What’s trending …roses and grasses

Want a new look for your roses? Break away from formality and traditional rose beds with these fresh, contemporary ideas by landscaper, Helét van Blerk, of Gorgeous Gardens.

Helét is a landscaper in Pretoria and many of her clients have ultra-modern homes in upmarket estates. 

“Everyone still loves roses but not the formal rose beds, so we mix the roses with other perennials and grasses for a more natural look,” she says.

Grasses are an obvious choice. Helét loves using them because they bring movement and texture into the garden while softening the rose bushes and emphasising the blooms.

Here’s how Helét mixes roses and ornamental grasses:

Wildly Romantic

roses and grasses Ludwig's Roses

This hollow, at the bottom of a grassy bank was just a featureless space, where the Estate’s communal property blended into her client’s garden. Taking advantage of the moist soil and dappled sunshine, Helét created a winding pathway and between the stepping-stones filled in with a variety of soft grasses, enlivened by pops of red Flower Carpet roses. This garden is now the most popular spot on Valentine’s day, with everyone taking selfies!

Good to know:  Use compact ornamental grasses with fine leaf blades. 

Grasses used: Carex China Blue, Carex Amazon Mist, Carex Oshimensis, Juncus Blue

Try these roses: ‘Fiery Sunsation’, ‘My Granny’, ‘Butterfly kisses’.

Borderline Beauty

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The artistry behind this beautiful border is the repetition of ‘Knock Out’ roses, alternated with Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus) and flowering Bulbine ‘Fire Chief’. The grasses, and spikey Bulbine leaves catch the sun, bringing movement and texture. Silvery leafed Gomphostigma (River Stars) in the background adds to the grassy effect. Carex ‘Amazon Mist’ is planted as a low growing border in front of the roses. 

Good to know: Roses don’t like competing with other plants for water, sun and nutrition so give both grasses and roses enough space to grow. Trim the grasses regularly so that they don’t over grow the roses. 

Try these roses: ‘Not Simply Pink’, ‘Afrikaans’ (orange, very strong grower), ‘Vodacom’ (purple).

Soft and sumptuous

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Helét can’t resist using ‘Deloitte and Touche’ roses because they are always in flower, easy to grow, and seldom bothered by pests and diseases. While the urns hint at formality, grassy Juncus Blue produces a wonderful sense of upward movement, accentuated by airy wands of light and deep pink gaura. Helét also uses Dietes grandiflora and Tulbaghia for their strap like foliage.

Good to know: It may seem wild at heart, but this is not a low-maintenance garden. The grasses need constant trimming to allow the roses space to grow. Ludwig’s advice is to prune the roses high in winter so that their foliage is above the grass allowing them to receive enough sunshine to shoot and sprout in spring.

Try these roses: ‘Forever Busy’ (golden peach), ‘Happy Home’ (deep apricot), ‘Simply Charming’ (Single blooms, coral pink)


A river of roses

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In a study of contrasting textures and flowing lines, containers, planted with ‘My Granny’ nestle amidst massed Carex ‘Amazon Mist’, creating the impression of water foaming around their base, while a ‘river’ of roses, grasses (Juncus Blue), gaura and the taller Carex oshimensis flows into the garden.  

Good to know: Choose roses such as the ‘The Granny’s’, ‘Deloitte and Touche’ or Sunsation roses that will cascade over the edges of the containers. Container grown roses need daily watering and fertilising at least once a month to look their best. Take the hard work out of daily watering by incorporating the containers into the irrigation system. 

Try these roses: ‘Tawny Profusion’ (buttery yellow), ‘Not Simply Pink’, ‘Butterfly Kisses’ ( masses of cerise, single blooms), ‘Forever Busy’ (golden peach),  ‘Happy Home’ (deep apricot) and ‘Vodacom’ (purple).

For the bees and butterflies

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A flower-filled border of apricot-pink ‘Deloitte and Touche’ roses, gaura, Plectranthus ‘Chimney’, salvias, silvery lavender and indigenous River stars (Gomphostigma virgatum) provide ample sustenance for butterflies and bees. Helét makes a point of not using any poisons, which means that the roses must also be strong growers to withstand pests and diseases. She only uses floribunda and groundcover roses, which are bushier and produce more blooms than the traditional hybrid tea roses.

Good to know: “I tell my clients that food is more important than water, especially for flowers, because if you give enough food, you can get away with less water for the plants. The stronger the plants are the better they can survive dryer spells. 

Try these roses: ‘Tawny Profusion’ (buttery yellow), ‘Amarula Profusion’, ‘Duncan’s Rose’ (masses of cerise, single blooms), ‘Happy Birthday’ (pink with yellow stripes) and ‘South Africa’ (golden yellow). 

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