Roses: Ultra-fussy flowers that demand precision and perfection to perform

Rose MolyneuxG

TAKE my word for it, roses are right up at the top end of fussiness when it comes to providing them with all that they desire for performance-plus.

The nation’s most cherished flower they may be, but let your attention slip an inch and they will rebel.

Yes, roses grow on you, but yes, roses will also groan at you!

They do need space. Of all plants, roses perhaps are the ones to carry the greatest degree of hatred if they are hemmed in, especially if their foliage touches that of a non-rose “competitor”.

In pure-air regions, such as where I live in North Devon, most modern varieties will almost certainly succumb to black spot – a nasty fungal disease which can strip a bush of its leaves within two or three days. Once black spot disfigures the foliage there is no cure, but the condition can be kept at bay by spraying with a sulphur-based compound such as Sulphur Rose. This works well for my 70-odd varieties, though it would be misleading to say that every single leaf has escaped. Some varieties – reds and oranges in particular – demand very regular spraying.

Roses do respond to summertime pruning. After the first flower flush, instead of leaving the nondescript old stems to stay put, seek out an outward-pointing leaf joint about halfway down and snip it off. Feed with a quick-acting booster such as fish, blood and bone or Growmore and await the results – more blooms later in the season.

Roses relish life in the sun. They will cope with some shade, though anything too extreme will send them into a sulk – and eventually they will probably perish or simply become a non-mover.

Rose Baron Girod de l'Ain

Unlike many plants, roses don’t scream out on heavy, clay soil. In fact, they positively enjoy it, though if you plan to include one or two old-fashioned shrub roses in your collection, best to talk to the expert on hand as some less vigorous varieties from yesteryear covet increased TLC.

Do snip or pull out off any suckers. These are effectively wild rose growths from below the rootstock. If allowed to develop they will divert the sap from the cultivated rose and will – well – sap the plant of its energy. Suckers usually have paler green, narrower leaflets which tend to be more numerous than the parent plant’s. Don’t tug suckers too vigorously as you could end up pulling up the entire bush, so resort to the secateurs for safety if in doubt.

If you don’t enjoy hoeing around the roses, scatter a good mulch around each plant to suffocate the weeds and to keep the soil cooler when the sun beats down – as of late.

There are several more “do’s” and “don’ts”, but many can provoke wide disagreement, such as the best time to carry out the principal prune. Most books say March and this is no doubt wise for Midland and Northern gardens. Here in the South West I always cut back in December, provided the weather is frost-free and provided I’ve got the will to go out into the cold and do the job without a grumble!

Enjoy your roses. Treat ’em nice and they’ll reward you with a five-star show.

Rose Korresia

Ravishing roses: Top – English Rose Molyneux, named after the Wolves football ground; centre – Baron Girod de l’Ain, a real golden oldie from 1897 with bright crimson petals and a distinctive white edging; above – a refreshingly bright yellow, Korresia, from 1975 and a decent scent as bonus.


No midnight deadline for this ravishing Cinderella – 2019’s belle of the ball!

Delph Cinderella (Sut)

CINDERELLA is officially the belle of the ball – 2019-style – having swept everyone off their feet at the BBC Gardeners’ World Live Best New Plant Introduction.

Indeed, in the eyes of leading seed firm Suttons, this brand new delphinium in a rare dress of pink and green is a crowning glory all the way after waltzing into the arena to be hailed this year’s winner.

The spectacle, held earlier this month at the NEC in Birmingham, saw an array of new and exciting plant introductions for 2019 from across the industry. These were showcased on veteran TV gardener Peter Seabrook’s stand, known as the Plant Pyramid, with many new plants being part of this monumental display.

Peter said: “This is the biggest floral display that I have ever planned and helped to stage. It is a unique coming together of all the UK’s most well-known seed brands and many international breeding companies.” And Cinderella became one of the stars.

With tough criteria, the plants were judged on three main points:

Durability – Nominated plants were judged on their durability during the show itself, so were observed over four days from the start to the finish. This is unique to GWL and is one of the reasons why they announce the results on the Sunday at the end of the show.

Suitability – This being suitability to the British climate, so were scrutinised on how successfully a plant can be grown given the weather conditions experienced in Britain’s gardens.

Uniqueness of the flower – Where applicable, the flowers were judged for their unique attributes. This could have been a new or pure petal colour that’s never been seen before or breeding that gives the flowers that extra special something, making it stand out from other specimens. The award was open to all, as it does not exclude foliage plants, so cacti and succulents could also have featured in the line-up.

The selection of all the nominated new plants at the show was whittled down to just five.

These five plants were then delivered to Jim Buttress, chairman of Gardeners’ World Live, who was on the Floral Assessment Panel at GWL. The final five plants also featured on the Demo Bench, which was also at the show  – a stage in the Floral Marquee – where they were on display for the four days for continuous judging.

During this time, Jim consulted with many experts, celebrities and speakers, collating all of their opinions to arrive at the decision on the winning plant.

The delphinium Cinderella is a result of breeding by the world’s foremost specialist breeder. Far away in New Zealand, 20 years ago, one man decided to devote his life to delphiniums.

Terry Dowdeswell’s tireless breeding work has changed the very structure of these fine border plants, transforming them into cold tolerant, disease-proof, robust garden workhorses.

Terry has worked his magic again with this pure pink, triple flowered variety with green tips. Eight years of meticulous breeding has produced perfectly round flowers with no gaps between the florets. It’s these pink ‘tutu-like’ flowers, resembling Cinderella’s dress, that gave the plant its name.

The triple-layered blooms and pompon structure makes Cinderella far more robust than traditional delphiniums and an added vigour in the plants means the stems are strong like bamboo. Reaching a height of 4ft, this beautiful perennial ensures you no longer need a large garden to create the cottage garden look.

Devon-based Suttons are understandably thrilled to be celebrating this award winner Cinderella for 2019. This true princess will create the perfect cottage garden for a happy ever after!

Genus: Delphinium
Species: Elatum
Common name: Larkspur
Height/Spread: 4ft
Where to grow: Beds and borders
Type of plant: Hardy perennial
Attracts: Butterflies, bees
Climate: Full sun
Colour: Light pink, green tips 3262200

Cinderella pres (Sut)

Super Cinderella: Top – the pale pink, edged green petals of this stunning delphinium. Above – Peter Seabrook (left) with Gardeners’ World Live chairman Jim Buttress at the awards ceremony.

When you sniff a rose it’s all about scents and sensuality

Mme Isaac Pereire

SCENT is one topic I find difficulty in getting my head – or nose – around in the great gardening game when it comes to the nation’s most adored flower.

The sensual fragrances of the rose as you watch the sun go down take some beating. Alongside are honeysuckle, philadelphus, lilac, lily-of-the-valley, carnations, jasmine and sweet peas – all of them front runners when it comes to twitching our nostrils again and again and prompting the “Aah” factor.

Apart from roses, they all have their own distinctive aroma.

Yet I find it’s the world of roses that tests my personal perfume appreciation more than any other flower.

Call it scents and sensuality if you like. But be warned – it can also lead to bouts of disagreement.

I recall a Daily Mail piece on scent in which Chris Beardshaw hails the white floribunda Iceberg as having a “delicious lemon fragrance”. Really? My nose tells me this one is almost scentless.

David Austin went public with Rosemoor – named after the RHS centre of excellence in North Devon – in 2004 and states in his handbook that this English Rose has a “strong and delicious old rose fragrance but with additional hints of apple, cucumber and violet leaf”.

Well, I’ve grown this one since its public bow and rate its bouquet as OK but nothing spectacular.

Another of his English Roses – a breed created by the firm in the 1970s by combining old rose fragrance and charm with the vigour and repeat flowering qualities of modern HTs and floribundas – is Summer Song in a strikingly unusual burnt orange and said to exude “hints of chrysanthemum leaves, ripe bananas and tea.”

Not that I’ve grown this 2006 arrival, but it’s a narrative that would do justice to a wine expert’s page!

However famous the breeder, not one has control over the perfume package a new rose will offer. It’s totally hit and miss, in much the same way as a new variety’s foliage colour or quantity of thorns.

I’m reminded of one I grew many years ago – a white seedling of the veteran, and still in commerce,  HT Frau Karl Druschki which is totally devoid of scent. Yet it produced a delightful pure white seedling called Marcia Stanhope which – in a shade not normally famed for sweet redolence – I found it exuded an intoxicating fragrance, almost in defiance of its parentage.

Scent: It’s so much a subjective and personal topic!

Three golden oldies which I grow and which – in my book – are the most sniffable varieties out there are the pink bourbons Mme Isaac Pereire and La Reine Victoria, bred in 1880 and 1872, and another pink, the hybrid perpetual Mrs John Laing from 1887. This same plant, incidentally, has been growing in my various gardens since the word go – no, not from 1887, of course, but from when I bought it back in 1966, since when it has physically changed little and delivers those old-fashioned, globular blooms each and every year.

Finally, if scent – or lack of it – is your thing, consider the floribunda Megiddo, bred in the 1970s by the late Douglas Gandy in the most dazzling shade of orange-red imaginable. You’d think it would be rich in redolence, yet it is the most unscented rose I’ve encountered, if that’s possible. It’s well and truly non-scents!

You may as well go sniff a stone!

■ 375177

Rose Mrs John Laing1

Rose Megiddo

Sniffable and don’t bother: From top – Mme Isaac Pereire and Mrs John Laing, both beautifully scented, and Megiddo which seems to have zero fragrance.

Dwarf bulbs to make a giant spring impact . . . and autumn and winter too

Potterton 2019 1

DWARF BULBS that dot the spring garden with bright lights are as essential as the bigger players in the shape of daffodils and tulips in the same season.

If you’ve any doubts, check out the latest catalogue despatched by Pottertons Nursery & Garden.

There’s a feast of floral beauty and colour across its 32 pages.

Yet the flower that earns more catalogue columns than any other? Not that ubiquitous duo already mentioned, nor snowdrops nor irises, but . . . crocuses.

Yes, Rob and Jackie Potterton and their team at Nettleton, Lincolnshire, clearly adore this genus and dedicate no fewer than six columns to those irresistible species and hybrids.

Add to this another column and a half on the similar but unrelated colchicums and the dinkies are standing 6ft tall!

On the front cover are a cluster of Crocus chrysanthus Sunspot with the most alluringly bright orange petals which open to reveal a stunning and prominent black central style. At £12.50 each or £34.50 for three, you need to know what you are doing!

Not all are bank bruisers, though. Staying with the spring-flowering species, there’s tommasinianus Roseus in rose-pink at £2 for ten and £4.50 for 25, the very early ancyrensis with deep orange flowers (£1 for ten, £4.50 for 50), sieberi Tricolor with three distinct bands in lilac, white and yellow (£1/£4.50), versicolor Picturatus in pure white and striking purple stripes on both petal sides (£2 for five, £3.70 for ten), while for autumn blooming there’s goulimyi in pale to deep lavender and white throat (£1.50 each, £3.90 for three), medius in light purple and attractive orange pistils (£3 for ten, £13 for 50), nudiflorum in bright purple-violet in October (£2.50 each, £6.90 for three), or, for a couple of other “ouches,” try mathewii HKEP 9291 at £14 per bulb or £39 for three in white with violet-purple ring around the inside of the flower base, yellow anthers and red stigma, or mathewii Dream Dancer at £10 each or £28.50 for three and bearing light and purple patches dark centres and light, feathering flowers.

A pair of exclusive masterpieces, but do take care.

Elsewhere across its pages, the catalogue offers a gorgeous selection of autumn, winter and spring favourites, as well as a sprinkling of rare or tricky species.

From numerous alliums and anemones to the delights or erythronium, fritillaria and a fine assortment of bulbous and rhizome-type irises and narcissi and tulips to drool over – Potterton has the lotterton!

■ Those living within easy reach of the nursery should make a note of Saturday, 14 September, when Pottertons stage an open day from 10am to 4pm. Visitors are invited to choose from an extensive range of dwarf bulbs, alpines, woodland plants and dormant bulbs and walk the beautiful landscape gardens. Expert advice, refreshments and nibbles are all on hand.

Potterton 2019 2

■ Beautiful bulbs: Top – Front page of the new Pottertons catalogue; above – a bulb bonanza on the back page.


2,000 flower and veg seed packs bring smiles to suffering Syrian refugees

Iraqi seeds Mr F

HUNDREDS of Syrian refugees from the Domiz and five neighbouring camps in Northern Iraq are benefiting from receiving 2,000 flower and vegetable seed packets.

This is the second year of a project that was initially inspired by a First World War seed lift from the Royal Horticultural Society to British prisoners of war living in an internment camp in Germany.

Working with the RHS, leading seed and plant supplier Mr Fothergills has again  generously donated packets of seeds to the Lemon Tree Trust projects.

Sent as part of a project set up by the RHS and Trust, the seeds were specially chosen for 200 Syrian families who, despite living in difficult circumstances, hope to gain some joy from the benefits of gardening.

The list was made up of varieties that would bring colour to the camp and could be grown in the harsh conditions, including marigolds, sunflowers, peppers and cucumbers.

Some seeds were also given to researchers of the University of Duhok as part of ongoing studies testing grey water success rates for both edibles and ornamentals. Around 250 packets of seeds were used in garden starter kits for community gardens and schools in Mosul, Iraq.

Tim Jeffries, Mr Fothergill’s commercial director, commented “We are absolutely delighted to be able to help out the RHS and the Lemon Tree Trust by donating seeds from our ranges.

“We hope that they will provide some pleasure for those living in the difficult conditions of the Domiz Camp.” 3710518

Iraqi seeds Mr F 2

Greenfingered hopefuls: Top – Delighted youngsters

celebrate receiving their seed packs. Above – This young

lad already seems to appreciate the colours from this vase

of flowers.

And they call it poppy love: They’re big, bold and beautiful

Poppies Secret Gardenn

FLAMBOYANCE comes as standard with poppies. So do short-lived artistry and charm per flower.

That’s typical of horticulture. It’s often the case that blooms with most allure are those that are here today and gone tomorrow . . . well, almost.

The consolation is that most poppies do pack a punch and they don’t demand much TLC.

Of the poppy’s 70 or so species, two tend to dominate our gardens – Papaver orientale, the perennial Oriental poppy, and somniferum, the annual Opium poppy. Plus all their many hybrids.

Not forgetting the California poppy in eye-squinting orange, though this one – the almost unpronounceable eschscholzia – is not a true member of the clan, but a sight that has prompted many an admiring “What’s that?” puzzle in my garden. These are botanically perennial but best grown annually from seed.

There are distinct differences between the Turkish Orientals and the widely-spread opiums, not least the colour and texture of the leaves – toothed, hairy and mid-green for the perennials, deeply-lobed, smooth and grey-blue the annuals.

But, of course, all petals are paper-thin and seldom last for a second day, so keep dead-heading!

At the end of this piece, you’ll find a few words on my own personal “adventure” with the somniferums. This week, their long-awaited colour unfolded – a lovely pale mauve-pink with dark crimson spots at each petal-base.

Leading contenders include the double White Cloud, the frilly red, white or pink Peony Flowered or various others in shades of mauve-to-purple, all capable of topping 4ft on sunny and dry sites, though 2ft 6in-3ft is the norm.

Among favourite Orientals are Perry’s White, the century-old Mrs Perry in salmon-pink, Allegro in sizzling scarlet with bold, black marks, Patty’s Plum in plum-purple, Cedric Morris in soft pink, Forncett Summer with deeply fringed, salmon-pink cups and the striking Coral Reef in coral pink with dramatic jet black centre.

If you’re a keen flower arranger the “pepper pot” seed heads of somniferum are excellent material when dried and each one holds a cascading quantity of seed. Go carefully!

Poppies Maastricht


READERS may recall how, last July, I was in Maastricht, Holland, for one of André Rieu’s home-town concerts.

While waiting as a bus stop to go into the town, I spotted a poppy head by chance on the ground and couldn’t resist picking it up and taking it home.

Curiously, after sowing seed in early August, nothing happened and by the dawn of 2019 the seed trays were still devoid of activity.

Then, in the chill of January, I spied a tiny cluster of green plantlets in one corner.

Eventually, more and more “babies” broke through the compost and I ended up with an impressive 82 poppies which I either dotted around the garden or gave to friends and family.

Finally, this week, the first blooms revealed their true mauve-pink beauty. It was to prove my Maastricht treat.

Indeed, with André Rieu in mind, they brought music to my eyes!

Top of the poppies: From top – two-tone purple somniferum; my first two blooms of what I call my Maastricht poppies; bright red Orientals; above left – a double somniferum; right – two singles, all three photos taken of display beds in Westward Ho!

Dare to be broad-minded and plant for an autumn veggie feast

Broad Bean Luz de Otono	

TOUGH, tasty and terrific – broad beans are all these praiseworthy adjectives and more, including power-packed with protein and vitamins.

Yet for all their dependability, few – if any – varieties can be sown in mid-summer to crop in autumn.

So enter Luz de Otono – with a little help from plant and seed firm Dobies – to rival Aquadulce, Bunyard’s Exhibition, Imperial Green Longpod and the like.

The Devon-based flower and veg suppliers, who are renowned for bringing new and exciting varieties and mixes to market, are now hailing the first-ever October and November-cropping broad bean.

A versatile variety, its young and tender beans can be plucked from the plants and eaten raw.

Try shelling the young beans straight from the stems – you’ll find between five and seven per pod – and eat on the spot.

Or shell the mature pods for a bright green pop of colour that’s perfect for risottos or pastas as the weather cools.

Broad beans also make super pulses for winter soups and stews or as a vitamin-rich side dish.

In addition, these beans are an excellent source of vegetable protein and fibre, rich in folic and B vitamins which are essential for nerve and blood cell development, cognitive function and energy.

Plants will reach 3ft-3ft 6in and are classed as half-hardy annuals, so they may need some protection later in the year from a July sowing.

The species – Vicia fava – has been grown since ancient times. The term “feeling full of beans” actually refers to broad beans and many Eastern European countries have developed their own beans – broads included – to replace meat.

Beans prefer a sunny location, to be well watered and to grow on soil enriched by compost and manure. As beans are legumes, they will naturally add nitrogen to the ground, thus making a valuable contribution to crop rotation.

Plug plants of Luz de Otono are despatched from mid-July from a June order – £11.99 for 30, £8.99 for 15, while a pack of 35 seeds costs £2.99. 9670303

Broad Bean Luz de Otono

Nutritious: Broad bean Luz de Otono, ready to set new boundaries for planting and picking.