Roses in the Bright Border

I am sorry to those who are not rose fans, but this is my time.  After June the roses will not be so prominent in the garden, and I will stop bombarding you with rose posts.

But for now, indulge me.

I thought I would write a post about the three roses I grow in my bright border.  Like most of the roses I grow, these are David Austin English roses, chosen for flower form, scent, health, vigour and repeat-flowering.

Here they are all in one photo.  Furthest left is ‘Summer Song’, then ‘Thomas à Becket’ in the middle, and ‘Benjamin Britten’ to the right.


Shall we start with ‘Summer Song?’  This is an odd colour for an English rose.  Sort of deeply-saturated peach.  Eighties peach.  Sarah Ferguson peach.

But I can’t help loving it.  Especially with a fantastic clashing colour.  Here it is with Lychnis coronaria.

Rosa 'Summer Song' and Lychnis coronaria

And here it is, looking equally fabulous with Phlox paniculata ‘Purple Flame’.  Ok, so you can’t actually see the phlox, but you get the idea.  And can I just draw your attention to the splendiferous flower form?  The way the petals are perfectly overlapping one another?  Does anyone remember the start of the children’s tv programme ‘Camberwick Green?’  It started with a music box which had interlocking leaves in the lid, which opened out as if by magic (or the nearest thing, clockwork).  This rose reminds me of that.

Rosa 'Summer Song' with Phlox panniculata 'Purple Flame'

If I had to make one little criticism of ‘Summer Song’, it would be that its growth habit is a little too upright, and it tends to send up just a few long shoots.  I have pruned it back hard this winter to try to encourage more shoots, and so far, it is looking bushier.

Rosa ‘Summer Song’

If we move along the border, about in the middle, I have planted Rosa ‘Thomas à Becket’.  Like most of my roses, I have planted in a group of three for maximum impact.


I love the wild nature of this rose.  It is perfect for the back of the border.  It has masses of flower throughout the season, and they dangle gracefully on a lax stem.  This is just before bursting into flower.  It is a link to the wilds beyond the fence.

Rosa ‘Thomas a Becket’ and Geranium ‘Brookside’, mid June.

‘Thomas à Becket’ associates beautifully with Geranium ‘Brookside’, which threads through the rose, and dances with bees.

Rosa ‘Thomas a Becket’ with Geranium ‘Brookside’

‘Thomas à Becket’ is loaded with buds and is never without flower from now to December.

Rosa ‘Thomas a Becket’ spray of buds.

The thicket makes for interesting dead-heading.  I probably get more rose-bites from ‘Thomas’ than any other.  Perhaps the bloodying is how the rose got its name?

Rosa ‘Thomas a Becket’ with Geranium ‘Brookside’

The third rose in the Bright Border is my favourite.  It is Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’.  Before the flowers, the foliage provide a lovely orange-tipped prelude.  Then come the most delicious coral blooms.  They start as a perfect globe.

Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' (2)
Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’

This bloom opens out to have a flat top.  The edge of the petals will just fade slightly in the sun, taking on a vintage silk look.  They look wonderful with the dark stems.  These flowers really do sing joyously from the back of the border.

Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’

They are surrounded by a glorious tangle.  A chorus of Centaurea ‘Jordy’, and Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’, with Clematis and Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’ and Buddleija davidii ‘Royal Red’ joining for the finale.


‘Benjamin’ can look a little more orange-pink, or coral-red, in different lights.  He is an incredibly subtle and elusive rose.

I just had a little accident with ‘Benjamin Britten’.  I snipped the wrong stem when deadheading, and decapitated a new bloom.  But every disaster is an opportunity.  So I decided to open out the new bud, to see how it was vacuum-packed.  I pushed the flower from behind, from the stem and calyx, and sure enough, the petals opened out, very much like the clockwork music box in Camberwick Green.  Then I could see how the innermost petals are folded over themselves, like the segments of a clementine, hiding the anthers within.

And then I put my nose inside.  Oh Lors!  It was heaven in a sniff.  Never was an inhalation so joyous.  Fruit Salad!  The sweet.  Because it was such a concentrated hit of scent.  I ran to take it first to Stevie, and then to youngest daughter (Super-taster/Super-sniffer).  I was hesitant – I might have confused my fruit salad with my drumstick.  But no, she confirmed it was indeed fruit salad, with undertones of melon and banana.  Bliss in a bud.

Caesarean section of Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’ to reveal the newborn scent inside.

The David Austin description adds “wine and peardrops” to the bouquet.  I can’t argue with that.

Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’

I hope you have enjoyed this hop around the Bright Border.  Do you grow any of these roses?  Or do you have your own bright favourites?

By the way, I now have a SEARCH button!  So now you can search for varieties of roses, dahlias, geraniums, etc.

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors. 

If you would like to join the joy, click on the ‘Follow’ button at the end of this post. You will receive an email each time I post a little pop of wonder. 

19 Comments Add yours

  1. pommepal says:

    This border is so well named Ali, it glows

  2. fredgardener says:

    Gorgeous roses Ali. I’m happy to see your lychnis that I didn’t see in your previous post while they were described … (an omission / download error?) In this photo, lychnis and rose create a nice mix of colors!

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks for letting me know, Fred, I have now uploaded the Lychnis. I am finding Word Press really slow this weekend – don’t know whether its because my photos are huge now, or our wifi is rubbish (living in the middle of nowhere it is never very good), or both.

      1. fredgardener says:

        😉 I assure you, me too … upload was slow here too on Saturday morning.

  3. Christina says:

    I assume your soil is clay? Roses love clay. I have no clay in my garden and roses don’t like my garden! I like DA roses but you shouldn’t dismiss old roses. Their perfume is usually divine, DA’s have excellent perfume but sometimes lack the subtle undertones of the old roses. Is repeat flowering so very important?

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, we have clay. Don’t worry – I love old roses too! There’s a post coming…

  4. Heyjude says:

    Can’t ever have too many rose posts for me Ali. I enjoy every sight and smell of them. You should take a knife and cut one of your blooms in half and then get out the macro lens – might be an interesting experiment. I did it with a hellebore.

  5. Penny Post says:

    With every rose post you make it more and more likely I will be copying your rose beds ideas, especially given I have a garden that is on a bedrock of clay, every border needs so much material adding to it before I can plant in it.

    1. Ali says:

      Roses will love your clay. I mix in a bucketful of organic matter into the planting hole of each rose, and they’re happy as Larry.

  6. bcparkison says:

    Goodness no. I never tire of reading about your beautiful space.

    1. Ali says:

      That’s good to know. x

  7. Val says:

    Oh, Ali – these are just gorgeous (and I swear I can smell them through the monitor!) My childhood garden was full of roses as they were my mum’s favourite flowers and I miss them. Other half can’t stand roses because of their thorns. I hope to get to a distant plant nursery soon to at least have a sniff of some!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Val! A sniff is sure to transport you back in time!

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    I love your bright border, Ali! And your description of roses finds me wanting to try one or two of my own, even though rose thorns drive me batty. Now that is good salesmanship. DA ought to give you a stipend. 😉

    1. Ali says:

      #Dream Job!!

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