Roses are one of the hardiest and most versatile garden plants; or cut flower crops. They grow in a wide range of climates, and once established, tolerate periods of adversity better than many other plants.

You might choose to plant just one or two roses – perhaps with a favourite flower colour or scent, or you can create an entire rose garden, using different types of roses.

Designing a Rose Garden

In garden beds – one or two varieties can be grown among other plants
A specialist rose garden – divided by paths, perhaps including a focal point

Other ways to grow roses:

  • in pots
  • over walls
  • climbing up arches and arbours

How do you choose a rose?

With thousands of rose varieties around, how do you choose a good rose?
Here are some of the criteria used to choose a rose:

  • flower colour – they can be everything from deep purple to pure white
  • flower shape – single, doubles, Do you want the flowers for picking?
  • scent – old-fashioned roses generally have a stronger scent
  • size and habit – How much room do you have for the rose to grow? Do you want a compact bush rose, a formal standard rose, a sprawling old-fashioned rose, a climber…
  • maintenance – Does it need frequent spraying (especially for Black Spot)? What are its pruning requirements?

If you’re still not sure, look at photos in books and rose catalogues, and ask at your local nursery for advice.

Type of Roses

For the home gardener, the most useful classification is based on size and habit. The main groupings are:

  • Miniatures – good for pots, garden edges and filling gaps in garden beds
  • Groundcovers – low-growing roses with long, trailing stems; often grown in mass plantings; useful for covering banks
  • Shrub roses – the most popular group, also called bush roses; includes the Floribundas and Hybrid Teas; can be planted in large tubs
  • Climbers – these require support and training. Some varieties are very vigorous and will cover walls; less vigorous varieties can be trained over arches or up pillars
  • Ramblers – similar to climbers but with longer stems and a more lax growth habit
  • Standards – these are either shrub or bush roses grafted on to a long stalk
  • Weeping standards – grafted on to a long stalk, but the branches hang down towards the ground

Steps to Creating a Rose Garden

  1. Find a spot in full sun with enough room for the rose bushes to spread – a bush rose needs at least one metre diameter.
  2. Prepare the soil now – dig over the bed, remove all weeds, dig in compost and manure.
  3. Decide what roses you want – ask your nursery for a catalogue and place orders well in advance of the planting season.
  4. At planting time, keep the roots moist and plant out as soon as you can. Don’t feed the rose until spring when the shoots are growing rapidly.  

What grows well with Roses?

Alyssum, thyme, lamb’s ears (Stachys lanata), campanula, cotton lavender (Santolina), hellebores, spring bulbs, violas

Low borders:
Dwarf box (Buxus), lavender

Backdrop plantings:
Camellias, conifers, other roses climbing on trellises or walls

More from ACS