Coming up roses!

That most English of flowers, the rose, is often at its most fragrant and floral at this time of year.  Indeed, local National Trust property, Mottisfont Abbey (pictured on the left), extends its opening hours in June especially for visitors to enjoy its fabulous rose garden for longer.  Unfortunately, many home gardeners don’t choose to plant roses as they fear they are ‘difficult’. This reputation is unfounded and, in fact, we think there is a rose for every garden; it’s simply about understanding which rose will suit your plot and how to look after it. 

Many books have been written by horticultural experts about caring for roses and it is a fascinating subject.  However, we offer the following as an introduction or quick guide for anyone who wants to get started.  Our plant experts in our Titchfield Centre are always happy to offer further advice.

Which variety?

Can you tell your hybrid tea from your damask?  What’s the difference between a rambler and climber? Does a grandiflora really have bigger flowers?  No idea?  Well, you’re not alone and all these different terms and varieties seem to be where the rose’s reputation as ‘difficult’ stems from (pun intended!). There are several varieties of rose, which will suit slightly different positions, so let’s look at some of the main ones.

Hybrid Tea Roses

Hybrid teas are the classic ‘rose bed’ rose; often pruned to be statuesque and with luxurious flowers, they can be a showstopper in the garden. Growers regularly breed new varieties, giving us an almost endless choice of colour.  By their nature, hybrid teas are classed as Modern Garden Roses, as opposed to some of the wild or heritage varieties.  This means they can flower more than once a year, often have larger blooms, usually one per stem, and can be great as cut flowers.


Another popular variety of rose is the Floribunda.  Unlike the statuesque hybrid tea, these tend to be ‘shrubbier’ in habit and often have multiple flowers on a stem. As a result, they are often pruned less formally.

Patio roses

We sell a good number of smaller rose varieties, too.  We refer to them as patio roses but they will be fine in small gardens or even large pots, so check when you buy, particularly miniature or miniflora roses. Prune fairly hard between December and March to encourage new growth and flowers later in the spring.

Climbers and ramblersclimbing rose

Climbing or rambling roses aren’t really varieties in their own right but rather descriptions of how they behave.  For example, some floribunda and grandiflora roses will climb or ramble quite happily if you let them! 

But what is the difference between a climber and rambler?  Climbing roses tend to have larger blooms on fairly stiff, not overly vigorous stems; most repeat flower (especially if dead-headed regularly and stems are trained horizontally).  Climbers are great for more formal settings, such as growing against walls or over obelisks and trellis. Ramblers, on the other hand, have a more vigorous habit, producing greater quantities of smaller flowers. They tend not be repeat flowering.  Ramblers often suit less formal positions, like letting them grow into a tree or pergola, or ramble all over a shed.

Climbing roses should be pruned in the winter and tied in to supports if you’re using them at that time.  Rambling roses are better pruned immediately after they have flowered, probably in late summer. However, neither type will be seriously harmed if you need to do a little tidying up at other times of the year too!

shrub roseShrub and ground-cover roses

Once again, these are less varieties of rose and more about their habits. Shrub roses produce flowers in clusters and some varieties can sprawl more than 10 feet in every direction (if you let them). They are particularly hardy to the cold. There are many varieties of shrub roses, perhaps the most notable of which is the David Austin English Rose.

Groundcover or landscape roses are bred to be – perhaps – the best of all worlds: vibrant colour, delicious scent and low maintenance. They can be a great space filler, rarely growing more than three feet tall, and are often continuously flowering through the season.  They can be the perfect ‘beginners’ rose.

 Antique and historic

There are many varieties of rose which can trace their ancestry back hundreds of years in some cases. Old Garden Roses are double-flowered plants which have been around since at least 1867.  Alba Roses date back to around 100AD and will cope with cooler climates. Bourbon Roses were introduced in France in 1817 from crossing two even more historic varieties, Damask and China roses, to combine the velvety petals and heady scent of both. Gallica roses have been used for medicines since around the twelfth century. Centifolia or ‘cabbage’ roses are often used for essential oils.

All of these ancient rose varieties have several characteristics in common.  Firstly, their long ancestry usually means they have evolved to be pretty pest and disease hardy.  They usually only flower once in a year but they can have the strongest fragrances of all the roses.

Wild roses

We couldn’t finish without mentioning wild roses, also known as species or dog roses.  You are unlikely to find them in a garden centre but you may well find them out in the hedgerow.  They are distinguishable by their single, five-petalled flowers and they are almost always pink.

General planting tips

Roses generally do well in a sunny spot, sheltered from strong winds.  They will prefer relatively free draining soil (adding grit before you plant can help) but do like a rich, organic soil (add some well-rotted manure). Hybrid teas particularly don’t do as well when crowded by other plants (think of the classic rose bed with nothing but roses in it!) so give them space and keep on top of the weeding.

Pests and diseases

Generally, keeping your rose (or any plant) healthy will help to deter most pests and diseases; a plant that is not stressed is better able to stand its ground.

One of the more common rose conditions is black spot, which appears as black spots on the leaves. It doesn’t look particularly attractive but generally does little damage to the plant; just be sure not to compost any affected leaves to reduce the risk of it spreading.  Similarly, aphid and greenfly infestations usually aren’t too serious and can often be dealt with by spraying with a solution of soapy water (or encouraging ladybirds).

The RHS has a great guide to dealing with many rose problems here

Read more about roses and their care here:
Spotlight on patio roses
When to plant roses – in March
Roses aren’t just for Valentines Day
How to plant a tree, shrub or rose




N. Haggard 20 September 2022

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say how delighted I am with my new garden.

Jon, my designer, listened to my ideas and delivered on everything I asked for. I wanted something different to any garden I’d had before, no lawn, no landscaping but packed with plants. He designed such a lovely secret garden, around a statement tree. And I have to commend him for his unwavering patience! I changed my mind a hundred times but never did he give me the impression that he was losing patience with my endless indecision. And my confidence in him led me to place an order for over £10k.

My landscaping team, Blade and Tony, were exceptional, from their work ethic, skill and knowledge, to the way they dealt with me, the customer. My standards are very high and I couldn’t fault them.

All in all, a very professional team of people. And it showed that they all care. I’m over the moon with the finished result. I will send you a before and after photo. Thank you so much.

A delighted customer.

G. Gray. May 2022

My front garden has been transformed by Andy and Bradley who both worked incredibly hard and I am delighted with the result. Andy had the vision and skill to turn my idea into reality and I can't thank him enough.

C. Haig Sept 2021

We recently had our garden landscaped by Hambrooks and I just wanted to pass on my thanks, not just for the outcome - which is superb - but for the professionalism of all the staff involved on the job who are all a credit to you company. Mike, Dave, Les and Adam.

H. Sharp Sept 2021

I just wanted to let you know how delighted I am with my new garden. Melanie was a delight to work with and the ideas she had have worked perfectly. Also Sheldon laid the patio beautifully and him and Dave were a pleaseure to have at my house. Quiet workers and polite.

B. Rendell April 2021

I would like to say how delighted we are with the work carried out. Mel, Paul and Tony all worked very hard, they totally took on board the specific need relating to safety as well as the general garden issues. Paul and Tony were excellent at consulting and discussing with me what I felt best in terms of the brief and adjusting if and as necessary, constantly pleasant and polite to deal with. Mel had picked up on particular issues from the first consultation and offered valuable advice. The outcome means a great deal less worry for me going forward.
Altogether a very positive experience and outcome which I would not hesitate to recommend to others.

Stephen March 2021

Dom and Adam's work (garden maintenance) is greatly appreciated. Dom really listened to everything we discussed very carefully and went out of his way to understand and then act upon that discussion. We are extremely pleased with the work done - both to the pond and pyracantha.


We have been coming to Hambrooks for years and it's our favourite garden centre because of its friendly helpful staff and a great selection of plants and trees and the garden design ideas.

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Mr & Mrs Venables, Southampton. April 2019

“Dear Josh & Mike We just want to say you both did a brilliant job of designing our garden along with the guys who did the work who were amazing. A few weeks on its looks even better now some of the plants are blooming. Thank you!!”

Mr & Mrs Gazzard, Winchester July 2019

“To James, John & Rikki. Thank you so much, we are delighted with our new garden. We really appreciate the attention to detail, the high quality workmanship and the standard of the finished project. We are amazed at how John & Rikki resolved the difficulties of the site and by the quality of their craftmanship. It was a pleasure to work with them and thank you for making our ideas into something we will enjoy for years to come.”