World of Roses

David Austin Gertrude Jekyll RoseAt our meeting in November Ann Bird spoke about the World of Roses. There can’t be many people better qualified to give this talk as Ann is a former President of the Royal National Rose Society and currently a Vice-President of the world Federation of Rose societies.

As an introduction to her talk Ann told us how she became involved in the world of roses.  Following her marriage, and, knowing nothing about gardening, she bought six cellophane wrapped and yellowing roses at Tesco and planted them in the garden. Nowadays she wouldn’t give them a second glance but, against the odds, they survived and flowered. Entranced by their beauty her passion for roses was born and has continued unabated ever since. The passion was evident throughout her talk.

Having discovered roses she joined her local rose society where she was encouraged, if not pressurised, into exhibiting and the original six were joined by sixty other roses with an exponential growth as time went on. She became deeply involved in the work of the societies and quickly moved from local to national involvement. She became President of the Royal National Rose Society at a time when it was struggling to survive and it is clearly largely due to her personal effort that it has done so.

Ann then devoted the rest of her talk to telling us about, and illustrating, her world of roses. This was largely a glorious celebration of the beauty of roses. Just as the roses in her garden were intertwined with clematis, Ann wove together episodes from the history of rose exhibiting, illustrations of the most popular roses and pictures taken on her travels around the world showing national difference in the ways in which roses are used. The collapse of the Rose Society’s finances meant that their house at St Albans had to be sold but, in the clearance before the sale, Ann found thousands of old slides and used some of them to show us the glory days of rose exhibiting from the nineteen thirties and the sixties, seventies and eighties.

Ann illustrated some of the well-known roses from the past together with some current favourites and showed how the fashion for dedicated beds of hybrid tea roses has given way to mixed borders with a variety of shrubs and perennials. Her particular interest is in old garden roses. Some of the roses she singled out are Charles de Mills, Fantin Latour, Gypsy Boy, Canary Bird, Compassion, Graham Thomas and, to commemorate the late Peter Beales, Clarence House.

This was not a technical talk to show how to grow roses but Ann did throw out a few tips in the course of the evening.  Pruning does not need to follow the old rules of cutting to an outward facing bud but neither is Geoff Hamilton’s innovation of cutting with a hedge trimmer a good idea. Shrub roses should be pruned to a height of eighteen inches and the bush kept open. In spite of what David Austin recommends, Ann thinks his shrub roses should be pruned.  Some roses are prone to growing suckers from their rootstocks and these should be torn off from the plant with a small heel rather than cut off. The sucker can be identified by having seven leaflets on the leaf stems. If you have a lot of pruning to do in cold weather Ann recommends the warming power of whisky.

Our next meeting will be the Christmas Party on 17th December

Jeremy Arthern

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