CLUMBER GARDENER: Looking hip and rosy in the garden this autumn

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The last roses of autumn have finished flowering and we look to their fruits to provide interest in our gardens. In addition to bearing flowers, some roses also have attractive foliage and hips, so they really earn their keep in beds and borders. Hips look especially attractive when covered with frost or when lit by low autumn sunlight and will provide interest for several weeks, also attracting birds into the garden.

I have already sung the praises of the rugosa group of roses in these pages. They are generally healthy, disease resistant roses that look after themselves. All have fragrant flowers and their vigorous suckering habit makes them excellent for informal hedges which only need minimal pruning.

Amongst the best are the bright pink Rosa rugosa, its white flowered form ‘Alba’ and the pale pink ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’. All three produce flowers throughout the summer and into early autumn, followed by bright red hips which resemble small tomatoes. Height and spread varies, but are usually around 1.5 to 2metres/5ft to 6ft 6ins.; Fru Dagmar is lower growing at 4ft/1.2metres. For hips, the pick of the bunch is the variety ‘Scabrosa’, which has larger blooms, leaves and hips than Rosa rugosa.

Another good, value for money rose is Rosa glauca, sometimes also listed as Rosa rubrifolia. It is a winner on three counts, attractive, though smallish and short lived pink flowers in July, dark red autumn hips and beautiful blue-grey foliage from spring to autumn. Left unpruned, this rose will easily reach a height of 10ft/3metres, but it can be kept in check by pruning in February or March.

The rose you will find in catalogues for fruit display is Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’; hips are often described as “flagon-shaped” and are bright orange-red and around 2inches/5 centimetres long. Flowers are single, bright red and are produced in May or June. Plants grow about 8 feet/2.4metres tall. Many wild roses also have decorative hips, including our native “dog rose”, Rosa canina and the black fruited “Scotch rose”, Rosa pimpinellifolia. They are worth considering, but their flowering period is comparatively fleeting and their hips are not as showy as the rugosas.

In small gardens roses are best grown in mixed beds and borders, combined with other flowering and fruiting shrubs such as pyracantha (“firethorns”) and deciduous euonymus, and with herbaceous perennials, bulbs and annuals, in order to produce interest across the seasons.

Bare root roses will shortly be available from nurseries and garden centres and can be planted over the winter.

Prepare soil by removing weeds. Perennials such as docks and dandelions should be dug out whole, small annual weeds can be buried as you turn over the soil with a spade. A little slow release fertiliser can be added. Sterilised bone meal is an excellent pre-planting fertiliser, providing the phosphorous needed for good root growth. Plant firmly and watch out that the plant doesn’t become loose in frosty weather, re-firm with your boot when the ground has thawed.

Jobs for the Month

Collect and compost fallen leaves. Clear leaves off the lawn.

Protect over-wintering plants before the first hard frosts. Use sacking or straw to cover crowns of plants and bubble film to place around pots.

If you have not already done so, check that your greenhouse heater is working. Insulate the greenhouse with bubble film to save on heating costs.

There is still time to plant bulbs at the beginning of the month. Containers for winter and spring interest can also be planted up. Use variegated evergreens, such as ivy and euonymus, bulbs and bedding plants such as polyanthus primroses, pansies and violas.

Prepare ground for new plantings on heavy soils by digging the soil and adding organic matter such as well rotted manure or leaf mould. Leave ground rough dug to allow frosts to break down the clods.

Prune back taller growing shoots on shrub roses and lavateras. This lessens the effect of wind rocking the plant and producing a hole against the crown of the plant at soil level. Leave final pruning until late winter/early spring.