Pink Rose in June at West Dean Gardens

Valentines means Roses

In the spirit of Valentine's Day I have just spent a very pleasant day pruning roses at home. It's not a huge garden and, like most of us, I want to grow more plants in it than the space will sensibly allow. It's also quite shady in the half furthest from the house and rather sunny in the half closest to the house, the best of both worlds in fact. However, my taste for shrub roses was in danger of blocking the best views of the garden from the patio, where we often like to eat, or from inside the house through the windows on the ground floor. Especially since they will continue to grow from four to six feet high, and two to three feet wide.

My solution has been a semi-bonsai effect through training into a thorny woven basket of plaited stems. These are tied down to a structure of five low semi-elliptical mild steel rod hoops, interwoven to form loose circles of about 1.25m diameter. Fortunately most of the roses bushes have pretty pliable stems that lend themselves to this treatment and the net effect in the flowering season is to produce flowery domes that strut their stuff at about one, rather than two, metres. Once again this gives the best of both worlds, masses of fragrant blossom that I can still see over to enjoy the rest of the garden. The Gardeners' Cottage is a member of the National Gardening Scheme so you can drop in see my efforts for yourself.

Plants are generally very obliging and lend themselves to manipulation to enable us to indulge our gardening whims. In fact, that is one of the defining features of gardening for me. A walk round West Dean Gardens at this time of year shows off the myriad ways we train plants to our own functional or design ends. As someone wrote in the visitor book today; "Plants snipped to within an inch of their lives, fantastic to see such care and attention to detail." Thank you!