Roses sum up the very essence of summer

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High summer breathes life into such a wide range of flowering plants.

We have foxgloves, delphiniums, honeysuckle, but most eagerly anticipated are roses, and this week generally sees the first real flush of blooms.

Flowers had already appeared on some early varieties, but now the real music begins and will continue for months with our help.

First priority is the removal of spent blooms.

This can be achieved by clasping the dead flower in your hand and snapping it free with a flick of the wrist, but if you’re apprehensive use secateurs. Look below the bloom for the first plump bud and prune just above it. The resultant shoot will produce a new flower fairly quickly.

Assuming your roses were offered a slow release feed and surface mulch just as seasonal growth began, consider supplementing that with a granular, better still, liquid tonic at intervals over the season.

If you have roses in your garden, greenfly, mildew and black spot are sure to seek them out.

We all react differently to such problems. Some reach for a chemical solution, others not. I prefer to concentrate on the plant performance. If there is sturdy growth and continuity of bloom, a few affected leaves can be tolerated, even removed by hand. When a greenfly colony forms at the tip of a rose stem, I feel safer using a soft soap wash rather than a modern day insecticide. However, it’s all a question of personal choice.

Some of my favourite cultivars are just starting to bloom. New Dawn is set against an East-facing wall of the house, and Boule de Neige, which is the old fashioned cottage garden rose that forms a ball of fragrant white, is just where it should be, at the gate welcoming visitors.

Cecile Brunner, the sweetheart rose, is a little gem that resides in different parts of the garden because it’s so easily raised from hardwood stem cuttings taken in autumn.

The Alnwick Garden rose is blooming alongside another fragrant pink cultivar, the latest introduction to our collection.

It came via David Austin at the press launch of Sir John Hall’s exciting new garden in Teesside last year.

A rose with the greatest pedigree of all grows quietly in a corner of the garden that suits it well. The parent plant was brought home from the crusades by a knight of the realm in mediaeval times and planted in the garden of his manor house.

An acquaintance who was related to the 20th century owner was intrigued to find it recorded in the house deeds, identified it as an alba rose and brought some propagating wood home to Alnwick.

Hedging his bets, he shared the stems with me and they all rooted.

Rosa alba Cuisse de Nymphe, aka Great Maiden’s Blush, offers pink-tinged blooms that face skyward, become waterlogged when it rains and are short-lived, but they represent living history and will always be welcome here.