Tag Archive: rose

Rose- picture by Massimiliano Faro

Rose- picture by Massimiliano Faro

Picture by Ewa Maria Kaminska

Picture by Ewa Maria Kaminska

PicPost: Summer

Rose- picture by Anne Doherty

Rose- picture by Anne Doherty


Rose hips at Howick, Northumberland

'Zephirin Drouhin' looking good this year on a tunnel at Old School Garden

‘Zephirin Drouhin’ looking good this year on a tunnel at Old School Garden

Roses nodding round the front door or along a pergola or trellis make even the plainest house look pretty, but the thorns on stray shoots can scratch people as they go in and out. Combine beauty with safety by choosing a thornless rose like ‘Zephirin Drouhin’; it is a rich pink, perpetual flowering and heavily scented- and has thornless stems.

A lovely rose, and thornless, too

A lovely rose, and thornless, too

Old School Gardener

Picture by Eva Kovacs

Picture by Eva Kovacs

Rose, picture via Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura

Rose, picture via Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura

greenfly‘Greenfly, it’s difficult to see

Why God, who made the rose, made thee.’

A.P. Herbert (1890-1971)

Look Back and Laugh

Rosa rugosa 'Frau Dagmar Hastrup'- shrub rose growing at Old School Garden

Rosa rugosa ‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’- a shrub rose growing at Old School Garden

What an appropriate question for St. Valentine’s Day, from Minah Petaly of Lincoln:

‘I’ve heard that old roses and shrub roses only flower once a year and that shrub roses would be too big for a small garden like mine. And what would you suggest I grow to get large, decorative hips (no sniggering please)?’

Ha, ha, Minah! It’s true that all the old garden roses will flower once a year but there are some notable exceptions: most Bourbons, the hybrid perpetuals and China roses. This is also true of the wild (species) roses, however, a high proportion of modern shrub roses raised during the last 100 years are recurrent flowerers.

As to size, it’s by no means true that all shrub roses are too large for small gardens. Some of the modern ones developed in the past century will reach only 1.2m (4′) high or less. And the varieties ‘Yesterday’, ‘Frank Naylor’, and ‘Saga’ could also be added to these.



Of the older roses, most of the Gallicas and China roses grow within this limit too, as do a few examples from other groups. Particularly suitable for smaller gardens are the alba roses like ‘Felicite Parmentier’ and ‘Konigin von Danemarck’ while the species or wild rose ‘Canary Bird’ (pause for a chant of ‘Come on you Yellows’- the canaries is the nickname of Norwich City F.C.), can be kept to a moderate height if grown as a standard.

Looking at hips (!), for their sheer size and redness, pick members of the rugosa family that have single flowers, such as ‘Frau Dagmar Hartopp’, R. rugosa alba, and ‘Scabrosa’. Another good one, growing here in Old School Garden is ‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’. As they are recurrent flowerers, the hips from the first flush of flowers appear with later blooms.

A hip on Rosa rugosa

A hip on Rosa rugosa

Many of the wild (species) roses have hips in varying colours from red through to orange and yellow, and some even black. R. roxburghii has prickly hips resembling the fruit of the Horse Chestnut (conkers), while those of R.pomifera resemble large red gooseberries. Perhaps the most spectacular hips are those of R. moyesii and its various hybrids; they are bottle-shaped, bright red and each may be up to 50mm long. To continue with the footballing (soccer) theme, this is perhaps one for Manchester United supporters – both on grounds of colour and name!

Old School Gardener

single_red_rose‘It will never rain roses; when we want to have more roses we must plant more trees’

(George Eliot)

So, male readers (73% of those buying flowers for Valentine’s Day are men), with about a week to go to that feast of romance, you may have started to think about a suitable card and flowers for your loved one. Unless, of course, you forget and pay through the nose on the day itself for a sad-looking bouquet as you fill the car’s tank at your local garage (not guilty m’lord!).

The ‘modern’ celebration of St. Valentine’s day seems to have begun in France and England – the first box of chocolates was proffered in the 1800’s but the first card was sent way back in 1415 by the Duke of Orleans to his wife! The first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is in  Parlement of Foules (1382) by English poet Geoffrey Chaucer:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

[“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”]. And he may have been referring not to February 14th but May 3rd!

Traditionally the Rose and the Cacao are the ‘patron saint plants’ of Valentine’s Day, but have you thought about  how your roses have been grown and where they’ve come from? On the one hand the UK cut flower market is worth around £2 billion per annum, and Valentine’s Day is an important element in that business. Roses account for more than half of the flowers bought for the day.

Why think of an alternative to cut roses?

Antique Valentine - 1909
Antique Valentine – 1909

Dick Skeffington of the Open University says that over 90% of the roses bought for Valentine’s Day are imported – most from Colombia (for the US market) and Kenya (for the UK). The debate about Kenyan roses goes beyond the ‘flower miles’ generated by their import from Africa to Europe. For instance, there’s the carbon released from fossil fuels involved in fertilisation and cultivation. The flowers also need refrigerating  and methane is released from flowers that are rejected and binned.  Some of the other issues to consider are:

  • Lake Naivasha, the complex eco system around which most of the Kenyan rose production is focused, has suffered from pollution and has seen water levels drop due to rose production

  • During 2007-8, following a disputed election in Kenya, it was said that the Army and police turned their attention to protecting the rose industry at the expense of local people – some 100 deaths and the displacement of 300,000 people resulted

  • Rose production may have resulted in significant increases in miscarriages, birth defects and other health problems associated with the toxic chemicals used in rose production

Some Kenyan rose growers have sought to improve things by adopting Fairtrade status which is a mark of a more sustainable production cycle, and one which brings money back into the local workforce as well as subsidising local welfare and community improvements.

So what to do this coming Valentine’s Day?

Dick says:

‘The best advice this St Valentine’s Day is to purchase flowers with a certified Fairtrade logo clearly marked. That way you can be sure that the flower growers receive a premium to invest in their communities, or you could circumvent the ethical minefield and purchase seasonal British flowers. But do beware of mixed bouquets as the flowers in them can come from a range of sources, some of dubious ethical credentials.’

Alternatively, why not think about a lasting plant gift, something that will continue to grow with the love you have for your partner, rather than get wasted after a few days?! So, a new rose bush for the garden, perhaps (and an extra large box of chocs to make up for the lack of immediate flowers) – or maybe some packets of vegetable seeds?

A rose bush for Valentine's Day? She'll be 'Tickled Pink'!
A rose bush for Valentine’s Day? She’ll be ‘Tickled Pink’!

Further information:


Fun facts about St. Valentine’s Day

Brief history and facts about St. Valentine’s Day

Old School Gardener

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