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GARDENING: Seasons of change for green-fingered enthusiasts

October 10, 2021


The border is netted over with the white daisy flowers of the wood aster and although they are charming and perfectly evoke the change of seasons I am looking past the asters to roses.

The small rambler ‘Phyllis Bide’ is covered in great bosses of creamy, honey coloured flowers flushed with pink. Why write about roses now for surely June is rose time but in my garden so is October. There are some roses that will begin flowering in late May and can be picked for a Christmas centrepiece. I have a photograph of the deep pink ‘Bonica’ coated in a crystal jacket of frost in February. Choose certain varieties and you too can look out at roses for nine months of the year and this small rambler is one of them.

Phyllis, if I can be familiar and call this pretty rose by first names, was bred by the Bide family in 1923 and from that first moment has won a clutch of awards, the last in 2001 by the American Rose Society. Out of curiosity I looked into breeding and find that Phyllis Bide is a cross between the polyantha rose ‘Perle d’Or’ of 1883 and the climbing tea rose ‘Gloire de Dijon’ of 1853. As you will suspect from their names they were bred in France but quickly made their way across the channel. ‘Gloire de Dijon’ is also flowering now framing my living room window for it was here when we moved to Red House in 1984. Pictured here, this old rose is the colour of a sun ripened apricot whilst the little Polyantha ‘Perle d’Or’ has coated her apricots with honey from the comb so rich is the colouring.

If I look further back into their ancestry, although one is a climber and the other a small polyantha the forerunner of our popular floribunda roses, I will inevitably come to a China rose in both. Almost any rose that flowers on and on can claim Rosa Chinensis in its sap. ‘Old Blush’, which also goes by the names of ‘Monthly Rose’ and ‘Parson’s Pink’ was introduced by the nurseryman James Colvill in 1795 and within a few years could be found in gardens throughout the country. Colvill named it ‘Parson’s Pink’ after John Parson of Rickmansworth in whose garden it took pride of place but in China it was called the ‘Monthly Pink’ and had been grown for over a thousand years. It was collected near Canton by a member of the British embassy and was despatched to Sir Joseph Banks the director of Kew Gardens in 1772 so why and how it came to be growing in John Parson’s garden in 1783 is a mystery.

I have a pure China rose flowering on the wall beside the back door. This is Rosa Mutabilis whose single flowers are in shades of apricot and pink and crimson. In all the books it is described as growing to 4’ but mine has reached the second floor and is now peering into a bedroom. It will continue flowering until Christmas where its petals will remain apricot in colour for they only change after pollination. Beginning in May this truly is a rose for all seasons and I wouldn’t be without it.

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