Designing a new rose garden from scratch

boxwood hedge around Mrs. B.R. Cant antique roses

I have been obsessed with wanting a rose garden with other cut flowers. There is a large grass (aka weed) former horse pasture where I planted a sun garden that I love a year-and-a-half ago. I purchased three Mrs. B.R. Cant roses to plant up against the white vinyl privacy fence but realized it is too shady there.

The order was placed months ago from Antique Rose Emporium in Texas… but they didn’t ship them until the weather got cooler. So, now I’m left scrambling to come up with a design before they arrived.

I spent days upon days poring over beautiful rose garden photos and videos… but I really couldn’t find any that designed one from scratch. There were plenty of articles telling you what to do and the choices you should make on your own, but no real live instruction.

That’s what I hope to do here.

There’s an area of the former horse pasture where I disliked the way our cedar garden bed just stuck out of the field like a sore thumb. I planted two oleanders on the edges hoping that would help but it didn’t solve the entire problem. I love the open field look, however, I really want a charming space, with garden rooms, and a beautiful cut flower garden. Plus, it is unbearably hot in the space in the summer, so it needs to be more usable.

I thought I would install a rectangular, scalloped four-foot-high scalloped fence and line the outside perimeter with pink climbing roses, purple sage and chartreuse coleus and sweet potato vine (or something in that color scheme). But a fence of that magnitude isn’t cheap and I don’t really need a fence there… it’s not a property boundary. So, I decided to put beds in without a fence… which may evolve at some future point in time… I needed a bed pronto!

former horse pasture

So, I threw chance to the wind and started digging eight feet from the sun garden. Once I did that, and committed to a spot, the ideas started flowing. I would create a 4×12′ bed, surrounded with boxwoods with the three Mrs. B.R. Cants contained inside. Once I had that done, I thought, hmmm, I could really put a small studio/potting shed at the back of the bed. Therefore, I would leave a four-foot pathway and create an identical, symmetrical bed to the left of where the studio door would go.

New bed with garden soil and three Mrs. B.R. Cant roses.

Looking at the car port, I saw the perfect spot to plant my Peggy Martin hurricane climbing rose when it arrives next week. I will post it to the post and attach it to the cross beam where it can ramble and get excellent morning to mid-day sun.

I know that this garden will need a focal point… I thought perhaps a large fountain… but I really like the idea of a bird cage gazebo that can be adorned with, you guessed it, more climbing roses. Here is a sloppy sketch of how I envision the space:

(facing the other way) preliminary rose garden design,at least for now. the bird cage will have seating.

Since I am more a cottage style garden type, I really liked the idea of interspersing roses with perennials and annuals. But in this specific space, I really want an evergreen structure. I plant to accent and border beds with boxwoods, yaupon hollies, and yews. I’ll probably plant smaller conical trees on the north side, facing the former “tack room” turned studio.

I did, however, place three types of roses in my sun garden: Belinda’s Blush, Mutabilis, and Duchesse de Brabant. Now, I feel I need to add some evergreens to this space as well.

This is a 1.5-year-old mixed border that I’m extending on the far end.

I was captivated by a recent garden video I saw of a couple’s backyard garden in Tennessee. What I loved about it was all the special vignettes and garden rooms that were framed in evergreens. They also had a lot of mass plantings… which is something I must get better at. After watching that garden tour, it sealed the deal for me that I had to edge this bed in boxwoods. But, I never had those before and heard bad things about blight and nematode damage. I also didn’t know which cultivar to purchase since there were so many and they all seemed to top out at 5-6 feet… which would be way too tall. Despite that, I purchased 14 Japanese boxwoods and was assured I could keep them at three feet tall. The nursery man told me I can space them as close at 1.5 feet for more immediate hedge results but, seeing that they can grow 4-5 feet wide, I opted to place them two feet apart. Something tells me that the Mrs. B. R. Cants will dominate the space and so I may wind up with two in each bed instead of three. I also may have to enlarge the bed so that it’s closer to 12’x6′.

And, here is what it looks like after the boxwoods are planted. I’m going to have to shear them down a tad but I need time for that because I would like to try to propagate the cuttings. I also need to purchase a nice set of shears since all the bushes I have I leave in a natural form (drop crotch cuts) and do not prune them into formal shapes. I will, however, trim these larger on the bottom angled narrower on the top to optimize light to the lower leaves.

Brand new rose bed with the beginning of Japanese boxwood hedges.

Stay tuned for the planting of the next bed, the posting of the Peggy Martin hurricane roses, and future beds and vignettes to come!

Happy gardening!

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