One of the most compelling qualities of the old garden roses we grow is their stunning array of shapes and forms. Many ramble, some are chunky shrubs, many are tall and large, and a few are miniatures. This diversity makes them great tools for the garden artist. They beg to be deployed all across the landscape — embellishing the architecture of a fence, adorning a trellis or arbor, or serving as the backbone of a perennial border. Whatever the situation, there’s an old garden rose to fit the bill.
A few roses are very narrow and upright. I call them the “skinny-leg roses” because they’re shaped like bare-legged statues with floral hats. The obvious challenge in using them is how to display the beautiful flowers at their tops while concealing the bare canes below. Blending annuals and perennials at their feet is the perfect solution. It’s like giving them pretty socks.
Unlike the more common “fat” shrubs like ‘Old Blush’, ‘Duchesse de Brabant’, and ‘Penelope’, roses like ‘Paul Neyron’, ‘Chrysler Imperial’, ‘Lafter’ and ‘Baronne Prevost’ require these underplantings. In our gardens, we offset skinny legs with dianthus, salvias, pentsemons, verbenas and herbs like parsley, oregano and thyme.
You don’t have to let a rose’s less-than-ideal growth habit deter you from using it; just find the best way to show it, and your garden will provide endless enjoyment.
About the author: Mike Shoup is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. His new book is Empress of the Garden. Visit his company’s Brenham and San Antonio display gardens for endless ideas on landscaping with roses. To order roses online, visit www.weAREroses.com.