Roses and Penstemons

Well, it seems the garden has had its holiday and now all manner of lovelies are bursting into bloom, especially in the perennial border where the salvias and penstemon are vying for space. The roses are coming into their second flush and I hope this year that they will flower as well as the spring bloom because I took care to mulch and manure along with deadheading.

Roses and Penstemon bouquet
Roses and Penstemon make a perfect summer bouquet.

All through December I have watched the roses budding up and now have been rewarded with the first blooms from Rosa ‘Scepter’d Isle’, a David Austin rose and this plant really is a blooming machine –I expect it will continue to flower right through the rest of summer and into autumn, probably only matched by Mary Rose  and Iceberg rose plants.

Rosa ‘Scepter'd Isle’
Rosa ‘Scepter’d Isle’

Scepter’d Isle(1996) is from the English Musk Hybrids bearing delicate cupped shaped blooms on a neat compact bush with nice deep green leaves which makes it a good plant for the front or middle of garden beds. It has a very strong and unique fragrance that stays with the rose even when cut for bouquets and will keep in a vase for up to a week. I have recently painted a paling fence in charcoal and this has made the garden bed with Scepter’d Isle in it really stand out and gives the planting a modern look.

It surely wears the crown as one of my favourite roses and is wonderfully named from Richard II by William Shakespeare where these immortal words express a love of England – just perfect for a lovely English rose.

“this scepter’d isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself”

Rosa ‘Scepter'd Isle’
Rosa ‘Scepter’d Isle’

For the longest time I was hesitant about planting pale pink roses as this colour in our hot Australian sun seems to bleach out to a very wishy washy show, but the trick in my garden is to under plant with foliage and backgrounds that make all shades of  pink radiant. I use box hedging and under-planting of nepeta, pentstemons and other more bold colours like the acid green of euphorbia and some airy summer annuals like cosmos that find support growing through the stems of the rose bushes.

Another pale pink rose (with a tinge of apricot) is the most wonderful ‘Albertine’, a rambler introduced in France by Barbier & Company in 1921. She is an absolute beauty, although only flowering once, you get a display that you will long for every year and the wait is only the sweeter when she bursts into bloom.

The Garden Times
The glowing colours of Rosa ‘Albertine’


‘Albertine’ grows as a large (1-3m) bush or can be trained against a fence or wall much like a climber. It really needs very little care – I have to admit mine has not had any pruning or fertilizer for at least 5 years and yet the display goes on. When not in bloom it has very nice glossy green leaves and arching growth.

The Garden Times rose
‘Albertine’ has a mass of extravagant scented blooms in mid-summer.


The Garden Times
Rosa ‘Albertine’



Perfect plant for the garden border in summer.

I have a fever for these handy plants now as they are very easy to grow and have the same magic for me as foxgloves because of the charming bell shaped flowers, except they are perhaps even better because they flower for many months from mid-summer to the end of autumn. I have them planted all around the garden but what makes them special for me is they thrive in sun or part shade but they don’t mind rocky and clay soil.

One of my favourites is Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’ as it radiates and shimmers in dark blue, silvery purple hues and has a nice upright shape.

Penstemon 'Sour Grapes'
Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’ shimmers like it has been sprinkled in fairy dust. Penstemon ‘Midnight’ is also a regal purple.
Penstemon 'Alice Hindley'
Penstemon ‘Alice Hindley’

One of the oldest penstemon hybrids available is Penstemon ‘Alice Hindley’ having first been introduced in 1931 by an English grower, has flowers that just been watercoloured by fairies, in shades of blue, mauve and purple. This will flower for months on end and will amaze all your friends for its beauty.

Penstemon ‘Andenken an Friedrich Hahn’ is also known as ‘Garnet’, it has slim tubular dusky red flowers on tall spikes about 50-60cm high so I grow it in the middle or back of beds. It also has very nice neat habit and leafy growth so it fills out a bed well when not in flower. For me it does not flower as long as some of the other penstemons but this may be because it is in a shade pocket for half the day.


Penstemon Beard Tongue
Penstemon Beard Tongue

There are so many more to collect as well – do let me know if you have a special one you can share. It is a very easy plant to propagate as it grows well from cuttings however I mostly divide off semi rooted stems from the main plant in spring.

If you plan ahead, leading into autumn would be a good time to layer some stems away from the plant and mound up soil over the stem and in spring you will have a plant with a good root system ready to perform that coming summer. Make sure to cut it away from the parent plant with a sharp knife.


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