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Roses Became Essential in Cottage Gardens

Yesterday I noticed in my garden a single ‘Knock Out’ rose bud that had survived several recent cold nights here in New England. What a nice surprise to see the red bud.

Since I have so much shade on my property, growing roses is not an easy job. I have three or four shrub roses scattered around the garden. 

The rose has long been an essential part of the English cottage garden.

Margaret Hensel in her book English Cottage Gardening for American Gardens writes, “Roses, I discovered in England, are among the most important features of a well-designed cottage garden.”

In southern Maine, in the town of Alfred, during the summer I visited a rose garden called Old Sheep Meadows Nursery. The color and size of the roses, growing in this Nursery over fifty years, were amazing. Most were shrub roses and climbers.

The photo below shows roses climbing a trellis at the Nursery. [below]

Rose garden in Alfred, Maine
Old Sheep Meadows Nursery in Alfred, Maine

In the Victorian period roses served as a symbol of everything magical about flowers. You may recall that was the time of the ‘language of flowers.’ Flowers, especially roses, spoke about a person’s emotions and thoughts, hidden deep inside, but now open for all to see, simply with the petals, color, and scent of the flower.

Nicolette Scourse in her book The Victorians and their Flowers writes, “In the Romantic era early in the nineteenth century, roses climbed artificial ruins and classical columns, while high Victorian taste preferred strongly scented, full-faced flowers straddling gothic trellises and arbors.”

The late eighteenth century English landscape gardener Humphry Repton (1752-1818) restored the importance of flowers in the landscape. He wrote about and illustrated a rosary or rose garden.

No matter how small the garden, roses, even in a cottage garden, had to be included.

Roses became essential in cottage gardens.


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