As somebody who had twenty-eight different addresses before deciding to settle down in Herefordshire, I now feel that I am beginning to belong here. Creating a garden is one way of making a claim to a place and planting roses is the way that I stake my claim. Obviously, I will never be accepted as a local, but from my own point of view, this feels like home at last. As further proof that this is the right place for me, it seems that my ancestors lived near by. Since moving here I discovered that I am living only a few miles, as the crow flies, from the place where my maternal grandmother’s family originated. The Foxley estate was owned by the Price family, the most famous of whom, Sir Uvedale Price, was author of the Essay on the Picturesque. Unfortunately, bad speculations in the 19th Century caused financial ruin and the estate was sold. The big house was pulled down after World War Two, but the small church, once part of the estate, survives, as do the grave stones of the Price family which, although extremely overgrown, were just about decipherable and partially legible, a few years ago, when my first-cousin Liz and I explored the wilderness of the churchyard.
Putting down my roots here in Herefordshire has given me the chance to plant plenty of roses, in the Rose Cottage garden, as well as in my own garden. The house name is Rosebank, but apart from one vigorous cream-coloured climbing rose with a thick, gnarled trunk, there were no roses in the garden so I have had plenty of scope for new planting. That ancient rose tree perished in the winter of 2015 and sadly, I was unable to identify it, so cannot find a replacement.
Although a very amateur gardener, I have always loved reading about and choosing roses from glossy catalogues – usually attracted by the names – but also, where possible, choosing scented roses. I planted roses in the garden of the house in Bath, where my children grew up and I still remember the velvety Ena Harkness and other highly scented dark red roses that I selected. My boldest experiment with roses in the Bath garden was an attempt to create a rose barrier between our garden and the next door neighbours, by planting a row of Queen Elizabeth floribunda roses. Queen Elizabeth roses grow very large and have pretty pink blooms, but they are also very leggy and, in a small garden, they did not make a successful hedge.
Planting roses to climb up into trees is one of my great pleasures and I chose to plant a Kiftsgate rambling rose in this orchard where it grew up into a large pear tree. This idea dates from my early married life when we rented an old cottage in Devon with a small orchard, where roses climbed up into the apple trees and gave the impression of a second round of blossom. This also worked very well in my pear tree which would fill with white roses in June, mimicking the pear blossom of a few weeks earlier. Unexpectedly, in the garden, a shrub rose called the Ballerina has decided, all by itself, to climb into an ornamental cherry tree – where the pink flowers light up the branches, all through the summer.
Certain roses remind me of special people in my life. I have two American Pillar roses, a great favourite of my mother’s who also loved The Fairy, Gertrude Jekyll and the extra vigorous, scented rambling rose, Wedding Day, which she trained over an arch. When my daughter got married, I gave her a Wedding Day rose, which is rather too exuberant for a small garden in Bristol, and a dazzling pink rose which flowers for almost the entire year – called The Bride. Several roses in my garden were presents from friends, some of my favourites, such as the clove-scented Rosamundi, were recommended to me and I have also planted roses in memory of others.