Letter: To save a formal rose garden from 'ugliness'

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The Independent Online
Sir: James Fenton, in his piece on rose gardens (29 March), chides Sir Simon Hornby for his dislike of 'a formal rose garden' while demonstrating that he agrees with him.

A formal rose garden, so prevalent until the Fifties, contained only hybrid tea roses. These flowered once a year, for perhaps eight weeks. They were very hard-pruned, so spiky and gaunt for many months. The beds were often geometrical and set in lawn. No underplanting was allowed as purists considered this weakened the rose, so the earth was bare.

Nowadays, where formal rose gardens do exist, they are more likely to be planned with repeat-flowering roses and underplanted with pinks, or violas, etc, 'for a restful patch or so of blue'. The trend lately has been towards mixing roses in beds and borders with other flowers, shrubs, evergreens and bulbs, preventing that dismal, naked, 'ugly' look, even in winter.

Mottisfont holds the National Collection and therefore, by definition, grows, besides hybrid teas, countless other varieties of rose such as the species roses, shrub roses, old roses, climbers, ramblers, floribundas and the new English roses. Take your pick.

Yours truly,


Frampton on Severn,


30 March

(Photograph omitted)