Last week Laura and Caroline were posting rather annoyingly happy messages on our WhatsApp group from Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire from the launch of ‘Rose of the Year 2024’. Yes, we’ll reveal the winner in this very blog!
But first, it made us think we should make our own Rose Awards, in categories we think mean the most to you. Here’s a turn-up – we don’t agree with each other……..!
1. Our best rose for repeat-flowering
Elaine: ‘The Alnwick Rose’. This is a very prettily-cupped rose. Like nests of scented pink tissue paper, its flowers are fleeting pleasures but this shrub rose just keeps coming – more persistent than a Partygate headline, you might find roses still blooming at Christmas.
Laura: Hmmm Elaine’s ‘Alnwick’ has more than a whiff of Barabara Cartland for my taste and those endless flowers popping up remind me of a scene from Fatal Attraction. My vote for the longest flowerer goes to the much more dashing Rosa x odorata ‘Bengal Crimson’. Even the name evokes oriental mysticism.
Out of the same China Rose lineage as this year’s Chelsea darling Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’, the flowers are a mysterious deep crimson with rather crazily twisted petals set against purplish foliage. You can prune it hard each spring and keep it as a bush rose, but at Great Dixter it has climbed a good 30 ft up a barn wall. Starts flowering in May and doesn’t stop until Christmas.
Caroline: Now Elaine wanted me to pick ‘Harlow Carr’ or ‘New Dawn’ for this section, but I agree with Laura here and feel the Alnwick Rose was plenty of pink for one section. And anyway, the ghost of my wonderful gone-but-not-forgotten friend Bill Jamieson is at my shoulder urging me to recommend ‘Royal William’.
It’s a bold, red rose that Bill eulogised over for the length of its flowering period, value as a cut flower (single blooms on long stems) and its glorious scent, PLUS this is THE year to pick a rose with a royal connection!
2. Our best climber/rambler
Elaine: ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’. Okay, so this is an insane rambling rose. It only flowers once, but when it does, you have a huge wall of heavily-scented pink blossom that can bring down small trees. And has. I never liked that lilac anyway.
Laura: This is going to annoy E & C but I don’t actually know the name of my favourite rambler, but I don’t think I will be alone in loving a plant purely because of its provenance. Many of us will have a cutting from a friend or family member whose name has been lost in the mists of time. Ours was grown from a cutting rescued by my husband Tim from a rose he had long admired in our town centre. It was being grubbed out as it was obviously too thorny for a footpath leading towards the railway terminus.
Caroline: I’ve had to break one of the 10 Commandments to reveal my recommendation for this. Not the one about adultery, the one about coveting. Every summer my neighbours’ Rosa ‘Malvern Hills’ pops over their fence with a wonderfully perky cheerfulness. In my opinion it’s the perfect combination of gentle colour, complimentary foliage, light scent and enthusiasm. In truth, I like it better than my R. ‘Rambling Rector’. I don’t want to have to do 50 Hail Marys but I do wish it was mine.
3. Our best rose for a small garden
Elaine: ‘Keros’. This rose is a sweetie! As white as a T-shirt in a washing powder ad, its petals are frilly and frou-frou. Its branches need a bit of support because the clusters of flowers are so heavy. Its max height is 4’ so perfect for a small sunny corner. I like the fact that the flowers are only semi-double, so the insects can reach the centres easily.
Laura: Well, quite a lot of roses can be happy in a good pot. Personally I don’t like standard roses, which look as dated as bell bottom trousers and Afghan coats, and also dislike anything described as a ‘patio rose’, but there are plenty of floribunda roses that would be great in a pot. This is how I intend to grow my latest acquisition- hard won in the Peter Beales Chelsea Flower Show sell off ‘Koko Loko’.
Caroline:Yes fine, this is easy, ignore whatever my sisters said, the best rose for a small garden is Rosa ‘Bonica’, no further discussion or argument required.
4. Our best shrub rose
Elaine : Oh, I don’t know what to choose! R. ‘Champagne Moment’ with its flowers of palest cream? R. ‘Graham Thomas’ all decked out in sunny yellow, each flower smelling interestingly of the inside of a teapot? No, the one that is taking my heart at the moment is R. Lyda – a Modern Shrub rose from Peter Beales. So pretty, so healthy, so fragrant – and even okay in shade. She’s like a dog rose in neat white ankle socks and an apple for the teacher.
Laura: Gawd, another chocolate box offering from Elaine, I’m afraid Lyda brings to mind visions of Violet-Elizabeth ( “I’ll thcream and thcream and thcream till I’m thick”). My choice has a lot more heft. ‘Oxford Physic’ also from Peter Beales, was a new introduction last year to celebrate the 400th (!) birthday of the Oxford Botanic Garden. A timeless classic with such a depth of integrity that it manages to look as if it might well have been in cultivation in the 1600s but with all the health and vigour of a modern shrub rose.
Caroline:I can’t believe my sisters haven’t yet mentioned a single winner of the Rose of the Year award. They seem to be stuck in the 17th Century.
Rose of the Year winners are new roses judged on a rigorous criteria, they are all, de facto, outstanding. In my view none more so than the 2022 winner ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. It’s simply glorious, happy in a pot or the ground, disease resistant, repeat flowerer, breathtakingly lovely, and when I tell people its name, I can’t help saying it as a truth, rather than the name of a rose. It makes you feel that good.
5. Our best rose for scent
Elaine: ‘Comte de Chambord’. This Portland rose has a swooningly beautiful scent that wafts for several feet around the plant. Unusually for an old rose (introduced in 1860), it repeat-flowers. The fragrance feels old-fashioned and heavy, and even the flowers look old-fashioned somehow – I’m fine with that! (Oh, do stop rolling your eyes, Caroline……)
Laura: For once I thoroughly approve of Elaine’s choice for scent and it’s great to see an ancient historic like ‘Comte de Chambord’ out-competing modern cultivars. In my garden it’s Rosa ‘Summer Wine’ – this poor rose is actually a climber but has to sprawl in our garden as although the scent is divine, I’ve run out of available walls for it to climb. So it has to lurk behind the hedge where it can’t be seen and just pump out the scent as people approach the front door. Its flowers could do with a little more va-va-voom though.Think the rose breeders need to get to work here and cross it with a rose like Elaine’s Rosa ‘Meg’ which has the most gorgeous big floppy russety orange blooms.
6. Our best rose for the Wow! factor
Elaine: Westerland. Laura is going to HATE this one! Rose ‘Westerland’ is a turbo-charged shrub rose with red buds, and big ruffly yellow/orange/apricot flowers in massive clusters. Subtle it ain’t but it’s not ignorable!
Laura: Yes, Elaine has now gone full RuPaul’s Drag Race on us now. You’ve probably picked up by now that I prefer roses with sultry intrigue rather than anything light and frothy, and the rose that always stops me in my tracks is the once-flowering rambler ‘Veilchenblau’. Slightly sinister and unusually for a rose, happy in a shady site, this rose reminds me of a climbing version of the Growbag fave ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (which incidentally Caroline was a winner of the Rose of the Year in 2003, so I’m actually completely au fait with past winners of this prestigious award)
Caroline: Did Laura read the brief? R. ‘Veilchenblau’ looks in need of a good dinner to me but never mind, I’m bringing you a double climax.
Not only can I reveal the name of Rose of the Year 2024, but without doubt, it’s got ‘wow’ factor in spades. The 2024 winner is…drum roll please…Rosa ‘Meteor’ (it’s our feature pic this week!)
This shrub rose bred by Kordes Rosen, will knock your socks off next year (available in shops in the Autumn). Its beautiful apricot petals warm to dark orange in the sun with the outer petals going a deep red. You might feel you’ll do anything to get your hands on one, but remember, you might be joining me in that confessional box!
With so many roses to choose from we probably haven’t mentioned your personal favourite so do let us know what it is!
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