A lot of my clients want low-maintenance gardens and get worried if I suggest roses. Roses have a bad rep; greenfly, blackspot, mildew.
But actually a bit of effort when planting (at the right depth, and throw in a handful of micorrhizal fungae) careful choice of varieties, proper pruning and a minimum of one feed a season see off most problems.
I never spray with insecticide; I don’t like using chemicals, and of course, prevention is generally better than cure.
Roses are more versatile that their cottagey image suggests. Some, such as the compact, deep crimson-red ‘Munstead Wood’, with its delicious fragrance, look fantastic with tall grasses, and a climber such as ‘Iceberg’ makes a crisp backdrop to an otherwise modern perennial border. And anyway, it’s good to stray from tradition and mix things up a bit.
Their only real downside is that most roses are not particularly widllife friendly; tightly scrolled petals and flower structure is too complex for bees and other pollenating insects to find their way in.
I make up for this by making sure there are plenty of nectar-rich plants in the planting design to attract them. The exception is the Rosa rugosa species, with its single, open flowers which I use in wildlife gardens or more informal planting schemes. They don’t repeat flower, but develop fat, scarlet hips in the autumn.