Underplanting roses- part 2, a few idea

In last weeks post, (just here in case you missed it I spent a bit of time going though the ideas behind underplanting roses and it’s advantages, this week I shall be be looking at a range of under planting that will suit a wide range of roses and of course their different colour flowers. This list isn’t meant to be a bible but just a mere stepping stone into the future path of plant discovery. Now this blog could cover a few hundred plants but I shall keep it short at around 12 Plants just to give you a few ideas to get things started

Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’

Now I could go on about the history of this Hardy Geranium and how it’s not the real form but let’s leave that to another blog, Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’ tends to flower just the once mainly but it can repeat a couple of times during the summer months. It’s light blue stripped flowers do tend to suit single coloured roses, either in pastel colours or it can just about get away with the darker reds too

Eryngium giganteum

is much better known as Miss Willmott’s ghost. This biannual appeared the year after Miss Ellen Willmott visited a garden as she had a habit of spreading the seed in a garden during her visits. This is one of the most useful silver plants to have in the garden, it just works with any colour and almost any Rose! It is very good at self seeding itself all around the garden but it is easily removed if it’s in the wrong place. As it is a biannual, it will just form a rosette of leaves in the first year and then flower and die in the next.

Digitalis purpurea f.albiflora

Another biannual is the beautiful Digitalis purpurea f.albiflora or the pure white foxglove. This plant gives you so much height within the border and is important mixed in with the shrub roses and their range of pinks and reds. These towers of white help to give the border some height and purity to the border. One word of warning, if you want just the pure white forms be certain to remove any with any hint of purple!

Sisyrinchium striatum

This is a odd looking plant with iris like leaves and dainty light yellow flowers followed by black seedheads. It’s colour and strap like leaves makes it a good plant to mix in with roses of a wide range of colours,from white to dark red. As well as working with a wide colour range, it works well with a wide range of heights, again with roses ranging in height from 45cm to 2m. It does selfseed a little but is easily replanted into the correct place

Campanula latiloba

This delightful campanula comes in a few different colours, Hidcote Amethyst is a amethyst colour, the main form is blue and the white form called alba is also a very good plant to use and it will cover a wide range of roses. It will also flower for May weeks from May into August depending on the year and weather

Anchusa azurea

The Italian bugloss as it is more commonly called is a bright blue perennial that will repeat flower during the year. This blue colour works again with so many colour forms of roses. It has hairy leaves that may cause a rash on some people ie me! It grows to 50cm in height and can be cut down after flowering to encourage more to come through.

Dianthus old garden hybrids

These small plants add more to the roses than just their beautiful range of pink flowers that fill the air with a clove like scent. They also bring a great shade of grey needle like foliage to the party. Their small size makes them ideal for planting around the edges of the roses and through smaller roses. They also do a great job at the front of the borders by helping to hide the bottoms of the shrub roses, which can be a little unsightly but don’t tell them please

Geranium psilostemon

Geranium psilostemon needs a little more careful partnering although used correctly it can really uplift the surrounding roses. It’s difficulty comes from the colour and the height, it surprisingly works well with a range of pinks and white flowers just the sheer brightness can at times over power the surrounding plants. The other thing to watch out for is the height, it can grow to 1.2m which can over power a lot of roses, so again it needs bearing in mind when using

Penstemon ‘Pensham Wedding Day’

Penstemons are great plants to have in the garden anyway but they make great additions to the Rose beds. As they repeat flower throughout the summer, they make great companions to repeat flowering roses and this white form suites pink and red flowering roses.

Penstemon ‘Hidcote Purple’

While the purple form of Penstemon Hidcote Purple works so well with white and pale coloured roses, again it’s repeat flowering helps to bring colour to the borders even after the roses have finished flowering

Tanacetum parthenium ‘Flore Pleno’

The double flowered version of feverfew is one of the most underrated plants we grow in the garden, this double version just flowers all summer long with attractive lime greenish foliage again really helps to set off the darker greens of the roses and other plants. The flowers are like tiny buttons and are quite delightful. It does self seed a little but that’s what friends and plant sales are for. It does have one advantage of attracting aphids to them and away from the roses. Works with a wide range of rose colours, indeed not many colour flowers it doesn’t work with

Cotinus coggygria

We all need a little bit of purple foliage in the garden don’t we and Cotinus is the best at this. It is indeed a large shrub that is ideally suited for the bigger garden but it can be kept coppiced back each year to form these larger purple leaves and I have found a light prune in July keeps them down a little in size and helps to bulk up the size of the plant. Works well with a wide range of rose flowers.

This is just a small drop in the ocean of what you could do, the only thing that should stop is time and cost. Don’t be afraid of trying things that may sound silly like using Dahlias and other half Hardy Plants, they can and do work, it’s just getting the right combination. So please give it a go and enjoy growing roses in a way that enhances all the plants in your garden.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Some of those seem rather large for underplanting. If grown with roses, they would need their own space to spread out laterally, unless the roses were those that get tall. I still prefer to grow roses separately, without companion plants, except for a low boxwood hedge in front to obscure the bases of the plants. . . . although I do happen to like many of those classic perennials and geraniums.

    1. thomashort says:

      Ahh all depends of the size of roses you are underplanting Tony, shrub roses can range from 2-8ft in size so you do need a choice that can cover a range, plants like foxgloves also give you a little height in the borders and highlight the surrounding colours. Lol I guess you have never visited Mottisfont, trouble is I grew up there and this way of growing roses has been the main way I have worked with them and I am not keen on them in beds on their own

      1. tonytomeo says:

        That is why people make fun of the way we grow roses. We happen to live in an ideal climate for them. I learned to grow them for cut flowers, outside of the rest of the garden, where we could cut all the flowers without depriving the landscape of color. Because they are deciduous, they were not so welcome in landscapes outfitted with evergreen plants that that perform through the winter, with less down time. Also, I grew up with the hybrid tea roses, which are still my favorite! They really like to be pruned back in winter. The Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose is a more typical rose garden for here, with grassy lanes and homogeneous beds of single cultivars The Heritage Rose Garden in San Jose lacks grass or any any landscaping. It is a collection of the ancestors to modern roses. They are both exquisite collections, but lack any landscaping. Although roses are becoming more popular in home gardening (as landscape features rather than mere producers of flowers for cutting), the classics are still rare. The popular ones are common carpet roses and such that cheapen the image of roses. I have about as much regard for them as others here used to have for oleander. (if you do not know what that means, it is not good.)

  2. Love the pairing with carefully chosen geraniums. Might be just what I’ve been looking for – but couldn’t quite put my finger on it without a bit of gentle guidance! Thanks.

    1. thomashort says:

      Thank you, yes Geraniums work very well in the mixed planting such a massive range to choose from as well

  3. chicu says:

    Such a great post series- both informative and inspiring! Had underplanted my roses last summer, waiting for a couple of years for the beds to come into their own. I doubt I will be able to resist sharing photos before then!

    1. thomashort says:

      Thank you 😀

  4. n20gardener says:

    Many thanks for great list. I can see I shld visit Montissfont. Penstemons are one of my faves. I’m also looking at the euphorbias and I’ve got salvia armistad to plant at the back. Roll on summer.

    1. thomashort says:

      Penstemons are just so useful anywhere in the garden aren they, it’s well worth a visit

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.