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English Roses: Charming Bloom Partners (A Short List)

English Rose ‘Darcey Bussell’ with companion plants wine-red Astrantia ‘Claret’ and blue Geranium ‘Rozanne’.

Roses are jewels of the summer garden. As with their mineral cousins, their beauty is enhanced when placed in the right setting. According to the rose experts at David Austin Roses Ltd in Albrighton, England, English Roses are beautifully suited to mixed garden borders. The trick to combining roses successfully with other garden plants lies in knowing which will play well together.

There’s no one way to plant roses. Wherever you put them they steal the scene. But don’t mistake roses for loners or divas. Most roses, and especially those with the softened colors of David Austin English Roses, are highly cooperative, companionable garden plants.

The best partners bloom exactly together or in close overlap. The joy is in pairing flowers that play off one another, when seen side by side in full bloom. The goal is to heighten peak bloom experiences. Extending the bloom season is a different exercise.

The romantic informality of English Roses lends them to pairings with cottage garden favorites and small-flowered plants with the look of wildflowers. Some partners bloom with English Roses earlier in the season, some later and some all season long. Shorter companions provide a nice understory for roses, while same-height companions are, as Goldilocks might put it, just right. Taller companions are typically more architectural, thus marvelous as vertical accents among English Roses. Other companions contribute beautiful foliage.

Border designs that feature massed plantings of like-with-like that create an overall calming effect. Sweeps of color — both complementary and contrasting — create movement and lead the eye. Organic gardeners can incorporate plants that are attractive to beneficial insects likely to dine on aphids and other pests.

Best Bloom Partners for English Roses

David Austin English Rose ‘Roald Dahl’seen with companion plants: lavender blue Geranium ‘Kashmir Blue’, deep blue is another Geranium, magenta Knautia, and the sword-like leaves of Crocosmia (montbretia).

Following is a short list of favorite companion categories for David Austin English Roses, including perennials, annuals, biennials and flowering shrubs suited to various growing situations. Gardeners will want to vet candidates of interest, choosing plants that will thrive in their home setting and climate zone.

Favorite Blue PerennialsAconitum (monkshood), Aster, Campanula (bellflower), Centaurea (cornflower), Delphinium, Eryngium (sea holly), Geranium, Nepeta (catmint), Linum (flax), Salvia, Scabiosa (pincushion flower), Veronica (speedwell) and Viola

Favorite Perennials in Other ColorsAgastache, Anthemis (chamomile), Aquilegia (columbine), Astrantia, Lychnis (rose campion), Penstemon, Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), Sedum, Knautia, Veronicastrum (Culver’s root), Thalictrum (meadow rue) and Japanese anemones, plus additional colors in asters, geraniums, verbena and veronica

Favorite BiennialsDigitalis (foxgloves), (some of the) Eryngium (sea holly) and Verbascum (mullein)

Favorite AnnualsAmmi majus (bishop’s flower), Cosmos, Anchusa (viper’s bugloss), Nicotiana (especially N. mutabilis) (flowering tobacco), Nigella (love in a mist), Papaver (poppy), Phacelia (blue tansy), Lathyrus odoratus (sweet pea)

Favorite Shrubs — Caryopteris (bluebeard), Cercis (eastern redbud) Deutzia, Hydrangea, Lavandula (English lavender), Philadelphus (mock orange), Viburnum.