Roses for English Gardens
Roses on Walls and Houses
The name Cluster Rose, which formerly belonged almost entirely to the older class of garden Roses known as the Ayrshires, varieties of sempervirens, and the Musk Roses, has lately been necessarily extended to all the beautiful things that the last few years have given us, most of them hybrids of Rosa multiflora or polyantha. All these Roses are derived from species of rambling habit that in their native places climb about among rocks and bushes. They seem willing to extend their natural growth, for if guided into an evergreen tree, such as Holly or Ilex, they will clamber up to surprising heights. Climbing Aimée Vibert, for instance, which is generally used as a pillar Rose or for some such use as that shown in the frontispiece, will rush high up into a tree, as may be seen in the picture. The uses of these free Roses are unending, but just now it is their adaptation to house and garden walls that is under consideration. When growing naturally, these Roses throw out young rods of new growth every year; by degrees the older growths die, and the younger ones, pushing outward, shoot up through the dead and dying branches, both hiding them and displaying their own fresh young beauty.
But on a wall this internal scaffolding of dead wood cannot be tolerated, and a close watch has to be kept on the plants, and the older growths have to be cut right away at least every two years. How these free Roses will grow over and decorate the porch and walls of a small house of no architectural pretension may be seen from the illustration. It is just these houses that best lend themselves to the use of the climbing Roses, indeed many that are absolutely ugly, or worse than plainly ugly-debased by fictitious so-called ornament of the worst class-may be redeemed and even made beautiful by these bountiful and lovely Cluster Roses.
A modest dwelling that has no special beauty or character may by a clever use of climbing Roses be converted into a delightful object. No one could pass the roadside cottage shown in the illustration without a thrill of admiration for the free-growing cluster Rose that covers the walls and wreaths the front of the porch.
The little house itself has lost much of its true character from the evident alteration of the windows, which would originally have been either lead lights and casements, or, if sash windows, would have had the panes smaller, with rather thick sash-bars. The large panes destroy the proportion and make the house look too small for them. Some ugly flat frames to all the windows, and pediment-shaped additions to the tops of the lower ones, do much to destroy and vulgarise the effect of what must have been a little building with the modest charm of perfect simplicity. The lead-roofed porch is right, and so is the open wooden railing. One cannot but be thankful that when the windows were altered so much for the worse, the railing was not replaced by a cast-iron "ornamental" atrocity.
When a house is of fine design one hesitates about covering it with flowering plants, but in such cases they find their right places on terrace walls, unless these are decorated with wrought stone balustrading.
The illustration shows an example of good use of the beautiful Garland Rose on the terrace of a good square-built house of middle or late eighteenth century construction. The terrace is not balustraded, and the two or three feet of height gained by the rising of the Rose and the other free growths give the needed sense of security in a kind of living parapet.
Many are the Roses for use on garden walls. They are detailed in lists referred to at the end of the chapter on Pillar Roses, and only some of the most remarkable need be here noticed.
In the south of England, walls facing south and south-west are too hot a place for many of the Roses commonly planted against them, although these exposures suit the tender Roses, the Noisettes, Banksias, Macartneys, and Fortune's Yellow, all of rambling growth. Here is also the place for the beautiful Persian Briers, including the scarlet so-called Austrian, the curious Abyssinian Rosa Ecae, with yellow blooms the size of a shilling, Rosa simplicifolia Hardi with yellow flowers that have a dark blotch at the base of the petal, and Rosa microphylla, a flower whose character is quite its own. The double variety has the best bloom and is very ornamental; in both the double and single the prickly calyx is a remarkable feature, as is also the fruit of the type, which by retaining this curious calyx forms a strange-looking hip.
On garden walls of other exposures in the southern parts of England almost any of the free-growing Roses will do well. Naturally in the colder midlands and in the damper climates of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales the warm aspects may be used for more kinds of Roses, such as the Teas and Hybrid Teas.
Many a beautiful effect may be gained by a Rose planted on one side of a wall and trained to tumble over the top on to the other side. Often a south wall is devoted to rather tender shrubs; in such a place if a hardy cluster Rose, such as Dundee Rambler, is planted on the north side, a good mass of its bloom will come over and help to decorate the walls on the more precious or southern face.
It should be remembered that as Roses on walls want training and pruning that it is well, even if there is an important flower border in front, to have a little blind alley running within a foot or so of the wall. If they are not easy to get at they are apt to be neglected. There must be every facility for training, pruning, mulching and cutting. The pruning in this case consists in the removal of the older wood of these free-growing Roses; it must never be neglected, or the plant will soon grow thin and leggy. Who does not know the starved wall Rose in a worn-out border against a bare wall, with ten or twelve feet of naked stem and branch and famished growth of flower and leaf covered with green-fly? Perhaps within three feet of its root is a flourishing Ivy, with a stem as thick as a man's wrist, covering half the house and bulging with the loose untidy nests of house sparrows. If we expect a Rose to give its beauty we should at least let it have fair play both above ground and below; in the ground by giving it proper space and nutriment, and above by watching for the time when old wood should be cut out, rampant young stuff tipped, and new flowering wood trained in.
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