The Roses of the Commission

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I arrived in Beaurains, our main base in France, on a dry hot morning in late June with the worst drought recorded in history promising to be at the centre of every single conversation I had that day. I was to work with one of the mobile teams and driving the van was Senior Head Gardener Arnauld Peet.

 Arnauld Peet, at Vis-En-Artois, standing next to lavender ‘Hidcote’ and rose ‘Remembrance’

Arnauld Peet, at Vis-En-Artois, standing next to lavender ‘Hidcote’ and rose ‘Remembrance’

A third generation CWGC gardener, Arnauld was polite and professional but I could feel he had his reservations towards me.  In fact, the whole team had. Quite understandably.  Who was this girl from Consultancy Services and what was she doing coming to work as a gardener for a couple of days with a mobile team?  Shouldn’t she just stay in head office writing horticultural policy and letting us get on with our jobs? Yes, again, quite understandable. But, I am a gardener, and as a gardener I am always fascinated by how other fellow gardeners’ work. 

We all have different techniques, we use different tools, and sharing and learning is one of my passions. Plant knowledge is another great one that we like to share and when it comes to the roses of the Commission Arnauld proved to be a fountain of it. And this, was my way in.

I got deadheading the spent blooms of the roses and I saw how he sneakily checked my technique.  As soon as I showed an interest in identifying the roses we worked on at each site, that was it; I won him over.  He even started speaking English with me!

 Arnauld’s team working away

Arnauld’s team working away

 Keeping the visitors box clean is as important as gardening

Keeping the visitors box clean is as important as gardening

From then on, we went on a frenzy of plant identification, deadheading away while our three other colleagues in our mobile team were mowing, hedge trimming and weeding.

We promised to e-mail each other with the names of varieties we couldn’t remember. And this is how you become friends forever, nothing like a spot of gardening to achieve this. The feedback I got back in the office was that he would definitely give me a job as a gardener. Thank goodness for that!

Most of the roses in our cemeteries are floribunda roses.  They are the preferred type because of their ‘abundant’ cluster of flowers covering most of the plant flowering for a long period and not all at the same time. We deadhead throughout the summer to encourage more blooms rather than hips.

Maintaining the roses is labour intensive with routine pest and disease control. The key is to use the most robust varieties that will still follow our design principles, whilst keeping with the Commission’s standards.

 ‘Wandering Minstrel’

‘Wandering Minstrel’

 Roses at Vis-en-Artois

Roses at Vis-en-Artois

 ‘Lili Marlene’

‘Lili Marlene’

Our border roses are chosen for their continuity and profusion of bloom, for their health and vigour, compactness of habit, clearness of colour and attractive foliage.  Watch out for these CWGC design principles on your next visit:

  • Only one variety per border and planted every two headstones in alternate positions

  • Only one variety in small plots, in large cemeteries we use a different variety every seven rows or more.

  • Use of white is not recommended as they don’t stand out against the white headstones

  • We plant the same variety on both sides alongside a central avenue

TO DEADHEAD FLORIBUNDA ROSES:

  • Cut back the fading blooms to a strong outward-facing shoot below the flowering stem. Avoid cutting individual flowers.

  • Prune at an angle sloping away from a bud and about 6mm above it. 

SOME FAVOURITE CWGC ROSES:

  1. ‘Remembrance’

  2. ‘Amber Queen’

  3. ‘Trumpeter’

  4. ‘Lili Marlene’

  5. ‘Wandering Minstrel’

 ‘King Arthur’

‘King Arthur’

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