Five out of Seven

There is a narrow strip of border under the front lounge window, which was one of the earlier borders to be restored. It’s about a metre wide and about five long. Unfortunately I don’t have any original pictures of it, but it was weed-choked with the odd scratty-looking shrub dotted about. It didn’t take long for my attention to focus on it, at which point it was history. I wrote about how I first created the border and then planted it with bare root roses in earlier posts.

This lounge border really is a strip and very small compared to other garden borders, but it does sit prominently at the front and is highly visible to traffic, passersby and the neighbours who overlook it, so in redoing this border it had to look absolutely outstanding. The first step was to take this strip completely back to a blank canvas:

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I had already decided that I wanted the border filled with roses and each bamboo stick marks a rose bush. As is typical of my style, the border is only large enough to hold three or four medium-sized rose bushes, but I chose to cram in seven. I argued that because the roses at the front of the border can always flow over the brick line and onto the gravel drive, that counts as “borrowed space”, and so I can fit in more. It also means I can have more of my favourite roses instead of restricting myself to fewer varieties, so happiness all-round.

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As the roses went in as bare root plants in winter, they took their time in becoming established and growing away, but we did manage to have a couple of flowers on the more vigorous plants in the first season, but the border was still mainly soil with a few green bits here and there. The gaps were embarrassing and it didn’t look all that much better than the weed-choked original.

All that has changed this year though. It is the second year for this border and the roses are maturing and becoming well-established. At this point in the season they have already had their first flush of flowers and they are now well into their second. The once isolated little plants have met and are knitting together into a continuous mass of leaves, flowers and thorns. The view from the front is now much, much better.

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In this eye-catching mid-summer display we have five of the seven roses in flower. Although the picture only shows four, the fifth rose is there but hidden, more blooms from this particular one and indeed others, are on the way. The sixth rose is heavily budding and will join the five shortly while the seventh rose, which is the one on the back-right, has suffered from being shaded by the Camellia. A light trim of the Camellia and some generous feeding has seen this rose grow a couple of long searching canes, from which will sprout many flowering branches.

I may have been a little ambitious in just how many rose bushes will fit in the border and so they’ve had to be restrained with bendable mild steel rod supports to stop the ones at the back from falling over ones in front. In this wonderful gem of a rose border, we do have to remain wary of rose sawfly and prevent the rose leaf black spot from running out of control. It can also become very dry and will need drenching a couple of times during the summer months. There’s also ensuring a heavy annual winter mulch for feeding the plants as well as occasional shape-pruning to stop any one shrub from dominating the others around it. For a small strip, there is a disproportionately larger amount of work to maintain a healthy border.

The extra effort is worth it as the best part of this border is being able to come home from work on a warm summer evening and walk along, seeing and smelling the exquisite blooms. If life was a bed of roses, it might look a little something like this.

14 Comments


  1. It looks wonderful! And it’s a great model of how to make a lush planting of just one kind of plant in a small border.

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    1. Thank you, Jean, in this larger garden I have the luxury of giving space over to having a mass planting of a single type, which lets me have impact in the border in a way that is different to a small garden with smaller borders.

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  2. Looking good Sunil. Bad summer for me rose-wise, as all that early rain is not good for old fashioned roses which smell sweet but tend to rot before they bloom. Now we have had a hot spell, and those Count du Chombourg are budding up again, so may look a bit (a bit!) like yours soon. One bit of good news, I chose a white rose – Sir Fredrick Ashton – and it didn’t flourish at all for two years. About 3 weeks ago I found a large ants nest near by (we are blighted in this garden with them and I don’t use chemicals) Once I had dug that out and they were on the run, Sir Fredrick rewarded me with one stem but 6 buds on it! Yay! I do like that you crushed so many in and that they are happy there. I too enjoy that lovely smell and it’s a pity that some modern roses are bred for looks and for standing up to bad weather, but with no smell……

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    1. Hello Mrs Mac, the first flush of flowers didn’t do well in the cool and wet conditions either and this second flush is better than the first. The roses I go for are the older varieties or the ones bred to be more like the older varieties (David Austin English Roses), I tend to look over the modern hybrid tea and floribunda roses, they just don’t do it for me.

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  3. Lovely! I bet the passers-by are enjoying the transformation in this border. The roses have softened the house/path beautifully.

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    1. Hello Sarah, I’m expecting the line of brick to disappear under a mass of leaves (or I’ll put in some underplanting). The front is looking much better than it originally did and I’m very pleased with it.

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  4. I love your border! I was a bit jealous seeing them all so happy and healthy against your wall. 🙂

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    1. Hello Tammy, you don’t need to be jealous of all the maintenance that it takes!

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    1. Thank you, Jason, I’m looking forward to seeing how much more it fills out next year.

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  5. Sunil, how your roses have grown since I visited last September. They look lovely! What is the pretty pink one on the left? I have been impressed with Olivia Rose Austin in her first year here. Lots of flowers and no disease!!

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    1. Hello Lynn, the flowering rose on the front left is also Olivia Rose Austin, expect yours to look like this one next year! The one behind it which is coming into flower is Gentle Hermione, I think.

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    1. Thank you Alistair, I wish I had taken a picture of the original strip, before I started because it took a fair amount of effort to take it back from its original weed-choked state back to a blank patch of soil, ready to be tilled.

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