Favourite Roses

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With the choice of roses on the site reaching epic proportions, Martyn and I thought that it would be a good idea to pick out some of our favourites to share with all our members!


Mutabilis One of the easiest to grow in mild to warm climates is this mysterious, protean, beautiful China rose. The flowers are often described looking like butterflies, which is the reason that Kleine Lettunich of California named a seedling after her son, ‘Mateo’s Silk Butterflies’ (see under Hybrid Chinas). In the garden south of Rome, La Landriana, several thousand plants cover a hillside, making a magical display of colour over long periods of time.

‘Mutabilis’ Hybrid China

‘Mme Caroline Testout’

Mme Caroline Testout Among the most beautiful of all Hybrid Teas, both as a shrub and as a climber. Named for a French fashion designer by its creator, Pernet-Ducher, it has never been out of commerce since its release in 1890 (climber 1901). It was once called ‘The City of Portland’ because 10,000 bushes were planted in that Oregon city before WWI. Jack Harkness, in his book Roses, gives a background to its origin and success.

‘Mme Caroline Testout’ Hybrid Tea
‘Mme Caroline Testout’ Climbing HT


Aloha This is one of the forerunners of the great roses of today. Is it a Hybrid Tea? or a Shrub? or a Climber? Nobody knows –it can be grown as all three. I have two, very large plants in Eccleston Square and I adore them, they flower and flower with gorgeous, large multi-petalled blooms with a fine scent. Boerner, the great American hybridiser, bred it.

Aloha Hybrid Tea
Aloha Climber
Aloha Shrub


Iceberg ‘Iceberg’ Introduced by the great rose breeding family Kordes of northern Germany in 1958. Any note on wonerful roses has to include 'Iceberg', it is a fantastic rose in every way, healthy foliage, pure white colour and great repeat flowering. It also adapts to many forms; it makes a superb standard, with a slightly weeping effect, and also a terrific climbing form. The climbing form is my favorite and it is that one that I grow in Eccleston Square, were it is planted it to run up a 25 foot weeping ash tree.

But now there are great new developments from an Australian rosarian Lilia Weatherly, she has launched three new colour sports all of which maintain the health light green foliage and profuse flowering of the parent. They are 'Pink Iceberg' 1995, 'Brilliant Pink Iceberg' 1999 and her latest excellent sport 'Burgundy Iceberg' 2003. I hope all these sports will become available all over the world within the next year or two.

Brilliant Pink Iceberg
Burgundy Iceberg

‘The McCartney Rose’ (Hybrid Tea)

The McCartney Rose Named for THE Paul McCartney, himself an icon for generations of music lovers. I first saw this rose in the fields at Meilland Roses, in the south of France. It was raised by Meilland and introduced in 1991. I was knocked out by the lovely loose HT form, pure scintillating pink colour and wonderful scent. This rose has won Gold Medal prizes all over the world.

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‘Margaret Merril’ (Floribunda)

Margaret Merril The pure white, simple form of this rose is hard to beat. It has about 20-28 petals that open out completely flat to show the very distinctive orange stamens. Justly popular as one of the best roses of modern times, it has won a series of prizes, especially for its intense and gorgeous scent.

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‘Scepter’d Isle’

Scepter’d Isle Picking out one of David Austin’s English Roses is very, very difficult as they are nearly all superb. For me this is one of his most successful later ones. It makes a tallish shrub, covered in cupped pink flowers, light pink on the outer petals, darker towards the middle and it keeps flowering right up to winter. I grow it in really tough conditions in long grass, so I know it is really a strong and health thing. It has that strange scent that many of Austin’s roses have, of myrrh. I love it; Nicky hates it.

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‘Alchemist’ (Climber post 1950)

Alchemist One of my favourite climbers, I have it running up through a holly tree to about 16 feet (5m). It was created by Kordes in Germany and introduced in 1951. The flowers have little scent and do not repeat but when they burst-out in their masses it is superb. The flowers run right down every branch and it’s irresistible. I featured it in my ‘Quest for the Rose’ TV programmes and after that thousands of visitors came to the garden at Eccleston Square to see it.

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‘Belle Portugaise’ or ‘Belle of Portugal’ (Tea Climber)

Belle Portugaise I only planted this rose in Eccleston Square about three years ago and already it has grown into a massive plant sprawling over a group of Viburnum. It really is a giant climber although I grow it as a shrub. The flowers come very early in the spring, and when it is in full bloom the Viburnum plicatum also comes into flower. The combination is fantastic: the pure white masses of the Viburnum, with the long furled tea flowers of the rose opening to large floppy blooms, very pale pink on the inside and stronger pink on the reverse. It is only once flowering but, if you have a big garden and want to make a statement nothing could be more dramatic.

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