Shrub Roses As Companion Plants

Roses at Wollerton Old Hall

To accentuate the beauty of a shrub rose, allow it to mingle with other plants, while indulging its desire to be the star of the show. Companion planting has a practical purpose as well as a creative one. Foliage of other plants can help to cover the bare soil and gnarled branches often found at the base of roses, and any mixed planting always attracts a broader range of beneficial insects, helping to keep the rose healthy.

There is an art to getting the balance right: Wollerton Old Hall, with its sensational mixed borders interspersed with shrub roses, is a great place to visit if you’re interested in mastering it. That’s where I took this picture of the English rose above, before dashing for cover, much too soon, from a sudden, ferocious downpour.

Rosa Ballerina

Though I’ve seen hundreds of different plants grown successfully with roses, often it’s a case of trial and error to find out which combinations work best in the long term. I might not have thought of this textural combination of the huge leaves of Bergenia and the soft feathery foliage with Rosa ‘Ballerina’, but the extra greenery helps to offset the clusters of blooms.

The choice of companion plants can change the way we interpret the character of the rose – here’s another shot that brings out the cottage garden prettiness of ‘Ballerina’:

Ballerina rose with companion plants

One tip often quoted is to avoid companion plants that will be aggressive in their demands for space and nutrients – though ‘Ballerina’ seems capable of holding its own, in this company, at least. Another is to treat roses just as you would perennials and plant them in small groups to help balance the weight of the planting.

These roses certainly seemed to be happy, healthy-looking specimens if the amount of flowers and buds is a sure guide, which it usually is. I’ll be looking out for more combinations on my travels so I can share them. Please let me know if you have a favourite place to see roses in mixed plantings and I’ll add it to my to-visit list.

 

16 thoughts on “Shrub Roses As Companion Plants

    • susurrus says:

      I’ve got a picture of a very floriferous, healthy looking ‘Ballerina’ in a cemetery in Mississippi, where it grows in full sun, without water, mulch or food. It’s a really tough plant as well as a graceful one.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Minho Kim says:

    What I am wondering these days is whether there is any plant to be inter planted with roses and that will deter the aphids! Early vigorous growth of roses seems to attract the aphids, causing various diseases. Any suggestions? Beautiful photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    • susurrus says:

      I’m better at photographing roses than growing them – my own attract aphids too! I don’t think there’s any magic solution, other than growing a range of companion plants that will attract predators to help control them naturally. You’ll find lists of plants on line that attract ladybirds (ladybugs) and could consider creating an insect hotel.

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  2. Gillian says:

    Have you been to Sissinghurst? The wide beds there allow plenty of space for shrub roses to grow with perennials and other plants. At Hidcote there’s a pair of long borders full of interesting shrub roses. I think space is the key for shrub roses especially if you like them to arch gracefully rather than restricting and training them. Many private gardens have borders which are way too narrow to accommodate them. We grow a few in a wide bed 3m+ but even that’s too narrow really!

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    • susurrus says:

      That’s a great point. I have been to Sissinghurst once (though perhaps a week or so too early for the roses) and Hidcote several times.

      You’ve reminded me of Arley Hall, nearer to home for both of us, with its wide mixed borders and the broad, hillside border of shrub roses with foxgloves and other flowers.

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