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Roses at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

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Rachel de Thame Rachel de Thame | 13:00 UK time, Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Queen of Hearts at the Floral Marquee, at Hampton Court

The Queen of Hearts at the Floral Marquee

If you’re mad about roses, there’s only one place to be this week. RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show always showcases the very best in its Festival of Roses. This year, the marquee is called a Wonderland of Roses, in keeping with the Alice in Wonderland theme. The staging is excellent, with witty references to Lewis Carroll’s classic at every turn, a tea party complete with cup cakes made of rosebuds and plenty of red and white standard roses.

I’ve spent several hours this week filming in the marquee for the BBC coverage of the show. Being surrounded by roses for a whole afternoon is my idea of heaven and the exhibitors have surpassed themselves this year, with displays of an incredibly high standard.

The scene is a heady mix of colour and fragrance – the moment you walk in, the perfume hits you, roses cascade over arches and every way you turn there is another eye-catching bloom. Some are old favourites; I never tire of looking at old varieties like R. ‘Louise Odier’ – a pink Bourbon from the mid nineteenth century, showing on the Peter Beales display.

Others are new introductions, being shown for the first time this year and there’s something to suit every taste. Among those that caught my eye is a new English Rose from David Austin Roses called R. ‘Wollerton Old Hall’, which is named after the rose-filled garden in Shropshire. I loved the pale creamy yellow flowers, which have an attractive spherical shape and intense myrrh-like perfume – Michael Marriot of David Austin Roses, rates it among their top five for fragrance.

R. 'Truly Scrumptious'

R. 'Truly Scrumptious'

Harkness Roses have honoured a popular actress with their newcomer R. ‘Virginia McKenna OBE’. This shrub rose is reminiscent of the old hybrid musks, with a broad rounded habit and small cream flowers over a long period. It has shown remarkable disease-resistance during five years of trials at the nursery and would make an excellent addition to the border or informal hedge. Pococks Roses are showing a couple of sure-fire winners in R. ‘Pure Poetry’; a sumptuous Hybrid Tea of rich purple with a deep magenta petal-packed centre and R. ‘Camelot’; a pink climber with darker pink streaks on the petals and pliable stems, which lend themselves to being trained on an arch or pergola. I was also impressed by R. ‘Katie’s Rose’, a velvety burgundy-coloured floribunda with neat double flowers from Bill LeGrice Roses and R. ‘Truly Scrumptious’ from Style Roses, a Hybrid Tea with unusual two tone flowers in shades of dusky pink and orange, complimented by bronze stems and undersides to the leaves.

R. ‘Moment in Time’

R. ‘Moment in Time’

There’s also much fanfare surrounding the new Rose of the Year. For 2012 the accolade is going to R. ‘Moment in Time’ from Mattocks Roses. A floribunda, blessed with exceptionally good health, a sturdy compact habit and masses of fragrant, ruby red flowers, which repeat all summer long, this rose is no shrinking violet. In fact, I was told that it was flowering on the nursery up to Christmas and they practically had to prune the plants to stop them producing blooms.

Rachel de Thame is a garden writer and presenter on Gardeners' World.

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