Flowering against the dramatic backdrop of the ancient Castle, the gardens of Arundel Castle in West Sussex featured more than 20 varieties of delicate roses throughout June. The wonderful sights and scents are brought to bloom by Head Gardener Martin Duncan.
Chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk to enhance the gardens and grounds, when Martin first visited Arundel on his interview in 2009 he immediately saw the enormous potential to work with the Duke and Duchess and make the gardens a very special place.
We caught up with him to find out more about the beautiful rose gardens and took the opportunity to get some much needed gardening tips as well.
"The Rose Garden was originally designed by The Duchess of Norfolk about 20 years ago, and in recent years I designed and added the new Gothic Archways which are covered with Rosa Adelaide d’Orléans, as well as Gothic seating which reflects the castles Gothic windows" Martin says.
It’s a relatively new rose garden so there are no old or rare roses, with the selection being carefully chosen for their colour and scent, and also to be disease resistant.
The Gardener's Favourite
"‘Generous Gardener’, is probably my favourite for its beautifully formed flowers, when the petals open they expose numerous stamens, providing an almost water lily-like effect," Martin tells us. "The flowers are a pale glowing pink and have a delicious fragrance with aspects of Old Rose, musk and myrrh."
"‘Harlow Carr’ is my favourite hedging rose which we have used to line the path leading to our Rose Garden and ‘Adelaide d’Orléans’ is an excellent climbing rose, white and natural looking."
For anyone looking to make the most of a smaller urban outdoor space Martin has some good advice: "My main tip for any garden, whatever its size, is simply to ensure you get your soil right. Assess your soil type, is it clay, silt, chalk or sandy? Test PH levels to see if your soil is alkaline or acidic and choose which soil manure you need, there are excellent guides to this through the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) website."
"Organic matter will always improve your soil, we use copious amounts of well-rotted manure to top dress our flower beds, and this gives nutrients to the plants, encourages earth worms and helps to keep in the moisture through the hot summer months!" he adds.
Martin also points out that we can encourage wildlife in various ways whilst making our gardens look nice at the same time. "Sowing wildflowers will always help encourage insects such as bees, even in a small section. Phacelia is a wonderful plant for bees, it can also be used as a green manure."
Another top Martin tip is to leave piles of leaves in small areas of your garden to encourage hedgehogs.
Anyone who has their own domesticated wildlife in the form of a dog will be only too familiar with the effect that their urine has on grass, so with a little self interest we asked if this Head Gardener had any thoughts?
"We only allow guide dogs on site and so this has never really been an issue," Martin explained, "however I would recommend that it’s best to dilute any pee with water as soon as possible to prevent scorching the grass. Unfortunately this needs constant attention, therefore taking your dog for a regular walk is the solution, though maybe not for the street lamps!"
AstroTurf lawns are growing in popularity for many amateur gardeners but isn't something that Martin wants to encourage. "Astro Turf has its benefits as a sports alternative surface, but I don’t approve of it as a substitute for a grass lawn in Britain," he says. "For arid countries it has a little more merit but the reason I believe grassed lawns are so important is simple, it allows soil to breath, helps our earth worms and attracts insects."
Martin points out that the trend to cover our earth with hard surfacing or substitutes such as AstroTurf is not ecologically sound and is one of the causes of increased flooding as the natural methods of absorption and run off no longer apply.
Everything's Coming Up Roses
Back to the roses, we asked when should you cut back roses for next year?
"Roses should be cut back in January or February, I personally prefer February. Please note there are numerous different types of roses, English Roses and other repeat flowering Roses should be cut down by a third to two thirds depending on the height you require."
As to an ideal partner plant for roses, Martin suggests that as they always look attractive in an English herbaceous border accompanied by tall Lupines’ and Delphiniums as a perfect match.
"For a formal Rose Garden, I would suggest having a low hedge surrounding the roses, using either Buxus (Box) or Lavender hedging. You can interplant roses with Alliums, which will help keep aphids from your roses, in spring. We have a collection of roses in our Cut Flower Garden that look wonderful with our Lavender beds, Dahlia collection and behind the Sweet Pea arches."
When it comes to scent, 'Issac Pereire' is Martin's favourite rose and he suggests buying bare rooted or potted roses from a reputable source, with the former best planted in the winter when there is no frost and the latter planted at any time throughout the year. However, if you’re holding out hope of a thornless rose, you’ll be glad to know that there are he a number of roses with very few thorns, but a completely thornless rose is more difficult!
New Home, New Garden
For anyone moving into a new home Martin suggests checking on the direction of the sunlight as light can vary considerably and this in turn denotes what might grow best and where. Then, when you’ve worked out the soil type visit local gardens for inspiration and see what does well in your area.
"I recommend using the RHS website or purchasing one of their excellent reference books. Look at what sort of garden you want to create, is it going have evergreen shrubs for low maintenance, do you want lots of flowers or prefer an English garden with roses and perennial herbaceous borders?"
And finally, when you want to keep slugs and snails at bay without harming your pets, what’s the best organic solution? "Nemaslug is the best organic solution, this is obtainable online and through garden centres, it’s best to check the directions before using. There are other suitable organic pellets on the market. You can add crushed egg shells around plants and copper rings although it can be expensive!"
To experience Martin's work and for more information regarding the gardens and all the events taking place at Arundel Castle go to www.arundelcastle.org.