relative small fry, with scarcely any varieties at all.

What I love about hardy erodiums is their gorgeous feathery leaves, which most geraniums lack, and their ability to bloom year after year and for weeks on end.

My introduction to erodiums was, to say the least, a bit unconventional – so best keep this a secret between us! On our way home to Devon from a short holiday in the Forest of Dean a few years ago, we stopped off at Chepstow for a stroll.

After admiring a glorious municipal display of erodiums near the shops, I took the liberty of pinching off a single seed pod and quickly popped it into my pocket before any council official or member of the Heddlu marched me off to the nearest cop shop.

Back home, the two seeds were quickly sown under glass, they germinated and, by summertime two years later, the pair were in flower, one set of foliage slightly deeper than its neighbour.

Erodium foliage

I’m describing just two species – Erodiums manescavii and pelargonifolium – beauties, respectively, from the Pyrenees and Turkey.

Manescavii bears deep lilac-pink flowers over a cascading clump of intricate, ferny foliage, while pelargoniflorum delivers exotic-looking white blooms with purple veins above fragrant, crinkly leaves and with an even longer spell in colour, often from winter’s end to midsummer.

Seed pods resemble a stork’s bill – hence the genus’s popular name – and, when ripe, the seed springs off and can often land some distance away, so be prepared to discover one or two unexpected seedlings putting their roots down in unexpected corners.

With erodium being so closely related to geranium, it begs this poser: Is it possible to cross one with the other to produce a . . . gerodium? Pollinators – it’s over to you!

Interestingly, my book of wild flowers of Britain and Ireland describes and illustrates four more species of erodium that enjoy life beside the seaside, especially growing on sand dunes. They are the Common Storksbill, the Sticky Storksbill, the Musk Storksbill and the Sea Storksbill, all with the familiar ferny foliage and all with flowers in shades of pink.

✴ You can buy seeds of both erodium species from Plant World Seeds, of Newton Abbot, Devon (www.plant-world-seeds.com / 01803 872939.

✴ Erodium advice: Plant in any well-drained soil and in a sunny spot. Propagate by division, root cuttings or basal shoots in autumn or sow seed in spring.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Having pulled up fistfuls of creeping weed from the speedwell family and practically filled a wheely bin with the stuff, this thought crossed my mind: If I were to lay all the strands out in a straight line would they stretch to the moon? And possibly back? Alas, another blitz planned for next year, no doubt.

Erodium manescavii foliage

Enticing erodiums: From top – Erodium manescavii up-close; the feathery foliage alongside a clump of bluebells; above – the intricate leaves, next to an aubretia, create a year-round attraction.

Roses groan on you! At nearly £28 per pot how much pricier can they get?

Rose MolyneuxG
THERE’S no doubting the immense popularity of English Roses – a classic mix of ancient with modern and a glorious eclectic outcome.
As the Swinging Sixties faded and the bell-bottomed Seventies dawned, the first of this radical race of our most cherished flower rolled off the production line.

They were the brainwave of the late David Austin, whose Midlands nursery is still famed the world over.

David had the inspirational idea of crossing certain old varieties, some of Victorian vintage, with new-age hybrids – a method of blending past with present and exploiting the finer points of each era.

By the late 70s, rose-growers were being captivated by the combination of the delicate charm and fragrance of yesteryear’s roses and the wide colour range, robustness and health of their contemporary cousins.

Over the many years that followed, English Roses have always tended to cost a little more than traditional hybrid teas or floribundas.

Rose Rosemoor

But during this week’s meander around a local garden centre I felt my eyeballs on the verge of popping out at what I had spotted – newly-pruned, pot-grown English Roses at a whopping £27.99.

That equates to well over £50 for a pair – and I reckon that’s a pretty thorny discovery and considerably more than I would expect to fork out for a decent-sized flowering shrub.

It seems only two or three years ago that potted English Roses were retailing at around £15 to £18. Back then there was still plenty of financial fresh air between them and ordinary bush roses – varieties which are now priced at a still-respectable £10.99.

Yes, costs are rising and yes, the covid crisis has silenced or subdued so many tills and put countless small businesses – no doubt including some garden centres – on the brink of collapse.

Now I cannot say whether these English Rose price tags were hiked by wholesaler or retailer. Whatever the answer, there must be a danger here that the rose-loving public will decree that enough is enough.

They will only be pushed so far!

Colourful and historic titles were there for the reading amid those lofty prices – Thomas a Becket, The Ancient Mariner, Queen of Sweden and Tranquility among them.

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I’ve grown a small assortment of this clan for some time -the gold Graham Thomas, which was one of Austin’s early creations, the pink Rosemoor, named after the RHS garden not far from my home, the bright yellow Molyneux, named after the Wolves football ground and the pink climber James Galway, in honour of the Irish flautist all spring to mind.

They all bloom their hearts out, mostly from early summer to whenever autumn chills decide to switch them off. They are seldom stricken by black spot and many are deliciously fragrant, with an intensity that many fans claim outstrips the oldies.

That is something I’m not entirely convinced about, though I cannot deny I would otherwise miss their delightful presence each summer.

I’m just relieved I didn’t pay a penny short of £28 for them!

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English Roses – at what cost? From top – Molyneux, Rosemoor, Graham Thomas and the potted pricey ones awaiting a new home.

A sweet project to save the classic chestnut from an unsavoury enemy

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Photo: Tim Sandall

IT’S TIME for a roll call and a health check for one of Britain’s classic trees – and you can do it next time you are out for a stroll.
In one corner – Castanea sativa, the sweet chestnut.
In the other corner – Dryocosmus kuriphilus, the newly-arrived, oriental chestnut gall wasp which disfigure and weaken the trees and are putting them under threat.

Now the Royal Horticultural Society and Coventry University are calling on the public to go sweet chestnut spotting whenever they go walking as the two organisations launch a new citizen science project to help protect the at-risk species for the future, at the same time eager to map the non-native insect and the trees in varying states of health.

Read how to take part later.

Of all trees that thrive in the UK, the sweet chestnut is surely one of the most handsome.

Its features include attractive, deeply-grooved bark, veined and jagged-edged leaves, yellow-green catkins in July and spiny burrs containing delicious, edible, red-brown nuts, made even more mouth-watering when roasted on an open fire.

Found in woods and parks throughout the UK, these chestnuts can live for up to 700 years when healthy and are an important food source for wildlife – bees, various pollinators and squirrels.

Thought to have been introduced by the Romans, most are found in the south of England, particularly in Kent and Surrey, but have been found to extend further north than the Cairngorms.

Beyond this, very little is known about their UK distribution, making it tricky to understand fully the threat to British gardeners and open spaces and to provide effective protection.

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Photo: Graham Titchmarsh

First discovered in Britain in 2015, the oriental gall wasp spreads through flight and likely entered the country through plant imports. The wasp larvae cause abnormal growths, known as galls, on the buds and leaves of the trees. In high numbers these galls can weaken the host tree, making it more vulnerable to other pests and diseases, especially sweet chestnut blight.

To take part in the Check-a-Sweet Chestnut Survey, the public can register on the RHS website and log their findings online via the TreeZilla and TreeAlert reporting tools. Training materials will be provided to help identify and measure sweet chestnut trees and to recognise signs of poor health such as galls on foliage and twigs, damaged or discoloured bark or dieback in the canopy.

People are also encouraged to seek out sweet chestnut trees which have already been mapped and to check up on their health.

RHS plant pathologist Jassy Drakulic says: “Organisms that arrive from abroad and attack trees are on the rise, with an average of six new species arriving in Europe each year.

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Photo: Andrew Halstead

✴ Chestnut challenge: From top – a magnificent example of the deeply-rutted bark of a vintage sweet chestnut; the spiny burrs containing the nuts; an attack from a gall wasp leaving a classic abnormal growth on a leaf.

“Citizens, as a collective, can gather a huge amount of data that would never be possible with official inspections and surveys.

“We hope that by finding and measuring sweet chestnut trees this will breathe new life into the trails many people will have often walked in lockdown and that the project will inspire people to appreciate and learn more about the trees in their area.”

✴ RHS Science will move to a new state of the art facility, RHS Hilltop, at its Wisley, Surrey, gardens in June that will help facilitate its research programmes and educational work. For more details go to http://www.rhs.org.uk/hilltop

The gloriously silky Pasque Flower – but it is such short-lived beauty!

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FLEETING beauty – like a stunning sunset or the flash of a kingfisher – is the one dismaying feature of the Pasque Flower.
It’s a rockery gem that thinks it’s an anemone, which it is not, but it is a close relative.
Indeed, it used to be known as Anemone pulsatilla many years ago until the boffins gave it independence – and it is now a spring-flowering genus of around 30 species.

Viewed at their best, those clad in their usual colour of pale or dark lavender, with a central mass of gold stamens and purple eye, will take your breath away. But if only they would linger for a few more days! As it is, a week is a long time.

The cup-shaped blooms are cocooned in silky hairs, shaped like a collar, and surrounded by feathery foliage.

All is not, however, lost when flowers fade, for each stem leaves behind a silky and hairy spherical seed head which, perhaps not exactly things of beauty, are nonetheless attractive on the eye and rather resemble those of clematis. And very nice in flower arrangements!

The plant’s common name comes from Pasque, the old word for Easter, and it is around the long Easter weekend, especially in April, that pulsatillas are looking supreme.

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Add on three or four days of unbroken sun, however, and those gorgeous petals start to fade.

This pulsatilla (4in-8in) is native to the UK and also pops up wild in France and across to Ukraine. They relish limy and gritty soil, even happy in poor, rocky ground, and prefer direct sun, even though, paradoxically, it curtails their finer points.

For a change from purple, try the hybrid Rubra in shades of red or Alba in a glistening white, sometimes cream, both complete with eye-gazing gold centres.

Pulsatillas resent transplanting, so it’s best to leave them undisturbed and they’ll reward you for years, spreading quite slowly.

To expand your collection, pull off a few ripe seeds in early summer and sow in a gritty compost mix in cold frame or cool greenhouse. Germination shouldn’t keep you waiting too long and then pot them on as they grow.

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Peerless pulsatillas all from my Devon garden: From top – a generous clump of Rubra; the standard species Pulsatilla vulgaris; the snowy-white Alba.

Other species, such as the violet-purple halleri (8in) or the white alpina (6in-12in) may be hard to find, but the European Pulsatilla vernalis (4in) is a shorter-growing choice of immense beauty – pearly white flushed with bluish-violet and a silky sheen – that you may encounter at the garden centre.

I’ve not grown this one, though I bet they look stunning in their wild havens on the mountainsides of Spain, Scandinavia, Bulgaria and the chills of Siberia.

Siberia? Now, that’s no place for the fragile fraternity, so this little chappie’s no shrinking violet!

AFTER 150 YEARS, THIS ROSE IS STILL LOVED – AND SNIFFED – BY MILLIONS

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FAME is bestowed on certain roses for a variety of reasons.

Some are adored because of their heavenly scent, some because of their good health record and many thanks for vigour and dependability.

This week I bought for the first time a variety heralded for its uniqueness of a different nature – a complete absence of thorns.

Zéphirine Drouhin, pictured above and below, is an heirloom bourbon climber, almost luminous pink in colour, and very, very fragrant.

Astonishingly, this old stager took its maiden public bow as long ago as 1868, having been bred by an “unknown” Frenchman called Bizot, from Semur-en-Auxois in eastern France, and named after the wife of a local rose enthusiast.

Yet after more than 150 years, this veteran is arguably still the most celebrated and cherished climber of any rose and is growing in gardens all over Britain, Europe and across the globe.

Just why Zéphirine Drouhin emerged smooth-skinned is one of horticulture’s great mysteries. Was it a deliberate cross, was it pure chance, did Bizot have a lifelong ambition to create a rose that was so entirely different? Sadly, no one knows its parentage, so the investigation immediately hits the skids.

Strictly, there are two other thorn-free climbers, but both are sports of Zéphirine – Marthe, that is similarly coloured and introduced in 1911 but since virtually vanished from UK catalogues, and Kathleen Harrop, in shell pink, somewhat less vigorous, bred by Alex Dickson in Northern Ireland in 1919 and still in plentiful supply.

As for ‘ZD’, there are plus-points and minuses to consider.

Iridescent blooms

Apart from its delicious aroma, it is one of the best repeat bloomers around and will carry on delivering those iridescent, semi-double heads well into autumn.

It can be grown against a wall, up a trellis, arbour or pillar potentially topping 10ft or, if pruned hard, trained as a shrub or hedge.

Its matt green foliage is often crimson when young, creating an attractive two-tone livery.

The principal downside is its fragile health, which needs signs of watching for black spot, mildew or rust. Regular spraying, though, should control these maladies. One or two books reckon it can become shy with its blooms, but I shall feed generously in spring and summer and hope this doesn’t happen.

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Prolific “Expert” gardening author Dr David Hessayon hails Zéphirine Drouhin as deserving a place in the rose Hall of Fame. My most ancient rose book, published in 1911, fanfares the climber as a “delightful garden rose . . . everyone should grow it.”

My guess is that millions of rose lovers do indeed grow this venerable variety of the 60s – the 1860s! – no doubt encouraged by those oh-so-smooth stems. I’m not sure why it has taken me so long!

My Good Friday mission took me to Homeleigh Garden Centre at Stratton, near Bude, where staff had kindly reserved a fine-looking plant priced at £14.99 and held firm in its pot by a small but sturdy frame.

It is now safely in situ and ready to become “in the pink” in a month or so.

Just a couple of spade lengths away grows a fragrant, creamy climber called Crème de la Crème with – in complete contrast – an armoury of barbs that can only be described as fiendish and almost frightening.

Suffice to say, I dread having to prune this beautiful beast. Zéphirine Drouhin will be a doddle!