Roses: choosing the best

Roses are one of the largest groups of plants available to gardeners, so choosing specific varieties can seem like a daunting prospect. Whether you are looking for a rose to climb a shady wall, roses for a hedge, or a rose to train up a pillar, our short guide will set you on the right path.


Quick facts

Top rose for a north wall R. 'Danse de Feu'
For climbing into trees R. 'Paul’s Himalayan Musk'
For training up pillars R. 'Pink Perpétué'
For attractive foliage R. rubrifolia
For impressive hips R. moyesii 'Geranium'

Practical considerations

In terms of choosing for flower form, colour and scent, selection is very much a matter of personal taste. Whenever possible try to see roses in bloom before purchasing by visiting rose nurseries or rose gardens during the flowering season.

Here are some other points to consider

  • For traditional roses, some of the most popular groups to choose from are large-flowered hybrid teas, cluster-flowered floribundas, modern bush roses, shrub and species roses. These groups have different pruning requirements
  • Climbers tend to repeat-flower, whereas ramblers flower impressively but only once, usually in June
  • The smallest roses can be grown in pots. There is a wide choice of patio and miniature roses available

Suitable roses

Climbers for north-facing walls

  • R. 'Alberic Barbier' AGM (Climber/Rambler). Flowers rich cream, apple fragrance, some repeat flowering, some winter leaf persistence. Height 6m (20ft)
  • R. 'Dortmund' AGM (Climber). Single, blood-red flowers; repeat-flowering. Height 2m (6½ft)
  • R. 'Félicité Perpétue' AGM (Climber/rambler). White flowers, buds tinged red, some winter leaf persistence. Height 5m (17ft)

Very vigorous roses for climbing into trees

  • R. filipes 'Kiftsgate' AGM (Rambler). Slightly fragrant; one flowering period; creamy white flowers. Height: 10m (30ft)
  • R. longicuspis (Climber). Slightly fragrant; one flowering period; white flowers; semi-evergreen, tender. Height 6m (20ft)
  • R. 'Seagull' AGM (Climber/rambler). Slightly fragrant; one flowering period; white flowers with golden stamens. Height 4.5m (15ft)

Roses for training up pillars

(Need to be flexible-stemmed, produce flowers at the ends of all current seasons growth, and preferably be of moderate vigour.)

  • R. 'Compassion' AGM (Climber/rambler). Double, fragrant, repeat flowering; pink, shaded apricot blooms. Height 2.4m (8ft)
  • R. 'Danse de Feu' (Climber) Double; repeat flowering; orange to scarlet flowers. Height 2.4m (8ft)
  • R. 'Golden Showers' AGM (Climber/rambler). Double; fragrant; repeat flowering; golden yellow blooms. Height 2.1m (7ft)

Patio climbers are useful for smaller structures up to 3m (10ft) or so high. In a sunny spot, try pale cream, pink-tinged 'Penny Lane' (‘Hardwell’), or mauve-pink, heavily-scented 'Gertrude Jekyll' (‘Ausbord’).

Roses with ornamental foliage

  • R. 'Highdownensis'. Large, single crimson flowers, ferny leaves. Height 3m (10ft)
  • R. multibracteata. Pink, single flowers; neat rounded leaflets. Height 3m (10ft)
  • R. primula AGM. Pale, small, yellow flowers; shiny aromatic leaves; one flowering period. Height 1.8m (6ft)
  • R.  sericea subsp. omeiensis f. pteracantha. Red thorns; creamy-white flowers; small ferny leaves. Height 2.4m (6ft)

Some roses for hedges

  • R. 'Cornelia' AGM. Double, fragrant apricot pink blooms. Repeat flowering. Height 1.5m (5ft)
  • R. 'Roseraie de l’ Hay' AGM. Double, fragrant wine red blooms. Repeat flowering. Height 2.1m (7ft)
  • R. 'Zéphirine Drouhin'. Semi-double, fragrant carmine pink flowers. Thornless and repeat flowering. Height 3m (10ft)

Roses with very decorative autumn hips

  • R. 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' AGM. Silvery pink single flowers; large red fruit. Height 90cm (3ft)
  • R. glauca. Pink flowers once a year; scarlet globular hips. Height 2.1m (7ft)
  • R. rugosa. Cerise or white flowers once a year; scarlet globular hips. Height 1.8m (6ft)

Roses for ground cover

  • R. 'Nozomi' AGM. Single pink flowers; one flowering period. Height 30cm (1ft) and spread 1.5m (5ft)
  • R. Snow Carpet = 'Maccarpe' Single, double white flowers throughout summer. Height 15cm (6in) and spread 90cm (3ft)
  • R. Surrey = 'Korlanum'AGM. Double pink blooms from early summer until late autumn. Height 60–90cm (2-3ft) and spread 90cm-1.2m (3-4ft)


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