“Wild roses are fairest, and nature a better gardener than art.”

A tousled abundance of roses and perennials was my intent on creating a garden; sure enough, a profusion of roses and other florals now permeates the garden as spring nears the end of its reign. Copious roses hang from arching canes and interweave amongst the lavender, herbs and geraniums. Some stand upright with the sky as their background, and others cascade forming a luminous blanket for the bees. Overall, the display is opulent and profuse full of texture and colour, and I am pleased with the results.

After recent weather a necessary cutback was in order. But, given the number of roses, there are still plenty out in full flower and the garden looks more like Summer- windblown and unkempt with loads of blooms ready to be dead-headed. The roses are more prolific and established, so it is heartening to know that a cutback will only make them more robust, and the growth and flowering will continue. The weather is utterly unpleasant for this time of year, hence the number of posts I’ve been able to write recently being inside more often. We are in a forced lockdown of sorts too due to flood waters inundating the local town, so road closures and road damage prevent us from going anywhere.

All gardeners live in beautiful places because they make them so.

Joseph Joubert

Perfection in the roses in the garden is elusive, with high winds over the last few days so there are all the stages of the rose in view; rose buds, wilting roses, finished blooms, superb full roses, slightly rain-damaged roses and new ones shyly opening. They all weave together to create a joyful and poignant landscape. I adore the beauty of the aged roses as much as the perfect rose and have not deadheaded all as yet. Aged patina, even in roses, creates a captivating, romantic, old-world look. This is especially true with specific colours that are fortunately growing, like the Spiced Coffee and Soul Sister roses with their subdued antique latte colouring.

Adding to the romantic look of the garden is Herkules rose. Herkules – KORherkul, as the registration name states, is a Kordes rose bred in Germany in 2000 and introduced by W. Kordes’ Söhne in 2007 as ‘Herkules’. Herkules is new in the garden this season and is in flower this week, growing in pots to get established before planting out in the French garden.

Herkules roses open from crimson buds to bright white, age to a ruffled blend of pale pink, lavender, blush and gold, full of nostalgic old-world charm. I am really chuffed that these are doing so well as they are the perfect soft yet luminous look I was after when chosen from Treloar Roses.

Mitsouko is the Hybrid Tea rose also chosen for its old-world beauty. It is named after a Japanese Princess according to Delbards, who describe Mitsouko as

“A symphony of unforgettable colors …” which go from a mimosa yellow at the center to white with a touch of pink on the petal edges.

Mitsouko is a stunning Delbard rose bred in France in 1970 and part of the Grand Parfums Collection. I discovered that the seed is from Michèle Meilland × Chic Parisien a floribunda, Delbard-Chabert, 1956 and the pollen from Peace hybrid tea, Meilland 1935. Hence the reason it has a look of the famous Peace rose. It is only new and just in flower but is said to be vigorous and disease-resistant, growing to 80 cm in height in magical colours that change from bright yellow to white whilst the outer edge of the petals remain pink. Mitsouko is a strong rose with bright green healthy foliage and the flowers are meant to have a long vase life.

Wandering in the garden or viewing from one of the seated areas, I sometimes see a collection of plants or a single specimen that looks perfectly styled with the desired old-world romanticism. One never knows (but always hopes) that the chosen plants will create exciting vistas. They have a patina in the subtle ageing colour palette that is purely an accident of nature but welcome. Each plant complements and adds something extra to the landscape when combined together. Even though traditionally, red roses are considered romantic, the old-world charm of washed-out soft white and pale pinks, plus the subtle colours of blush, yellow, lavender, peach and cream in billowy blooms, create vintage romantic gardens.

“Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are. ”

Alfred Austin

The notion of a romantic garden transports the garden visitor to a place where emotions take over one’s sense of reason. Where particular spaces unfold that appeal to the senses and the soul. They are uplifting places with areas for relaxation, solitude, contemplation and surprise. It amazes me just how the accidents of nature can sometimes create the perfect mise en scène that is so beautiful and way beyond anything one could dream up oneself.

“A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever.”

Richard Briers

How do we create the look of an Old-World romantic garden?

Apart from specific old-style plants like rambling roses, gypsophila, lavenders, wisteria, a vintage-inspired garden must have a sense of being a bit wild and overgrown. With elements of secrecy or seclusion, one does not see the entire garden all at once. So, even though most of the garden can be well-kept and tame, there are other areas where nature appears to be taking over a bit.

The wilder fuller look of roses is easily achieved by planting heritage or heirloom roses because they have a tendency to cascade and intertwine through other plants in a rhythmical ethereal way. Appearing less upright and bold than modern hybrid tea or shrub roses. In the garden are several heirloom varieties ( older than 75 years ) and they still maintain their repeat flowering ability like Paul Bocuse, Anna Oliver, Perle d Or, Crepuscule, Buff Beauty, Cecile Brunner, Fantin Latour, Felicia, Gruss an Aachen, Ballerina, Lady Hillingdon, Kathleen Harrop, Maman Cochet, Monsieur Tillier, Ophelia, Penelope, Reine des Violettes, and Renae Clg.

Fans of heritage roses can enjoy the strong fragrance of roses but sadly, many only flower once a season. I’d prefer to have the roses grow and bloom from October to May. This one is Rosa Souvenir La Malmaison Rosa a cultivar with large, pale pink, flowers that open flat. This Bourbon rose was created in 1843 by rose breeder Jean Béluze in Lyon France, who named it after the Château de Malmaison, where Joséphine de Beauharnais had created her magnificent rose garden. It is beautiful and has a strong tea rose scent but it does at times ball in the wet weather so often is without perfect blooms.

For the rose, though its petals are torn asunder, still smiles on, and it is never cast down.


Climbing roses rambling over arbours, arches, obelisks, and climbing over sheds, fences and old stumps are all quintessential romantic garden features that engage the senses. The random nature of climbing roses is just an illusion at least at the start where the gardener is kept busy training the roses to climb the way they intended.

Gossamer heads of summer perennials in off-whites, delicate lavender tones and buff-yellow create romantic spaces like these Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ or Wild Chervil. I bought these from Lambley Nursery in Victoria to try out. They are stunning and their lacy heads tower over the rose blooms. Growing to at least 140 cm high with purple stems and an unusual soft rounded leaf shape.

Romantic gardens need all the shades of green and grey foliage in hedges, grasses and trees with small nooks and crannies for garden seating, whimsical art installations, water ponds, bird baths or extravagant oversized pots all go towards the appeal of a romantic country garden.


Aging blooms on Joseph’s Coat Rose still look good


Gardens must reflect the nature of the gardener and be to their own liking. So, although I love roses, I never would plant a traditional rose garden with rows and rows of shrub roses and hybrid teas with bare mulched soil beneath. They may be easy to care for and allow space and airflow, the hedges hiding the bare rose stems, but I do not find them an attractive way of displaying the beauty of roses. My intent has always been to grow a garden full of roses rather than a rose garden. There is a difference between formal and well-manicured and romantic and rambling.


Gardening is a question of one’s own personal taste, lifestyle and available space. Some find a neat deck, pavers and potted plants, hedges and architectural style appealing, and others prefer a wilder, more natural garden for wildlife with masses of vegetation, possibly native plants or vegetables, herbs and fruit trees. In between are people who don’t mind regular maintenance and love the look of a well-nourished and abundant garden in as natural a way as possible. I belong to the last group with many gardeners, with a predominance of roses, but that’s just me. After all, the definition of a garden is

   “A piece of ground, enclosed, and cultivated with extraordinary care, planted with herbs or fruit or food, or laid out for pleasure.

The most important aspect of the definition that rings true to me is ‘ for pleasure’ Our gardens must bring us pleasure but the essence of a garden is that it is a managed space. There is a trend around the world of rewilding one’s garden and letting nature take over but even this trend is managed carefully to appear to be wild with careful planting of massed bulbs, seeds and grasses grown to act as pollinators for bees. I love this garden trend for its sustainability, ease of care and emphasis on plantings that are less water-dependent. I’m heading out now into the romantic, abundant garden, full of a variety of roses.

Content Di Baker 2022

Images by Di Baker for aroseisaroseisarose.com November 2022

Title quote by Louisa May Alcott

1 thought on ““Wild roses are fairest, and nature a better gardener than art.””

  1. A great read Di…..the personal mixed with the encyclopedic knowledge! And I especially love the photos. 💖

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