For almost 30 years writer Katherine Swift has been creating a garden at the Dower House, Morville Hall, unearthing its fascinating history and making her own mark with a collection of wild roses.
Clipped yew hedges offer a formal counterbalance to softer, wilder planting in the Cloister Garden, where old forms of Rosa x alba, and R. gallica are supported by an arrangement of trellis and rails.
Tips for maintaining a wild rose garden
- Plant roses quite densely in groups of at least two or three, with plenty of space between groups, to achieve an architectural effect.
- Keep roots clear of competition for the first few years, after which they will look after themselves.
- Allow the natural arching shape of the bushes to develop. Never shorten the stems.
- Some old wood can be thinned out, if required, by cutting selected stems right down to the ground to stimulate new growth. However, it is a good idea to leave a framework of older wood as a corset to maintain the shape of the clump.
- Provide other shrubs or trees for support. Roses are natural scramblers, and most wild roses can be encouraged to climb.
- Experiment with growing some of the biggest ramblers on the flat, allowing them to mound themselves up into thickets.
Favourite roses from Morville Hall’s historic wild rose collection
Rosa nutkana ‘Plena’
Its rose-pink, semi-double flowers and elegant tapering buds are beautifully set off by ferny, blue-green leaves and dark-red new shoots. Early flowering and with a heavenly scent. Height 2.5m. Hardiness rating RHS H7, USDA 6a-9b.
Dark-crimson buds open to neat semi-double white flowers with an intriguing scent, which has earned it the name of the myrrh-scented rose. Height 5m. Hardiness ratings USDA 4a-9b.
Rosa ‘Flora McIvor’
This R. rubiginosa seedling has small, crisp leaves and dark-pink, single flowers with the characteristic rubiginosa white eye, followed by oval scarlet hips. Tall, vigorous and very prickly. Height 2.5m.
Rosa ‘Janet’s Pride’
Its sweetly pretty, semi-double flowers are white with a distinctive edging of bright pink. Very prickly. Height 1.5m.
Known as the apple rose for its round, red hips, borne early in the season. The foliage is strikingly grey, contrasting nicely with the clear pink, single flowers. Height 2m.
Rosa x richardii
Ravishingly beautiful, large single flowers with the texture of crumpled silk. These open with a hint of a blush but quickly pale to white and are very freely borne on a lax shrub.
Address Dower House Garden, Morville Hall, near Bridgnorth, Shropshire WV16 5NB.
Tel 01746 714407.
Open Wednesdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays, 2-6pm. April to September.