Stanwell Perpetual

I don’t have a great nose for scent in roses, but when my timing is right, I can find a good Damask scent in ‘Stanwell Perpetual’. If you don’t know the scent I’m talking about, it’s what you’d smell in a perfume made with rose oil, which is harvested and distilled from Damask roses. As insensitive as my nose may be, I can tell you this: not every rose has this same scent. Some people describe the other rose fragrances as fruity, as spicy, or compare them to tea or cloves or licorice. I can’t really get all that specific myself, but I can pick out the scent of a Damask rose in this one just fine.

‘Stanwell Perpetual’ is a chance seedling from a garden, so the actual breeding would be a guess, but it most closely resembles the Scots rose, Rosa spinosissima. I do also grow the species, and they look alike most respects, but the flowers in ‘Stanwell’ are larger, fuller, scented, and instead of setting hips, ‘Stanwell’ repeats bloom later in the season.

Stanwell PerpetualThis is the rose in a 1 gallon pot. This picture is taken after the soft pink of the largest bloom has faded to a creamy white, but I do like the way this picture shows off the foliage and abundant buds. The habit of the rose is low growing, and because of its toughness, ‘Stanwell’ is great for putting on a sunny bank, or even in a more shaded location. It will, of course, do better in a more pampered location, but if you need a rose for a challenging location, you could hardly do better than this one.


I get some sideways looks when I describe ‘Ballerina’ as one of the tougher roses around. Maybe it’s the name. And certainly the dainty little white flowers with pink edges don’t shake the perception. When people think of tough roses, they’re more liable to think of something like a rugosa rose. By the very name (meaning “rugged”) and by the dangerous looking spines on each stem, rugosa roses seem built for toughness. And they are tough, don’t get me wrong, but put one side-by-side with ‘Ballerina’ in a somewhat shady location, and see which one comes out on top. ‘Ballerina’ can also stand up to wet conditions, hot conditions, cold winters (say zone 4ish) and it still blooms its head off all season.

Rosa 'Ballerina'‘Ballerina’ is an agreeable shrub to work with. It can grow as large as 6 feet high if you let it, and if you do, it blooms so impressively that it takes on the look of a hydrangea. It’s also quite happy to be trimmed to a smaller size to fit your landscape. Introduced in the 1930’s, it was ahead of its time, fulfilling the role in the garden that the popular landscape roses (like the ubiquitous ‘Bonica’) do today.


Do you like your roses subtle and graceful? This isn’t one of those. ‘Altissimo’ pounds out  a big red exclamation point every time it blooms, and that’s often. It’s late October as I write this post, and ‘Altissimo’ is happily blooming away in the greenhouse.

How do I sell you a rose like this one? It’s so different. Have a look:

Rosa 'Altissimo'


Did I say that it’s not graceful? That’s not true. The flowers are huge and loud individually, but they’re in scale with the plant, which is large and fast growing – a climber usually, but can also be left free-standing as an upright shrub. Look how healthy the leaves are in this picture. That’s typical of this rose. ‘Altissimo’ is one of the few roses in my greenhouse that I rarely see troubled by anything but aphids.

It’s distinctive, and totally worth putting into the garden as a trouble-free climber or shrub.

Putting in our rose garden

Generally speaking, I don’t need to have much of a reason to put in a new garden bed. When we moved onto the farm in 2011, the greater portion of the yard was something like 2 full acres of lawn, so I knew it wouldn’t be long before I started carving some of it out for plantings. I did hesitate, however, to do a rose garden.

I know it may be a bit funny for a guy who is now growing and selling roses, but I’ve always viewed the dedicated rose garden with some suspicion. Raised beds – geometric shapes – formality – bedding roses… lots and lots of bedding roses, with their bare canes angling out unattractively from a bare tarmac of landscape mulch – it’s what I’ve seen in dedicated rose gardens before that runs counter to my gardening style.

Still. I. Must. Garden. And if I’m going to grow primarily roses in my greenhouses, I’ll need to have a place to show some of them off.

I started by looking at some pictures and taking out some books from the library. I tried to keep an open mind about what kind of rose garden would show the plants off most effectively. Unexpectedly, at least to me, I decided on something a bit formal for the bed layout.

It’s a fairly large circular bed with lawn on the inside and outside. Lisa and I re-purposed six boxwood shrubs that we found in an overgrown part of the yard. We planted them in the center of the inner lawn, around what will likely be the most expensive plant in the garden, a red horse chestnut tree(Aesculus x. carena ‘Briotti’) that we picked up at Cannor.

We put in arbors on either end of the garden (I know, I know – there’s no “end” on a circle – but that didn’t really stop us). We put in some plastic edging to stop the lawn from creeping in, dumped a pile of yard waste down to smother the grass.

Here, have a look:

Big doughnut rose garden



The neighbor’s field of blueberries is that bright red in the background. Sort of steals the show this time of year.

I dug in the obligatory climbing rose for the sides of each arbor. ‘City of York’ and ‘Amadis’ for the front, ‘Polka’ and ‘Souvenir de Docteur Jamain’ at the back. That leaves plenty of space to fill in the big empty semi-circles that connect them.

Aside from the geometric layout, I’ve decided to play it pretty casual for this garden. I immediately planted a couple of Buddleia x. weyeriana shrubs on either side of the front arch, and a couple of Leycesteria formosa to frame the back arch. I have to admit to being quite eager to get some non-rose plantings in the ground, as if a delay might jeopardize my resolve to mix the roses with other shrubs, perennials and herbs. Rather than a dedicated roses garden, my current plan is to make it a mixed border that will happen to feature a large number of roses.

I recently visited the rose garden at Fraser River Heritage park in nearby Mission. Not a bad little garden, but a chuckled a bit when I saw the sign asking visitors not to touch the roses. Frick. You may as well go to a gallery to see still-life paintings. If the garden is any kind of an art form, the advantages of the medium include its changing nature, imperfection, and interactivity. You should touch the roses, hopefully not in the pokey places. You should smell them too. If anyone reading this site is ever moved to visit my rose garden (hopefully after a season or two, when I’ve filled it up a bit) I may insist that you pluck a rose or two for yourself. That’s the beauty of working with a living medium… if your interaction should change it, that’s expected. More roses will grow. It’s what they do!