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Landscape Gardening - Selecting Rose Bushes For A Dry Mediterranean Garden - by Jonathan Yaakobi

From a landscape gardening point of view, roses, traditionally known as the “Queen of the Garden”, are still unmatched in the color design options they provide. For magnificent flowers and a powerful color composition, rose bushes are still number one. Although there are many cultural requirements to consider while selecting rose bushes, it is worthwhile to be clear from the outset, as to the design role they are meant to play in the garden.

A group of roses should either fit into the garden’s color scheme, or be the starting point, perhaps the focal point from which the other plants and garden elements take their cue. If a hot or warm color theme were wanted, then the reds, oranges, and deep yellows are suitable. Alternatively, a blotch of crimson or Bordeaux flowers in a garden that is predominantly pastel, would probably strike a discordant note. Randomly throwing colors together is simply poor taste and can never create a satisfying composition.

The intensity of the sun light either enhances or dissipates the quality of different colors. The pastel colors like sky blue, pink and pale lemon for example, look at their best in the soft light of Britain or Ireland, but weak and insipid in the harsh, fierce sun light of a Mediterranean or Southern Californian summer. If roses could be successfully grown in the shade or even filtered sun, then pastel colored flowers might be fine, but as they need a good six hours a day of direct sun, the hot colors tend to be more effective in such climates.

Roses are classified into a number of groups, which not only indicate the size of the bush itself, but also the form and shape of the blooms. Hybrid tea roses, such as the varieties, Chrysler Imperial, Papa Meilland, or Peace, typically have large individual flowers. They are best close to entrances and walkways, where the architectural wonder of the flowers’ form can be appreciated. Many of course are highly fragrant as well.

The individual flower of the floribunda group is far less noteworthy than those of the hybrid teas, but as they produce massive quantities of flowers, the actual color effect of floribunda roses is often more spectacular, if used wisely, than their hybrid tea, or grandiflora counterparts. They are best planted therefore in larger groups, preferably in front of a wall or fence, which supply a quiet background to the rose bushes. The famous Iceberg variety is one example of a white flowering, floribunda rose, while Goldilocks, and Ginger sport yellow and orange blooms respectively.

Two other design uses of roses are as climbers on pillars and arches, or grown as espaliers trained horizontally on a wall. The great advantage in both cases is that the plants look passably good all year round, and not only when in flower. However, when in full bloom, they really come into their own. I particularly love the dramatic contrast of the dark red flowers of Don Juan on a whitewashed wall. A harmonious composition on the other hand would involve pale yellow flowers on a wall painted in ochre. Although such a combination might be less suitable in the bright, severe, Mediterranean light, it is quite a sumptuous thought nonetheless!

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Jonathan Ya'akobi

Your Personal Gardening Coach

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