A rosy outlook…

With over 5,000 roses blooming across the estate in June, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home of Hever Castle & Gardens, is a magnet for rose lovers. Later this month garden writer and organic pioneer, Val Bourne will conduct two special rose tours at Hever on June 20 and 21. Ahead of her visit, she speaks to Vikki Rimmer about how to tend roses and also reveals some of her favourite blooms…


Perhaps one of the most well-known rose lovers is garden writer Val Bourne, who has been specially invited to give a walking tour of the famous rose garden at Hever Castle and dispense her unique advice on how to grow roses organically.

Val Bourne has been growing roses in her garden in the Cotswolds for 17 years and has perfected multiple ways of producing repeat flowering roses, as well as strategies for keeping the good insects in her garden and any disease out.

Val says: “My garden is living proof that you can grow roses organically and without resorting to spraying. I am excited to be at Hever Castle & Gardens this June and to share my favourite floribundas, hybrid teas, English roses, hybrid musks, rugosas, Ramblers and Gallicas with the rose-loving public during Hever In Bloom.

“I will be bringing my 10 favourite roses and enjoying the display in the Italian Garden produced by the head gardener Neil Miller, who is also passionate about roses.”

Val Bourne’s talk will focus not just on the maintenance of the UK’s favourite flower but also on the different types, the breeders to buy from, the best flower shapes for insects, under-planting, feeding and pruning.

Neil Miller, head gardener at Hever Castle & Gardens adds: “We are delighted that Val Bourne will be our guest speaker during Hever in Bloom. Val has an encyclopaedic knowledge of roses, and her passion and humour make her talks and tours wonderfully engaging!”

Hever will welcome Val Bourne on 20 June at 14:00 and on 21 June at 11:30 for talks.

Neil Miller and his team will also deliver their popular twice-daily tours of the Rose Garden at 11:30 and 14:00.

The sumptuous Gardens at Hever Castle provide the perfect canvas for the rose in the month of June, as these special flowers bloom prolifically – from Rosa Ballerina in the Tudor Garden and ‘Anne Boleyn’ by David Austin producing a misty pink sea of blooms beside Half Moon Pond, to the thousands of floribundas and standard roses delivering an awe-inspiring display climbing the columns and blooming from the beds of the Rose Garden in the Italian Garden.



What’s the best way to deal with black spot?

Careful husbandry pays dividends with all roses. As an organic gardener I will not spray! The best way to deal with black spot, which is a fungal disease, is to select healthy roses in the first place. Many people like repeat-flowering roses and although some of the older varieties are martyrs to blackspot, there are plenty of modern roses that don’t suffer because the modern tendency is to select for health and vigour.

Bomb-proof roses I grow include ‘Champagne Moment’ and ‘Peach Melba’: both of the these Rose of the Year winners were raised by German breeders Kordes. I also like David Austin’s ‘Wildeve’ and ‘Lark Ascending’, along with Gareth Fryer’s ‘You’re Beautiful’.

If you find yourself struggling with blackspot, which is always worse after a damp and muggy summer, pick up all the fallen leaves because they carry spores. Take the weight out of the rose after flowering is finished, usually in November. Take all the foliage off in December, because the rose doesn’t necessarily need foliage now. Prune carefully in the New Year, taking care to open up the rose so that it forms a cup shape. Mulch around the rose with John Innes 2. This will create a barrier between the soil and the rose stems. Feed with a high-potash fertiliser as the foliage comes back – usually in April.


Which rose bushes have the best aroma?

I love ‘Buff Beauty’. This hybrid musk was raised from roses that were originally bred by the Reverend Joseph Pemberton, who lived at The Round House, Havering-atte-Bower, Romford in Essex. After he retired, he devoted his life to selecting fragrant roses. It’s a large rose with reddish foliage and loosely-formed soft-apricot flowers. ‘Madame Isaac Péreire’ is considered to have the best fragrance. The large, vivid-pink flowers almost make the nose fizz because it’s slightly peppery, with hints of spice. The lady in question was the wife of the famous French financier. It’s a vigorous, repeat-flowering Bourbon rose, raised by Garcon c. 188.


What’s the best way to deal with greenfly or whitefly on roses?

The best way to tackle greenfly is to stand back and allow your garden predators to clear them up for you.

Ladybirds need them and they will only lay their clusters of eggs near aphid colonies. Blue tits also need to collect 10,000 tiny wriggly things for their fledglings. Don’t spray your aphids, with a so-called green spray or an insecticide, because you will also kill all your predators. The aphids will come back far quicker and there will be nothing to gobble them up and you’ll end up with more aphids. If aphids on the rose buds and young foliage are bothering you, rub them away with your fingers. These soft-bodied insects have fragile feeding tubes called stylets and they’re easily damaged. Whitefly usually arrive later and they are a favourite snack of wrens in my garden. Be tolerant, because insecticides are harmful to human health.


How do you companion plant in your garden – and what do you plant alongside the roses?

Roses come in flushes, so they are terrific in June and early July and then there’s a gap until late summer or early autumn, so you must include companion plants as well. Lots of my snowdrops are planted in the lea of my roses because they flower and fade before the roses. I grow lots of ‘lactiflora’ peonies amidst my roses and they pre-empt the roses. They are mostly creams, whites and pinks and favourites include ‘Duchess de Nemours’, ‘Shirley Temple’ and ‘Gay Paree’.  After the peonies and roses have finished, I try to include blues and Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety’, Stachys macrantha, Geranium ‘Orion’ and Tritelia laxa ‘Queen Fabiola’ are all excellent. Verticals. So important in any border, are represented by two verbascums, the earlier flowering V. phoeniceum ‘Violetta’ and V. chaixii ‘Album’. Late-summer seed a rambling Japanese anemone named ’Pamina’ pop up in the gaps and Japanese anemones have dark stems and downy buds that look like grey seed pearls. Gaura and cosmos end the season, going
on until November.

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