ROSES that defy colour convention and produce blooms in shades which prompt a “Wow” or a double-take will always be favourites of mine.
Not that I make a habit of defying convention, of course – well, only perhaps some of the time! – and there’s always room in my mental scrapbook for those plain colour beauties in crimson, pink or canary yellow.
Yet many modern varieties, as well as a few oldies, do stop viewers in their tracks, simply because they are DIFFERENT.
Many years ago I grew a hybrid tea called Grey Pearl which none of my family approved of, though I was fascinated. It was just that – greyish white and not especially attractive, but it bucked all the trends towards pretty-pretty varieties worthy of a bouquet.
In my garden this year, I’ve already got four oddballs that are by no means normal rosy colours but which are performing superbly well nonetheless.
Abracadabra: What a stunner! Dark red with yellow splashes and stripes on a shortish bush of 2ft-3ft. It is known as Forcasu Porkasu in its native Germany where it was discovered by specialist firm W. Kordes & Son in 2002.
Nostalgia: A large cream-coloured HT with cherry edges against handsome dark green leaves, reaches 3ft and, I have discovered, holds its classic shape well in hot weather while other varieties tends to blow open quickly. Some fragrance here.
Eyes for You: Semi-double lilac and mauve blooms and with a deep purple blotched centre and boasting a reasonably strong citrus scent. This floribunda rose was crossbred from Persica (desert) types to create a new concept in hydridising. About 3ft-3ft 6in.
Belle Epoque: Striking and most unusual. Dark nectarine outer petals, golden bronze inside. This HT is high on health, bears a decent fragrance and will top 3ft, though mine tends to stay lower. I cannot recall a rose of such intense and rare colouring in the yellow range.
All four should be easy to find at garden centres, though a quick trawl online will reveal many outlets should your local search prove fruitless.
What all this proves is that you don’t need to go for those “celebratory” roses found in most catalogues or nurseries. None of my quartet is particularly well-known except perhaps for Eyes for You and all have come to the public market in the past few years.
I still adore my old faithfuls, such as the spectacular pure yellow Korresia; my lovely flawless pink hybrid perpetual Mrs John Laing, from 1887, which has grown in my gardens since 1966 and which looks as young today as 53 years ago; and my not-so-oldie Absolutely Fabulous which lives up to its famous name in supreme style.
■ Rarity in roses: From top – Abracadabra, Nostalgia, Eyes for You, Belle Epoque, all delightful varieties that give the rose colour code a brand new stance.