Peter Dowdall on the rose hybrid named for a man who made the mistake of upbraiding his missus.

The summer will soon be upon us and with the fine weather, comes blue skies, long evenings and of course, rose blooms.

A garden without roses is incomplete and the days of gardens being broken down into different areas is long gone. 

No longer do we have vegetable and herb areas separate from the herbaceous beds and a rose garden all on its own.

No, now things are much more relaxed and mixture is the order of the day — all plants are friends in the horticultural world, with roses standing proud beside nodding perennials and underplanted with spring bulbs.

Traditionally winter was the time to plant roses and I well remember sorting through bare root roses delivered in December and January and ‘heeling them in’ to beds of peat in the garden centre ready for sale to those that knew that the time was right for planting. 

I still remember my hands torn to shreds, as this was a job where even the strongest of gloves couldn’t give total protection, in the icy cold.

An annual task that would each year make one question one’s chosen career path, there really was little enough to like about sorting through thorny stems in the wet and cold, except of course for the knowledge that each prickly bunch of stems would soon burst forth into growth, and would later provide masses of striking summer blooms, many of them strongly-scented.

Nowadays of course, peat beds and anything that even looks dirty or somewhat like work has no place in the modern world of the ‘retail experience’ and thus bare root roses are consigned to days gone by, unless you buy direct from a specialist grower.

As a result, the best selection of roses is no longer to be found with roots heeled in during January and February. No, now they will be found as the season progresses and growth has started during March and right through to July when the plants are in full flower.

Nice, glossy, plastic pots with big shiny plastic labels showing images of what to expect are somewhat unfortunately the order of the day now. 

Garden centres, dictated by consumer demand, only tend to stock what is in colour or soon to be in flower.

Retailers have to satisfy a demand and we consumers want satisfaction immediately, it seems. No longer are we happy to wait for a season or longer, before we have colour from our purchase, no we need it today, or at latest perhaps, in a few weeks.

So, to that end, the time to go and choose your roses is now. Garden centres will soon have this season’s new crop of roses in stock and as the saying goes, the early worm… 

Many varieties will be hard to get later in the season and both grower and garden centre will have the biggest selection over the next month or so — if you are looking for a specific cultivar then now is the time to go in search.

‘Wild Edric’ is one rose that invariably will be unavailable to purchase when you see it in flower, and fall in love with it later in the year. It’s a rosa rugosa hybrid, bred in the world-famous David Austin’s rose nursery in Wolverhampton in Britain.

What you will fall in love with is its informal, nearly wild look and habit, its velvety, deep cerise pink flowers which will remind you of old-fashioned roses of a time gone by, a simpler time when we were all children.

If you aren’t totally under its spell by the time you have seen it, then put your nose right into one of its blooms, careful of the branches as they are quite thorny, and deeply inhale the breathtaking perfume to complete the journey down memory lane. 

If you could bathe yourself in scent, then this is one that you will want to fill that bath with. Not a formal rose for the carefully designed rose garden but, as it’s a rugosa type it is more suited to an informal, and even hedgerow planting. A great choice for coastal gardens as well as providing a security barrier.

Wild Edric himself was a Saxon lord during the time of the Norman Conquests who managed to get a fairy princess to marry him and what man wouldn’t want that? Legend has it that she agreed to give him her hand if he agreed never to reproach her.

All went swimmingly, until one day he did just that — he reproached her and she disappeared. Heartbroken he spent the rest of his days searching for her and word has it that his ghost can still be seen riding the Shropshire hills by night. Let that be a lesson...


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