Early July, the garden is green and all around roses are blooming, giving colour and scent. The variety in this plant group is magnificent, and really quite tolerant of aspect and site.
The large-flowered varieties favoured in formal rose beds are also good for cutting. The rambling, less constrained climbers are quite gorgeous from a distance. The ancient Rambling Rector rose that covers our summer house is in a mass of flowers at present - and this despite being overshadowed by a large ash.
You would think that a north wall would be a challenge for most plants but chose with care and you can have great success. We have successfully grown two varieties: New Dawn, a chance cross-pollination, or 'sport', from 1930 that offers large pale pink flowers, and Danse de Feu, a bright brick-red free-flowering climber.
Why not try growing climbers through a tree? In our garden, New Dawn also grows through a pear tree, with neither being in any way inconvenienced. You might also try Bobbie James - with drooping clusters of individual cup shaped white flowers - or Kiftsgate - rather more creamy flowers - both of which are highly scented.
Many of our modern day climbers and ramblers originate from the R Wichuraiana rose, which came from China in 1860. One very successful offspring is Albertine (pictured), first produced in 1921, and a must in my garden. It is another highly scented variety and carries abundant 'lobster pink' flowers.
At Chelsea this year, I picked up a copy of Gertrude Jekyll's Roses for English Gardens, first published in 1902. Among the enchanting photographs - ladies in the background in their crinolines - I found many of my favourite old varieties. I was particularly taken by a picture of R Wichuraiana being allowed to grow down a grassy bank.
Another great find at the Chelsea Flower Show this year was Pops Plants, a two-person outfit on the edge of the New Forest that offers more than 800 cultivated varieties, or 'cultivars'. Holder of the National Collections for Show, Alpine and Double Primula Auriculas, you might think they would have no time for rank amateurs. Not so - they are keen to spread the word on auriculas.
People either love or hate auriculas. They leave my wife cold but I adore their smooth green leaves dusted with white 'meal', or farina, and their intensely coloured flowers that look fine porcelain.
To conclude with jobs for July, as the foliage of spring bulbs dies back, you can lift, trim, clean and store the bulbs in a single layer in a cool dry place for re-planting later this year. Autumn flowering bulbs (such as some crocuses) should be planted now.
How is that water butt doing? I hope it is filling, because the vegetables need that water now. Leave them dry and they will bolt. It is still not too late to sow seeds. Sow peas now to crop in September/October (Kelvedon Wonder is suitable). As the seedlings grow support them with twigs. This will encourage growth and discourage the birds.
Keep the salad plantings going with short rows every two weeks. Beginners are better to stay with butterhead varieties and to stick to the rules: thin early, do not transplant, water regularly and add lime if needed in your area. Sow treviso - an upright red chicory - for the winter table, and thin to 12 inches. It even survives frost. But fancy thinking about the frost - better put my shorts on and get out in the garden while the weather is still good.
- www.classicroses.co.uk - My rose growing has been much aided by an excellent encyclopaedia of roses and a care manual, written by Peter and Amanda Beale respectively. Both books are now out of print. Fortunately, the Beale website gives details of their current books.
- www.gertrudejekyll.co.uk - Roses for English Gardens, by Gertrude Jekyll. ISBN: 0140466029.