Within weeks of beginning my job as gardener at the Stoke Factory I realised that the large space that the main factory courtyard was crying out for colour and a sense of life.
The little, walled courtyard garden is too much of a secret garden at times. Being tucked away behind the gift shop it’s a wonderful retreat so do make sure you don’t miss it when you visit. The factory courtyard greets our visitors and staff when they arrive and for this reason I knew it was going to be the prime place to start a whole new area of the factory garden!
I had just arrived back from spending the week with Sarah Raven at Perch Hill in September when the first of the courtyard concrete was being triumphantly lifted in preparation for the new raised rose bed. At the time of writing the bed has now finally been fully planted taking 11 tons of soil to fill it! Already it looks as if it’s been there for almost ever as it sits alongside the café wall, with its sleek, black sleepers containing the sleeping beauty within.
I wanted the Factory to have a rose bed due to both my love of roses and as they are subject of one our most favourite and popular pattern – the rose and bee. We get though tons of cut flowers here at the Factory and just a single rose bloom takes the beauty of a bunch of cut flowers up to a whole new dimension. A lot of the roses and other plants are high in pollen and nectar too so the new bed will attract lots of vital and fabulous pollinating insects.
Nothing beats the scent and style of a freshly cut rose of English garden origin, they have an incomparable individuality being totally different creatures to the shipped in, greenhouse grown roses that you buy at the supermarket. In Sarah’s rose garden she has trailed many roses for scent, cut flower production and resistance to disease.
We no longer have the sulphur packed air in which garden roses flourished 50 or so years ago. This means that plant diseases like black spot can be a real aliment to some varieties of old roses. For this reason I’ve planted lots of varieties of modern David Austin roses which have all the beauty of the old roses but with more modern vigour and a longer flowering season.
Sarah has combined the roses in her garden with other beautiful flowering perennials to ensure a long season of colour and added interest. This is the style that I’ve taken inspiration from, as well as Matthew Rice’s new mug Old Rose, part of our new spring range, which I totally adore and is helping me to remain patient before the garden begins to properly awake.
Around the roses I’ve planted the blowsy and deep berry sorbet Oriental poppy ‘Patty’s Plum’, Penstemon which will flower into October, red fennel for frizzy clouds of smoky foliage and the pollinator mecca that is the plume thistle Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’.
100’s of ‘Gentle Giant’ tulips will begin the season before the perennials and roses get going. The ones I’ve planted are a new Darwin hybrid type of tulip and they should bloom in a huge range of pink to deep scarlet almost orange punch like colours. Once these have faded, alliums will pick up the colour baton with their purple, sparkler like flowers followed by spears of foxgloves.
Some of the new roses to be found in our rose bed –
‘Tuscany Superb’ – this was once grown a lot Sissinghurst Castle in Kent by Vita Sackville-West, as was the similar ‘Tuscany’. These both flower with large open centres so are fabulous for visiting bumble bees too.
‘Burgundy Ice’ – A newly bred deep purple tea styled rose which has been bred with the cut flower element in mind. I’ve also planted the recently bred ‘Darcy Bussell’.
‘Charles de Mills’ – A rose with great arching stems with lavish, highly scented flowers of tight petals and one of good disease resistance. A recorded favourite of Monty Don’s!
Roses can be set now as bare root plants. At this time of year rose suppliers have the best range of varieties to choose from. Roses are hungry plants which do best in full sun with a very rich, moist soil. They will arrive as they are described, plants with no soil! Due to this, soak them in a bucket of water over night so that they can rehydrate before you plant them.
Thanks for reading. Arthur Parkinson – January 2016