top of page

CHOOSING THE RIGHT ROSE | Or which rose will work best in my garden?

A good cottage gardens needs roses. Lots of roses.

And for those of you who say: they have thorns. And diseases. And I just don't like roses. Side note, who doesn't like roses??? Message me immediately – we need to talk! Seriously though, there are loads of different types, some of them thornless and most of them exceedingly healthy.

There's going to have to be one or two you like!

My Cottage Garden Roses

I guess in some ways, that actually makes it more difficult to choose a rose though. I mean, there are over 30,000 varieties.

So, I've put together a little guide that will help you choose your perfect rose. One that will transform your garden into a blooming, fragrant paradise.

First things first, we need to clear up a few basic questions.

What kind of rose are you looking for? A rose bush? Climbing roses? Something for a pot? What color would you like? What size? Fragrance is always nice, right?

Do you prefer fuller blooms or insect-friendly varieties with less petals?

You'll want something disease-resistant, obviously. And flowers? As many as possible!

My Cottage Garden Roses

It would be really easy to get lost in this maze, so I've put together a guide that will help you to pick out your perfect rose. And it's best if work through it in this order:

1. Location

2. Soil conditions

3. Desired size

4. Color

5. Flowering Period

There are also other criteria that you might want to consider at a later stage, such as hardiness, fragrance, if you can keep it in a pot and if it forms rose hips.

But let's start with the real deciding factors:

1. Location

Which direction is your rose plant going to be facing? How many hours of sunshine do you expect it to get each day? Roses are sun worshipers by nature, which means that they need a lot of light. Roses usually require around 5 - 6 hours of sun per day but there are certain varieties that can cope in partial shade.

Although they like to be warm, they also need to be somewhere with good air circulation. They're not massive fans of the kind of warm, stagnant air they'd be exposed to on a south-facing wall, for example. They prefer south-east or south-west facing locations.

My Cottage Garden Roses

2. What type of soil do you have?

Roses prefer deep, well-draining soils. They like clay soils, but they're not a fan of dense, waterlogged soils or sandy soils with poor nutrient reserves (with the exception of "beach rose" Rosa rugosa, she'll do fine in those conditions). But any soil can be improved, or selectively switched out.

The important thing is that you don't plant your roses somewhere you've already grown roses before. If, for some reason, you have to plant them in the exact same place, you'll need to fully replace approximately the top 50cm of soil.

3. Rose size

From shrub roses to small bush roses, ground-cover roses, climbing roses, rambler roses and standard roses, there are lots different categories and they each have their own unique ways of growing. Since it does kind of matter how big your plant will eventually get, this is something you should think about.

My Cottage Garden Roses

How much space do you have in your desired location? Are you using your roses to decorate a bare wall or form a privacy screen? Do you want to cover a large area of ground or create a focal point in your garden? Are they going to be on the edge of a flower bed (you'll want something small) or in the back somewhere (you'll need something a bit bigger)? Are you planting a lone plant or a group of plants? Do you want it in a pot?

Once you've figured out the answers to all these questions, you're one step closer to finding your perfect rose.

Here's a rough overview:

· Shrub roses can grow to be up to three meters (10 feet) tall. You'll want to place them towards the back of a flower bed, unless you're looking to make a statement. You can plant them as solitary plants or use them to create lovely hedges.

· Small bush roses are more compact and this makes them perfect for borders. You could combine them with salvias, catnip, phlox or delphiniums.

· Ground-cover roses are an even smaller variant and, as the name would suggest, they're perfect if you're looking to cover a large patch of ground or a slope.

· Standard tree roses add a touch of elegance to your garden, creating attractive accent features. They're great in pairs if you're looking to frame a view. And you can place them in (deep) pots if you're looking to spruce up a balcony or patio.

· Weeping standard roses these are my secret weapon for quickly adding a touch of enchantment to your garden. You only need one to make a real statement.

· Climbing roses and rambling roses are, without a doubt, my absolute favorites for a cottage garden. Depending on the variant, ramblers can grow to be between three and twelve meters (ten to forty feet!) tall. They'll give trees a new lease of life, spruce up old sheds, adorn bare walls, encase your patio in gorgeous tendrils and create beautiful canopies over your favorite spots.

My Cottage Garden Roses

4. Colors

Roses come in almost any color imaginable: whether it's white, cream, apricot, yellow, blush, baby pink, hot pint, dark red or magenta. There's even an almost shimmering black or multi-colored roses. Blue is about the only color you won't find. Choosing a color is really just a question of taste.

But if you need a bit more guidance, then once again you might want to think about location. Are your roses going to be planted in a flower bed alongside other perennials? If so, you might want to pick something that matches. If your rose plant is going to be standing in isolation (as is often the case with weeping standard roses) then this is a great chance to make a statement by adding a pop of color. If it's going to be surrounded by green or you're looking to brighten up a dark spot, you might want to pick white.

Your color options may be somewhat limited, once you've found a rose variant that fulfills all your other criteria.

My Cottage Garden Roses

5. Flowering period

Who doesn't wish their rose garden would flower all summer long? But most of us have had to come to terms with the fact that the most vibrant blossoming period is June.

Well, I'm happy to tell you that there are meanwhile lots and lots of roses that flower for longer than that and some of these are even reliable continuous flowering varieties.

· Once-flowering roses, primarily Old Roses, usually begin to flower around mid to late June and the bloom will usually last for five to six weeks.

· Repeat-flowering roses, primarily modern breeds, usually begin to flower in June and will then continue to delight you with further blooms all through the summer. Some will even continue to flower until well into autumn. Take into consideration though that they bloom at their strongest if you regularly deadhead them.

· Some wild roses will already flower at the beginning of May and produce rose hips in the autumn.

My Cottage Garden Roses

If you put together a combination of rose varieties with different flowering periods and different flowering start times, you can get pretty close to that all summer bloom. An eternal rose garden!

Let me take a hot minute to straighten out a few things.

Happy insects

Roses with single or semi-double flowers are like a buffet for bees and insects. The open flowers invite industrious beneficial insects to fly in and collect their nectar. Many of these same rose plants will produce rose hips in the autumn, providing food for your local birds.

My Cottage Garden Roses and Rosehips

Roses for pots

If you don't have a garden but you'd love to add some roses to a balcony or patio then there's a wide range of rose varieties that can be planted in containers. Small bush roses, ground-cover roses, miniature roses and hybrid tea roses are some examples.

Well-known varieties include: Heidetraum, Duchess of Cornwall, rose 'de Resht', Jacques Cartier, Lady of Shallot, Darcey Bussell, Marie Curie, Hansestadt Rostock, etc.

You could even go for compact climbing roses, such as Jasmina or Florentina.

Your pot will need to be at least 40cm (16") deep with a diameter of at least 35cm (14"). Make sure to avoid waterlogging. If you like, you can plant a slow-growing companion at the base of your rose plant, such as Serbian bellflower or anise-scented ornamental sage.


When you've finally narrowed things down to a choice of a few roses, you'll need to think about their susceptibility to diseases. This will sometimes be connected to their intended location – is there poor air circulation, too much sun, exhausted soil or waterlogging?

To be on the safe side, you can look at the winners of the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Award of Garden Merit (AGM) or the "American Garden Rose Selections". These are plants that have met the highest standards for reliable garden performance.


If you live somewhere with cold winters then you'll need to think about hardiness.

You'll need to go hardy or possibly even really hardy :-)


Last but not least, do you want to be able to stroll through your garden inhaling the beautiful scent of each individual rose?

Then you'll want to look at Old Roses. They smell divine, but they're also resilient and frost-hardy.

There's only one drawback: most varieties only flower once.

It's now really easy to order roses from rose-growers on the internet.

On their sites, you'll often find relevant selection criteria to help you with your search.

And with that, I'll send you off into your adventure of picking your new roses. Good luck and have a glorious rose-filled summer!

Love from my rosy Cottage Garden,


P.S. Below is a selection of my personal favorite roses (click on the pictures to see their names):


Search By Tags
bottom of page