Rosa filipes 'Kiftsgate'

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 10m x 6m

Flowering period: mid to late summer

A shade tolerant behemoth for swallowing barns and devouring churches. If we do lose the fight against ash dieback I vote we plant one of these by each tree that succumbs and send the ash out as it deserves, in a brilliant blaze of burning white.

Best for: growing 35 feet upwards


Rosa ‘Roseraie de l'Haӱ’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 2m x 2m

Flowering period: midsummer through autumn

A salt and wind tolerant rose suitable for lighthouse keepers and sheep farmers. Magenta flowered in summer, yellow leaved in autumn and red hipped in winter, en masse plantings of this robust and dense rugosa make a far more attractive boundary than larch-lap fencing.

Best for: hedging

© John Hiorns

Rosa x damascena var. semperflorens (also known as ‘Quatre Saisons’)

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 2m x 1.5m

Flowering period: midsummer and every 5-7 weeks until autumn

The Victorians were fine plant breeders, but don’t let them claim credit for the repeat flowering European rose. This ancient hybrid has been producing a second and third autumnal waves of pink-tinged blooms for over 500 years. Grow it for the heritage; enjoy it for the unbeatable fragrance - sweet, sultry and three times a year!

Best for: vintage smells

Rosa ‘Garden Glory’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 1.2m x 0.6m

Flowering period: early to mid summer through to late autumn

Given the occasional dead heading ‘Garden Glory’ will happily bring forth clusters of ruffled apricot-yellow flowers for a full six months. It’s easy to grow, fairly disease resistant, well scented and not at all subtle.

Best for: the nocturnal – its flowers are large and light and so show up well after dark

Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 1.5 x 1m

Flowering period: midsummer to early autumn

A smell to turn heads and halt walks, this rose has the aroma of altogether superior Turkish Delight. She also has pretty buds, masses of Barbara Cartland-pink flowers and large handsome leaves. When passers by ask “what’s that lovely smell?” make sure to rhyme “Gertrude Jekyll” with ‘Include Treacle’.

Best For: the back of the border. The scent will carry and unsightly lower stems will be hidden.

Rosa 'Munstead Wood'

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 1m x 0.8m

Flowering period: from June until late autumn. A rose in deep lusty crimson, a shade far more sensual and natural than the florists’ valentine red. This romantic rose will grow happily in a large container where its sweetly scented blooms will be closer to nose level. Can flower right through to Christmas if deadheaded regularly.

Best for: seduction and growing in pots

© John Hiorns

Rosa ‘Francis E. Lester’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 5m x 5m

Flowering period: early to midsummer

If you have ever admired the flowers of a wild bramble, and wondered why no one grows them ornamentally – here’s your answer. ‘Francis E. Lester’ has the same delicate pink-tinted petals surrounding the same exuberant nest of yellow filaments, but the rose’s flowers are bigger, fragrant and far more abundant. Sadly, it produces small orange hips instead of blackberries.

Best for: a versatile rambler - send it into a tree, along a fence, over a door or up a column.

© John Hiorns

Rosa ‘Peace’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 1.4m x 1m

Flowering period: midsummer to mid October

The quintessential Hybrid Tea - as colourful as an alcopop and just as classy. The abundantly petalled pink and yellow blooms, which can be 15cm across, once made this the world’s most popular rose and almost certainly sparked a discerning growers’ backlash against modern roses and the retreat to heritage style plants. Still good fun though.

Best for: trashy chic

Rosa ‘Max Graf’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 1m x 3m

Flowering period: repeat flowering throughout summer and autumn

I have come to understand that a “ground cover” rose is just a plant wider than it is tall. ‘Max Graf’ fits the bill perfectly by growing only 3ft up and 10ft across, and what a 10ft. Dark ridged rugosa type leaves form a healthy back drop for a profusion of deep pink single blooms.

Best for: covering ground

Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 4m x 4m

Flowering period: June, July and early August

On the Island of Honshu geneticists are splicing delphinium genes into traditional roses, hunting a Frankenstein’s blue form. None of their expensive efforts have matched ‘Veilchenblau’ in colour or effect. The name means violet blue and in truth the flowers are closer to lilac, but they open magenta and in a citrus scented mass.

Best for: cold climate gardeners dreaming of bougainvillea

© John Hiorns

Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 2.5 x 1.5

Flowering period: midsummer

November, often a tough month for rose fanciers, sees this large elegant shrub at its best. Groups of elongated maraca shaped hips hang in front of sprays of tiny deep green leaves. In a good year the hips are so large that the whole plant resembles a fuchsia in bud. The leaves may fall but the fruit hangs all winter, just remember never to deadhead.

Best for: autumn and winter colour

Rosa ‘Climbing Lady Hillingdon’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 4.5m x 2.5m

Flowering period: July to September

It is from Lady Hillingdon’s journal that we take the phrase ‘Lie back and think of England’. I believe that no decent fantasy of Albion could be considered complete without a cottage garden and this climbing rose. It produces prodigious quantities of warm apricot-yellow flowers throughout summer, with a smell of peach tea.

Best for: south facing walls

Rosa ‘Pope John Paul II’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 1.8 x 1.2

Flowering period: June until October

As a cut flower this rose shares its holy namesake’s famous longevity, lasting over a week in the vase, but suffers none of the attendant frailty. The long stem and pure white flowers make it perfect for bouquets and a small bunch will easily fill a large room with a delicate citrus perfume.

Best for: cut flowers

Rosa glauca

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 2m x 1.5m

Flowering period: early to midsummer Roses are not usually celebrated for their leaves - they’re rather too fond of black spot, mildew and slugworm for that. This species is different; it has stunning blue-grey foliage held against copper-tinged stems and red petioles. The effect is so admirable that is easy to overlook the attractive white-eyed magenta flowers.

Best for: foliage

Rosa sericea var. pteracantha (The Winged Thorn Rose)

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 1.8 x 1.5

Flowering period: July

A rose grown solely for its thorns which emerge flat, winged, monstrous and translucent on the new growth and glow hellfire red when backlit. The flowers are insignificant and the colour fades on older stems, so prune hard and prune heavy.

Best for: ornamental stems

Rosa ‘Penelope’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 1.5m x 1.5m

Flowering period: late June into autumn if deadheaded regularly

A wonderful hybrid musk, pink semi-double flowers surround a cheerful sunburst of yellow stamen. The blooms are beloved of bees for their nectar, and of growers for their fragrance which wafts and lingers in deep corners of the garden. Clip it into a bush, grow it as a hedge, train it up a wall – just have this odour around you somewhere.

Best for: stuffing small spaces with scent

Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’

Words: Ben Dark

Ultimate height and spread: 1.5 x 1.2

Flowering period: July to October

Don’t let the frothy primrose-yellow petals fool you; this rose is as imperturbable and unfussy as they come. It will grow with rigour and enthusiasm wherever bidden and would not complain if a bricklayer pruned it with his trowel. Combines utilitarian disease resistance with flamboyant colour and a fresh sweet smell.

Best for: just getting on with it

© John Hiorns