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The Gardening Coach

PUBLISHED: 10:42 24 May 2016 | UPDATED: 10:52 24 May 2016

Rosa banksia Lutea (Photo: Thinkstock)

Rosa banksia Lutea (Photo: Thinkstock)

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Judy Shardlow's horticultural advice for the month

The novelist Anne Brontë is credited with saying ‘He that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose’. It’s a sentiment I would generally agree with, having experienced the pleasure and pain of a managing large rambling roses.

Ramblers differ from climbing roses in that they are larger, more vigorous and produce a single stunning flush of flowers rather than repeat flowering through the summer as most climbing roses do. A 12-foot rambler covered in clusters of tiny roses is a joy to behold, but it and its kind need enough space to do justice to their vigour and their beauty. Ramblers are also renowned for their thorniness, which can make tying them in or cutting them a painful process even with thick gloves. The exception to this is the gorgeous early flowering Banksian rose (Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, above), which is the holy grail for rose-loving gardeners – a thornless rambler. I’m often surprised that I don’t see more of them growing as their lush semi-evergreen foliage, thornless habit and delicate sunny yellow double blooms epitomise the joy and romance of a beautiful English May. If you’re not so keen on yellow, Rosa banksiae var. banksiae is a creamy white double form, and is equally beautiful and vigorous in sun or partial shade.

Five things to do in the garden this month

Keep an eye on the weather

Watch out for another dry spring. If you’ve recently put in new plants, they will need top-up watering through dry spells for the first year.

Ready tender seedlings

If you’ve sown beans, courgettes, squash and sweetcorn indoors, seedling plants will need to be hardened off in a cold frame or cold greenhouse before planting outdoors.

Tidy topiary

Box (Buxus sempervirens) can have its spring trim about now to avoid pruning during hot, wet weather in June, July or August when box-blight spores may be in the air.

Love lavender

Immerse yourself in rows of lavender plants and products at Hitchin Lavender in Ickleford. It opens for visitors on May 2.

Prune spring flowering shrubs

Prune woody shrubs like forsythia and spirea argute (Bridal Wreath) after flowering to keep compact.

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