Waking up to the beauty of roses


  Gardeners start work at 7.45am here at Bodnant when it’s out of bed and straight into mowing or hoeing – but our student horticulturalist Harvey Baker enjoyed a rather civilised start to the day this week, taking part in a special Breakfast of Roses, a morning guided walk and talk with expert Michael Marriot.

  Michael, the adviser to award-winning growers David Austin Roses, has been involved in the redesign of our two rose terraces in recent years. The Top Rose Terrace was renovated in 2006 and the Lower Rose Terrace in 2012. Gardeners had to dig out and replace around 500 tonnes of soil from both terraces; paths were re-laid and pergolas repainted. The beds were then planted with fragrant English Roses, many from the David Austin collection, which provide a continuous display from June to October…so there’s still plenty of time to come along and enjoy them.

  For those who were at Michael’s walks an talk on Tuesday but didn’t make notes and would like more information, or for those who just want to know more about our roses, here are Harvey’s jottings:

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Student Harvey Baker and the Top Rose Terrace

  “At half past eight, after doing my weekly plant identification test, I went to join a group of rose enthusiasts on a rose ‘talk-and-walk’ by Michael Marriott, from David Austin Roses. The talk began by The Range, then we moved across to the Upper Rose Terrace, and then down to the Lower Rose Terrace. I wrote notes down as we moved from one rose to another, so I’m going to transcribe what I wrote into bullet points as if you were walking the same route as we were –

Near The Range:

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’, which is growing against the wall by The Range border is a China rose, with pink to crimson flowers, are slender and almost thornless

– R.banksia is growing against the same wall, has good thorns for climbing, very vigorous and difficult to control, a bit of a ‘brute’. Thornless.

– R.’Dusky Maiden’ has crimson flowers and is near the exit gate. This vintage rose was bred by Edward LeGrice in 1959. This has been used by David Austin in his breeding program for red English roses. It is one of the middle period Floribundas.

– R.primula, which is by the house, is a species rose and is often ignored because it flowers only once. It is a spring flowering rose with arching branches wreathed in soft yellow, single blooms. The foliage is fern-like and smells of incense. Has good autumn colour.


Rosa ‘Pretty Lady’ on the Top Rose Terrace

In the Upper Rose Terrace:

– The Upper Rose Terrace is a hundred years old this year; the roses which you see today are not the originals. They would have been Hybrid Tea Roses, which were fasionable at the time. Unfortunately, they would have been very weak and prone to diseases. The Upper Rose Terrace was re-planted in 2005 with floribunda roses.

– R.’Pretty Lady’ was pointed out as being particularly healthy. It was breed by an amateur breeder, Len Scrivens, from the Black Country, in 1996. It has a peach bloom and although the flowers are produced in clusters, they have the form of a Hybrid Tea.

– R.’Susan Williams Ellis’ is a white rose, with a strong fragrance and Old Rose in character. It is disease free. Susan Williams Ellis was a designer who, together with her husband Euan Cooper-Willis, founded Portmeirion Pottery.

– It is good practice to mix roses with others plants, particularly plants which will bring in beneficial insects to eat insects like aphids, which are a great problem for roses.

– ‘ SB Plant Invigorator’ was recommended as a pesticide/mildewcide/foliar nutrient to spray on roses to kill aphids. It is biodegradable, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly.

– The ‘secret’ to success with roses is good pre-planting ground preparation, and carefull selection of a good rose variety for the spot.

– The four main roses diseases are: Black Spot, Powdery Mildew (caused by dryness of roots…roses love water around their roots), Downy Mildew (which looks like Black Spot and causes rapid defoliation), and Rose Rust.

– Box hedges have traditionally been planted around rose beds. This can cause problems because they have ‘greedy’ roots, which compete with the roses for nutrients.

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Michael Marriot on the Lower Rose Terrace and (right) Rosa ‘Felicia’

In the Lower Rose Terrace

– R.’Felicia’ is a Hybrid Musk rose, with fragrant, double, light pink flowers. The majority of hybrid musk roses were bred in the first thirty years of the last century by a country clergyman, the Rev. Joseph Pemberton. All hybrid musks share three species in their ancestry, Rosa chinensis, R.moschata and R.multiflora, crossed with various more modern roses, such as Trier and ‘Ophelia’.

– R.’Nuits de Young’ is a Moss rose with red-brown moss on stems and buds, and fragrant, flat, double, deep maroon flowers. Moss roses first appeared as mutations of Centifolia roses in 1720, in which the sepal, calyx and stems have a mossy growth. This is particularly attractive in the bud stage and has a noticeable balsam-like fragrance when touched.

– Attention must be taken when replanting a rose bed, otherwise re-plant disease can affect the new roses. One method is to completely renew the soil in the bed, to a depth of 18″ to 2′. If this is not possible, dig out as much soil as possible around the planting hole, add new soil and plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Using a mycorrhizal fungi product helps stimulate the roots of new roses and helps the plants cope with environmental stress.

– R.’England’s Rose’ is a tough, medium sized rose with double flowers of deep glowing pink. It flowers from June to October, sometimes November. The flower fragrance is strong, warm, spicy like a classic Old Rose.

– R.’Harlow Carr’ bears shallow cupped flowers of pink. It’s very thorny and can be used as deterrent hedge, against such animals as deer!

– R.’Albertine’ is a large and vigorous rambling shrub up to 5m in the Pink Garden. It has strong thorny, reddish stems and dark glossy foliage. Has very fragrant double, salmon-pink flowers in clusters. The petals don’t fall off after flowering, so can be a problem if you want to dead-head it and it’s growing high up a wall.

– ‘Maxicrop’ was recommended as good seaweed fertilizer for roses.


 Thanks Harvey! Harvey and two other students are currently at Bodnant Garden on a 14-month placement as part of the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme. You can find out more about the scheme on the website http://www.hhss.co.uk/ For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BodnantGardenNT but most importantly…come and see the roses!


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