Thursday, 27 October 2011

Somewhere else - Isis

Dylan is not quite Edith Piaf, someone I thought a lot of until I saw That Film;  he is not so dramatic, nor so needily demanding.  But he is interested in creating a bit of drama and atmosphere and sometimes he does this by taking you somewhere else.  An exotic setting, in time or space, is a quick route to excitements of every kind.  Sometimes I think he sees all women as exotica, but perhaps I've just got a letter wrong.

I've been thinking about how gardens, sometimes, weirdly, try to take you somewhere else.  To be in one place and yet perversely intend to make it seem to be another - how can that make sense?  Well that's a dumb question:  fantasy under control, travel without movement and change without adjustment - of course they are things we would like.  We can be carried away, somewhere else, anywhere but here; in this featureless suburb, this nameless backwater of a nameless town, in a country so familiar as to be invisible.

So we can see why people do it - recreate a bit of a Caribbean island, Kyoto or Morocco.  There is nothing new in this, nor is it specific to the UK, although I fear our penchant for incontinent plant-collecting, plants which we then have to put together somehow, makes us particularly prone.

In France they have Le jardin anglais - a phrase still in current use.  Here's an interpretation on the grand scale.

The interesting thing about this version, and I'm afraid I cannot remember the name of the chateau, is that nothing but the stream curves.  We would normally expect all the component parts to bend whimsically about, where an English garden is intended.  Here is discretion,  a curving stream replacing the usual huge rectangular plank of water laid out into the countryside.  I think it's both beautiful and different.  And that's the trick, don't adhere myopically to the rules of an exotic formula - choose elements and make resonance and beauty the aim rather than slavishness.  None of it looks the least bit natural of course, but fair enough.

Let me cut to the chase here.  Wouldn't Japanese gardens ( unless they're in Japan) look a lot better if you left the lanterns out?  See what you think.

It's from Pine Lodge in Cornwall.  To me it's what makes the whole thing, which is much bigger than you see, a pastiche, which sounds rather liked a baked good, which I would love.  What we want, I think, is a reference, cleverly and subtly placed. So easy to say of course.  Let me try this one on you:

Ridiculous, I know, but it looks a bit Japanesey to me.  And it's not clamouring for recognition, just a little hint, a slight surprise, a freshening of the eye.  It's from Ken Caro in Cornwall. The scale is extended but the elements are few.

Gardens that try to be somewhere else than the country where they're found, with a different culture, different plants and different weather are not usually trying to convey a deeper meaning.  They're saying " let's pretend we're different people and we're somewhere else, perhaps having a better time". I begin to think a hinting inaccuracy might be the most telling way to do it.

So, now to the exotic garden proper - the one with all the leaves.  Now I wish I didn't have to turn to Great Dixter again for this, but it's the one I know.  Yew hedges and a garden building surround partitioned beds full to bursting with large leaved jungle plants, bamboos and hot-coloured flowers.  Everything seems enormous.  You feel short, overwhelmed and quite keen to get out of there. It's hard to see, everything's very close and rather fleshy. Is it exciting or oppressive?

But I think the problem is actually that nothing is big enough to dominate and create a little space around itself.  We're trapped in a cage with fierce plants, cheek to leaf.  That's fine for a while, but the meadow outside seems to be calling.  Hard to think in here. My discomfort is not because it's particularly unconvincing, indeed it's jolly clever to get them all growing so well and looking so tropical.  I must admit though, that the eucalyptus strike a slightly odd note, in with the jungle.

So that won't be one I'll try to emulate, I'm sure it must be possible to calm the banana and relax the tetrapanax, but in the end, I doubt I really want to, the resonances are not compelling enough for me.

This is what I like, a Mediterranean theme, expressed mainly in plants.  It's from Mount Edgecombe; it's very subtle and could take an appropriate artifact.  Note that many of the plants are actually Antipodean.  I love these kindly natural topiaries, with resinous smells and bulgy shapes.

You'll be wondering which of Dylan's many songs of elsewhere I'll be referring to.  Let's have Isis, from Desire, an album where most things are foreign.  I should not fail to mention that he wrote it with Jacques Levy so he cannot take all the credit.

He sings it a bit strangely, mouthing the words as though they're in an unknown language.  It's a strong narrative,  featuring an estranged marriage and the singer, a wandering husband looking for some kind of way back.  After a bit of laundry he teams up with a mysterious stranger and they speak oddly to each other about a bargain and a quest.

They end up  in trouble amongst "pyramids embedded in ice", the companion dies of contagion, the singer fails to find the jewels and necklaces, disposes of the body and sets off back to his rather Egyptian wife Isis, who seems to have been waiting patiently for him.  She is ready to accept him again, despite his angry remarks.  We have cold, high Northern mountains and an incessant driving back and forth rhythm, like a Mexican rider lololloping along on a horse.  A little way away, a slightly Spanish violin gnaws away.  In the hullabaloo of internationalism you might pick up mythic resonances, Homer's Odyssey say, or The Hobbit.

I define these elements partly to show how incomplete and at odds to each other they are.  The coherence is all in the sound, and it is total.  The song is extraordinary and unusual: there's not a cliche in it.   I do enjoy the singer's indignation about how "the snow was outrageous".

Here's something else that's fairly outrageous - in a different way

It looks like a golden calf to me but seems to be in an oriental setting. Surreal and surprising anyway, in a garden which is a picaresque journey, with some Sphinx, a Swiss cottage, Italianate topiary and the biggest pot you ever saw at the end of a trek to the end of the world.  It has the Great Wall of China and many other delights.  It's not sensible, it's very flashy entertainment.  Biddulph Grange of course-  late Victorian fun and games.  Almost Isis in its confusion of references.

So where have we got to?  A notion that slavish cliches are not the best way of bringing a feel of elsewhere into a garden, however charmed you are by foreign ways. A subtle suggestiveness might work better. Or you can go all out for clashes of cultures and end up with a theme park.

The protagonist in Isis discovered something alarming, his trust in his companion was misplaced, his quest misconceived.  No place like home, as I don't think Odysseus ever said.  The journey to foreign parts has to be taken, but its value is the fresh light it can cast on what we left behind.  And I wonder how many more times we'll have to hear that. And will it ever be completely convincing?

For the triumphant reconciliation that is achieved in the marriage at the end of the song is rather one-sided.  The dialogue is so conditional and the focus so centred on the husband's experience.  Perhaps he has only come back because he couldn't find the treasure he was looking for.  Little seems to have changed and the disappointment of the traveller cannot be the spur to happy home-making.  It seems unlikely that his longing for alien shores has been quenched and the music continues to ring flamboyantly and exotically in your ears.

I'll end with a very subtle garden reference to another country, like a little piece of lace.  It's from Claverton Manor, near Bath in the UK and it is  the seat of The American Museum.  There is a recreation of Mount Vernon and some other rather limited elements of Americana.  But this is the one I have chosen, eliminating clutter.

Just a long string of white picket fence set in the green. Almost a  thought, or a piece of writing across the landscape.  Somewhere else, conjured in the imagination.  I doubt that it could ever quell raging wanderlust, but it is, to my eye, both pleasing and resonant.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Youth in autumn - Forever Young

The garden is like a toyshop, overflowing with intricate, sometimes bright contraptions.  Shall we play?  We shall play.

To begin with, gather your seedheads.  Of course, you could use a trug - that would be if you can find it at the back of the garage.  Why not do what I do, run haplessly back and forth, inside and out, hands full of collapsing dead flower heads and stems, papery cases, falling pods, skeletonising leaves.  Works every year.

To tell the truth, I've been gathering seeds for some months now.  I love it more than sowing them.  Nothing could be nicer than seeing them grow in spring, but you have to accommodate them, protect them and be regular with them. It all becomes like heading up a maternity ward and that doesn't quite suit my devil-may-care approach.  But gathering and sorting seeds is entirely positive.  You get the fun of marvelling at the tiny universe, the joys of the hunt, the satisfaction of the gold-digger and the total absorption in the task.   And then you pack it all safely away.  Everyone should do it.

Here's today's haul.  Before much cleaning and sorting, some done during collection.

There are all sorts of tricks you can use for the more elusive seed.  Some, that don't spring easily from their wiry little catapults and cups (hardy geraniums, erodiums etc), can be placed, casing and all, in a paper bag.  They will dry out in there, spring forth and gather at the bottom of the bag.  Sadly, a lot of seeds would probably do the same from other formats.  That would deprive you of the enjoyment of separating them from the chaff yourself, but I mention it because it would work very well as a first step with nearly everything, should you be so bone-headed as not to want to join me in my childish fun.

You can mess about with sieves or try a little gentle huffing and puffing.  You will find other ways of hulling different seeds as you go. Sometimes the fun is just in seeing the immaculate cleverness of the receptacles, their secret inner compartments and their award-winning designs.

Here's the final product, all dross removed.  I won't tell you what they all are as it would be boring, but they're mostly easy perennials, including a hemerocallis, a euphorbia,  a digitalis, a malva and a couple of asters.


The biggest seeds are from a rather splendid short strong acanthus.  Normally I propagate this simply by moving it.  Then I have it in two places - where I've moved it from and where I move it to.  The same is true of oriental poppies.  Quick and easy root cuttings.  I'm going to try seeds of the acanthus this year because they're so shiny and because I need them in a garden abroad.

At this point a photograph of the exact acanthus would have been perfect.  You could have seen its large,  short, tight-packed inflorescences, its strong colour and its proportionate sculpted leaves.   But I don't seem to have one so here is the regular acanthus mollis latifolius, taken in St Just churchyard in Falmouth.  Much taller, less good as a garden plant as it can fall about drunkenly, but so good with the stone.  The whole side of the church is full of them, a perfect example of unity and conviction, with no overbearing designiness.

So to sum up, collect your seeds, clean them, dry them, pop them in small labelled envelopes, keep them dry and cold, sow them in spring.  There are exceptions which should be sown immediately.  Try Chiltern seeds leaflet  which you get free if you buy seeds from them, for detailed instruction.   However the leaflet doesn't mention the vital steps of loving examination, riffling through them with the fingers, comparing the finishes and sensing the weight and intensity of  concentrated new life.  Don't miss these out, it's like haberdashery or stationery; clean clever little treasures.

Over to another playground full of more little packages.  Bulbs need to be planted around now.  Daffodils should have gone in already, tulips can hang about till Christmas.  All those lesser known others, small blue jobs mainly, scillas, pushkinias, chionodoxas, anemone blanda etc. what are they if not fun?  Each bulb has a flower curled inside it, ready to pop out in spring, all it needs is a little sleeping chamber in the earth and a good night's rest.

Never hesitate to plant these amongst your deciduous shrubs and perennials.  All you're doing (deep breath) is stealing March on time.  They are entirely trouble-free.  As are some crocuses, particularly sieberi tricolor in my experience.  Other favourites are the pale pink chionodoxa untruthfully called Pink Giant and the taller, later, tulipa clusiana Cynthia.

Your only dilemma with these neat little parcels is to know whether to spread them out or cluster them together as you plant.  A nearby child might advise you.  You can't lose after all, they'll expand into clumps over time, pull themselves to the right depth and turn themselves over if necessary.  So expense is really the only question and from Peter Nyssen they're very good value, though it may be a bit late to order now.

So has Dylan ever sung about such innocent pleasures?  Of course he has.  And a very well-known song too, one that is pretty close to perfection, being both simple and utterly complete.  It's Forever Young, and you get a double dose on the album Planet Waves, a slow version and a quick, so that you can see the slow one is probably better, but you don't end up thinking he's gone totally slushy.

Everything is here in the song if you want your child to be a valuable and capable adult.  It's there for adults as well, if they want to be valuable too, and youthful as they age.  Three perfect verses, encompassing attitudes, relationships and self-reliance.  It is hard to think of any essential strength or virtue that has been left out.  My favourite line is "may you always see the lights surrounding you."  Beautifully and economically put, I cannot think of a more effective route to contentment. Lights that both guide and cheer you.

Here's another collection of seeds in their containers. The big  long one is called Pink Banana and is the size, weight and colour of some babies.  Unnerving really, especially as it is much more edible than the regular pumpkin.  Sweeter and more succulent.

And the lines from the song that link directly with the garden in autumn?  There are two, the first, which could sound like an elderly platitude, is obvious - "may your hands always be busy". Well that deals with a multitude of despairing moments, especially when you're collecting the seeds and fruits of autumn. The true therapy of gardening has something to do with pottering about and fiddling with stuff.  Time is snatched from the coming dark and cold, to play with the toys of nature, to store up the youth, to remember the child in oneself.

Now for the second gardening line - "And may you stay forever young", repeated and repeated, carrying and completing every verse.  Such  lengthy notes on "stay" and "young", and such a dangerous commitment to that last note.  I'm no singer myself, and could not carry a tune in any receptacle, so perhaps the tension I feel as he launches onto it is misplaced.  And then I feel relief as his voice twiddles down a descent, only to worry again as the next long note becomes inevitable.  Finally, listen to how he sings "shift".  Obvious but necessary, the ground seems to heave and flex.

The song is sentimental and unsophisticated, if you were wanting dissidence and raging surrealism.  But it is jolly good.  And I hope we're all convinced that it's the very thing to play as you open your bulb packets and arrange your seeds into a pretty and tempting arsenal. Here are some more, not for sowing, just for decoration.  Excuse the shine from the glass, I saw it in a gallery somewhere, and seized it, unattributably.  My hands don't need to be that busy.

Collecting and storing seeds has none of the danger, either of singing the wrong note, or of growing through childhood and puberty into an adult.  That's how gardening lets us be young when we're old.  Strange and ironic that when we were younger it seemed like a middle-aged  pastime.  Not to me, I was really quite old then.  And I'm younger now of course,  like all who garden and all who know that other song.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A conker apocalypse - Ring Them Bells

For several years now, horse chestnut trees have begun to look more and more disgraceful, usually from about July onwards.  This is hardly one of the four horses of the apocalypse but it certainly feels like a tossed mane or a distant hoofbeat.  Most people are aware of the problem: some are more confused  and yet others appear to be like babes in a very diseased wood, looking up in astonishment when someone points out a mass of apparently dying trees.  Do we want to know what's happening?  Is there anything we can do?

I'm not abnormally attached to the magnificent yeasty masses of horse chestnut leaves and pink or white flowers, but I must admit to not wanting to understand exactly what is going on, simply because I cannot bear to contemplate such wholesale disaster.  I don't agree with my own approach at all but find myself set on such a path sometimes, whether or not I approve of my own behaviour.

I write this to expunge my own sin and ignorance and in order to get a grip.  Also because I visited Cambridge in the late summer and was distressed to see so many sad trees in crucial places.  The species was introduced to this country in the 16th century and feels as if it belongs.  Other places feel the same - perhaps because we are all so attached to the prickliness and the shininess of the fruits, so interesting and touchable.

The difficulties facing the horse chestnut are, it seems, double rather than multi-headed.  We have a bleeding canker and leaf-mining moth.  The first attacks the bark, the canker is often fungal but the rust coloured bleeding is bacterial.  Large dark patches appear on the trunk or round larger branches, in dry weather they blacken and flake, reddish dripping may appear.  If the patches girdle the trunk the tree will die, if it's a branch, it may crash to the ground.  The disease is not necessarily terminal for the spreading may stop and the tree may struggle on.  The disease spreads from infected material and has greatly increased, across Europe.

Second problem, a tiny little moth, which may have several families of caterpillars each year, who eat the soft leaf flesh between the two skins that hold the green together.  The mined areas become brown and dry, they join together and the leaf hangs on the tree like a memento mori, rusty, crackly, dead, dead, dead.  The moth appears to settle in once established in an area or on a tree, each year the leaves look awful more quickly.  They will not kill the tree but they make it an eyesore.  Spring brings  temporary green again, but the pleasure is gone.

And these trees have been planted throughout Europe, to beautify towns, roads and squares - they shade the knowing and the unknowing alike, offering conkers and sticky buds, hand-like leaves and endless, endless photosynthesis. I did not know, and am both pleased and saddened to discover, that you can grind up dried conkers, mix them with water and wash fragile textiles with the resulting liquid.  Apparently they will add a faint blue to white materials as well as remove stains.  They have also been used in the manufacture of some element of armaments - how can that be possible? Cue jokes about conker fights.

The little leaf-mining moth appears to have been about, in and around Macedonia, where the tree originated, for a very long time too but it has suddenly exploded in population density and speed of spread.  Modern transport whisking stuff along highways, warmer longer summers, drier periods, all these have been implicated.  Do not imagine there can be many natural phenomena that we don't influence.  You probably know that there are no chemical or other solutions to either the canker or the moth yet and you will remember Dutch Elm disease.

It will be obvious to all right-thinking people that there are many songs in the Dylan canon that might be appropriate here and I'm not going to refer to them all.  I do however believe that the tendency to catastrophise, or apocalyptacise as I would like to call it, may be a deep personality trait which seems like seeing the truth to some and self-indulgent drama to others.  As usual, a Dylan song reveals the listener not the singer.  Today I want to focus on one that brings strange tears to my eyes - it's called Ring Them Bells and we're going with a version shot through with verbal tics, crowd interpolations and incredible thrust - it's the one from Tell Tale Signs, Volume 8 of the Bootleg series.

The song is a vision from a high hill across valleys and fields.  Bells ring out, shepherds doze while their flocks wander, sacred cows, wheels and ploughs, children cry and innocence dies; there's a definite whiff of brimstone in the air.  And then the lines of fighting armies appear, presumably good against bad, the chosen few against the many heathen, but, oddly enough,what this fighting is doing is  "breaking down the distance between right and wrong".

I can't help seeing a kind of C.S.Lewis landscape, not really my sort of thing, but we're definitely in Last Battle territory.  Imagine the trees, brown and dying in the sunny green landscape, and the warning bells ringing out. Aslan is rustling through the dropping leaves, but we can't rely on him to win.

Now, I have no sense of a world beyond our own, religion of every kind is to me a mass of illustrations and myths which shine light on human fears, desires and conflicts as nothing else.  I hear the song in that spirit and it seems to be about choosing to know, or not to know, about the difficulties and horrors that must come.  It regrets loss of innocence at the same time as it exalts awareness, awakeness and knowledge.  It's probably fair enough to say that adults have no business being innocent. 

Of course there are different levels of response to the horse chestnut problem, even when you know what's happening.  Perhaps it just means they'll look awful every year, that's not the end of the world, quite true, staggering on is possible, sorry about the disfigurement everywhere.  Perhaps again, the scientists will find something.  Hmmmm, what and treat them all?  Perhaps, and this is my conclusion, we ought to be facing the problem and getting on with removing them.  Reducing the sources of reinfestation has to be sensible.  Let other trees expand to take their places, if they are in mixed plantings, or get on with planting limes, or planes or whatever seem most likely to endure in the future.  Shade trees are vital, and likely to become more so.  Don't talk to me about the disease afflicting oaks yet, I'll get there, but at the moment the scales on my eyes about that are still more comforting than painful.

It is at the moment of the unexpected continuation of the music, when you think it's ending but Dylan (I suppose) urges the band on, beyond and beyond, that's when I feel the delinquent sob rise in my throat.  I'm not sure why it happens, it may just be the effects of a corny musical device.  I wouldn't want to believe that however, I'd rather think about the mixture of thought and emotion for a little longer.

Right and wrong are fighting, but drawing nearer to each other in the song.  The earth is a sad mass of wounds;  fighting about how it's happened and what to do next feels like a more reasonable response than  choosing not to know.  I know I sound like a bleeding heart liberal.  What else is there? We are only another sort of fungus on the face of the earth and every life-form must live to its utmost - even cankers and moulds that destroy their own hosts. It's our nature to think and fight about it as we proceed with the destruction.

I suppose it would be reasonable to allow the moth free rein, for it seems unlikely to kill its feeder, but I think I would rather fight on the side that says the unsightliness is too bad to bear.  I'm a gardener you see, interfering with nature is my besetting sin.  Do I hear a neigh?  I'm not meaning to be flippant, but I'm afraid I have to live with my apocalyptic sensibilities and I do that any way I can.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A big bouquet of roses - Never Say Goodbye

I want to spend a little time today thinking about roses.  Every day should of course start like that; considering the rose will surely always brighten the saddest, darkest day.  The time will soon come, as winter approaches, when the avid gardener will prepare to order a couple of new bare-root roses, revelling in the escapist catalogues of Peter Beales, David Austen and so many others.

Well, I'm sad to say that this may be a short and accurate route to The Garden of Disappointment where large groups of yellowing, spindly plants are to be found.  They are not what we call bushes, they are blackened and broken promises.  Here and there thin branches hold beautiful flowers aloft, never enough, never together, soured and dismayed by their accompanying foliage.  They are spotty by both nature and disease; the roses themselves like larger rounder spots: grace and health missing.

Perhaps this seems a bad way to start a piece about roses;  but I really don't want to hold out hopes for scent and beauty that are unlikely to be wholly delivered.  Rose catalogues are well known as agents of the strongest seduction, we all make the same mistakes, and we all think we won't mind.  Then the buds open in June (often early May these days), they seem to be about to offer everything we hoped and believed for possibly three days, and then begins the dying of the dream.  Hybrid teas have been blamed, but Gallicas, Centifolias, Albas, Hybrid Perpetuals, Floribundas, Modern Shrubs - none escape as a class in their entirety.  Beautiful names make no difference, antiquity and fame are no protection.  Disappointment lurks.

The Dylan song is Never Say Goodbye from the album Planet Waves. It is not a disappointment, but it's SO short.  Do listen, it's seriously lovely.  First, he is in the frozen landscape of his youthful memory.  Then the big bouquet of roses comes down out of the sky, like a Monty Python boot.

While we're in the Dylan area, and before we get to the truly rose-related, I need to share something surprising with you.  In his film Renaldo and Clara, of which I have never seen more than a couple of tiny scenes, Mr D used a red rose as symbolic of a "travelling vagina";  I believe this allowed him to film wordless transactions between his characters as they contemplated different forms of relationship.  Whatever, it's very funny, this idea of easycare, transportable convenience, untrammelled by the other parts of a person. Once you've heard it though, it makes a ghastly sort of sense to the gardener, apart from the travelling angle. The flower of the rose seems to be the most important part and, in catalogues, that's often all you see - a single flower. I'll allow you, my readers to develop other comparisons as you see fit.

This rose is called Magenta.  It's a Kordes hybrid, wonderfully scented and might repeat flower if nicely treated.  One of my favourites along with Lavender Lassie which is more pinkly coloured, more repeatable, fabulously scented and very healthy.  Plus elusively charming, a quality shared with Magenta in my view and the unnameable element which we search for most of all.

Never Say Goodbye is a beautiful song because of the way in which its parts are spaced.   Five snatches of song are alternated with an marvellous ornate melody.  I don't know how to describe it; something to do with swelling and building, rippling and lifting, element upon element. The words are loosely connected, part to part - the music holds it all together.  There is a sense of being allowed a moment to absorb each sung section before moving on to the next.  I don't know why that would increase the feeling of unity in the whole, but it seems to me that it does.  Pattern is important, rhythm matters.

And there lie the clues to what we can look for in a truly satisfying rose.  The round blobs of colour need to seem integral to the bush, which needs to have graceful arms, issuing from a central unified point.  It's good if the flowers are grouped and spread, if their size and complexity is related to the size of the bush, and if their dying forbears drop neatly.  A wodge of differently aged flowers, tightly compacted at the end of a branch, is not nice; neither is any sense of overbearing growth in one area, next to a diseased sluggishness elsewhere.  Differently sized flowers are good.  Spacing is supreme.

Not a marvellous picture of another excellent Kordes rose - Goldbusch.  Now five or six feet tall, it is very elegant, once flowering, good hips, tidy, scented.  A love.

So here are some suggestions about what to focus on in catalogues and some varieties I have found satisfactory.  These are the fruit, the very hips of my experience.  I won't cover everything today, fortunately many Dylan songs mention roses and I plan to return again to this subject with further suggestions.  Today we're going to stay with bush roses - up to about two metres in height.  I haven't found a red one I trust as much as the ones I suggest, goodness knows what that means.

To begin with, avoid any bush rose with "erect" growth.  It sounds like it might be good thing, but it's the quickest way to gracelessness.  What you want is "spreading", "wide", or even "arching"  growth.  "Requires support"  can be good.  This doesn't mean you have to build a great construction - you may get the benefits of a bending kind of elegance if you can surround the plant with something lower and firmer that will hide its sad legs.  Sometimes very little will be said about plant habit in the available information: check the width against the height. Tall and thin means flowers at the top of sticks, wider than tall holds out greater hope of a better plant.

Don't expect to grow your roses all together.  It seems like a good idea, to harmonise yellow, cream and white, or crimson, pink and pale pink, but it's jolly hard to pull off.  One variety will be going over as another comes into flower, relative sizes, leaf colours and habits will matter more than you expect, and finally disease transfer will be encouraged.  Keep them separated, preferably enhanced by other plantings.

Here is Francine Austin, a rose that will repeat flower in most places and grows as a lax fluffy shrub, slender, scented and charming.  This is a North wall in August, from a recent cutting.

Another favourite Austin rose is Graham Thomas, whose rich saffron looks edible . Nothing unusual in my choices - these are proven doers, as gardeners like to say in sturdy tones.  Also Felicia, a warm pink Hybrid Musk and English Miss, a floribunda, the only upright rose I choose, but still a gracious plant, in the palest rose pink.  Peaudouce or Elina is a massive healthy hybrid tea, flowers like cream cabbages, dark green leaves and an air of invincibility.  The plant is round and solid.  I don't love it, I admire it.

Here is a nice wild looking rose I planted last year from Peter Beales.  It's called Lyda rose, the flowers are clean, innocent and wild-looking, but they have substance and continuity.  The bush is supposed to stay shortish although a parent was Francis E Lester, a massive rambler.  We'll see.  So far it's short, graceful and the flowers are subtle as they die, dropping their petals unnoticed.  Hips are coming.

When you decide on a rose, understand whether you're expecting good hips or not, and whether the rose flowers more than once.  It alters the way you manage the dead-heading. A "continuous" flowering rose, can be kept going by prompt dead-heading, taking just the dead flowers off.  But it may look pretty miserable continuously too, retaining every spotty leaf, every misshapen or excessive stem.  If you take more, down to a healthy bud, you might slow down the next set of flowers, and end up with something closer to a "repeat-flowering" rose, which may be a better idea anyway.

A "repeat-flowering" rose that produces good hips should be dead-headed on its first round or two, or you'll get less of a second or third go.  You'll be able to leave the final burst of flowering intact and get the hips then.   If you dead-head a once-flowerer, you won't get hips, it should be obvious, but so little is.  Feed your roses, give them sun and space, cut out old wood in winter.

If you grow a once-flowering non hip-bearer(Some Albas, Gallicas, Fantin Latour) cut it back harshly after flowering and enjoy the other plants around it.  In other words, treat it like a spring-flowering shrub and don't worry about pruning so much in winter.  Fantin-Latour is quality in pale pink, I have cut her to the ground and restarted her on several occasions, always to the good.

Consider the ground-cover rose - they often have  arching bushy growth and  will grown  out and down rather than straight up.  But not the ones with really tiny messy flowers, and check how they look as they die.  They have a certain vulgar reputation but the good ones are flower-machines, as I once read somewhere.  Those on the left are a mixture of Bonica, Kent and Wiltshire.  Less of the charm, I admit.

Also try Chinas, their flowers, stems and leaves have a delicacy which saves them from any form of grossness, and they cope with drought as well as repeat flowering well.  Archduke Charles has astonished me this year, in bright cerise.  Cecile Brunner is well-known, a tiny warm pale pink tea rose with thin purplish stems.  Enough roses for the moment.  There are always more to love, but I have said goodbye to plenty.

It's not at all obvious what Dylan is getting at in his lovely song.  Something to do with love and longing and permanence.  "My dreams are made of iron and steel" might be an interesting line, it being unclear what connects heavy metals and dreaming.  Perhaps it's something to do with pergolas holding up the roses.  Perhaps the singer's dreams are stronger than his love, which may be why he fears a loss.  Maybe that's all hindsight, like the glimpse of twilight on the frozen lake. 

I like the image of the singer standing on the beach waiting for someone he loves to come and hold his hand, it seems so simple and familiar a gesture; reassuring to all of us.  Roses all the way, for the moment anyway.

This is from Mount Ephraim in Kent.

And here is the view from within the roses

Dreams of endless roses can fill our imaginations as we plant our gardens. The perfect rose-garden or the perfect rose is like an ever-retreating fantasy, more in the head than on the ground.  Sometimes you see something close to your desires, just enough to spur you on. When you return to that same plant or garden the magic may often have departed.  That's just the way roses are, a little bit too lovely to last.