How to Design a Rose Bed

Start your own beautiful English rose garden with ideas from expert rosarian Michael Marriott.
The Long Garden

The Long Garden

The Long Garden, at David Austin Roses nursery in Albrighton, England, features a simple border of lush roses enhanced by a low boxwood hedge.

Photo by: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

The Long Garden, at David Austin Roses nursery in Albrighton, England, features a simple border of lush roses enhanced by a low boxwood hedge.

When you’re ready to add a rose bed to your garden, consider lovely, lush English roses. These fragrant beauties are disease-resistant, vigorous and easier to maintain than many modern hybrids.

Michael Marriott, senior rosarian for David Austin Roses, has been passionate about English roses for over 25 years and admires them for their fragrance, long bloom period and ease of care. The key to growing them, he says, is properly preparing the ground and choosing reliable varieties. 

Throughout his career, Marriott has designed private and public rose gardens in many different countries. 

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced green thumb, try these ideas for creating (or improving) the beds in your yard:

Starting a Rose Bed 

  • While English roses can adapt to a variety of soils, it’s best to add plenty of well-rotten manure or compost to your native soil before you plant.
  • Sketch out a diagram. Roses can be grown in rectangular beds, ovals, irregular shapes or single or double borders. Use graph paper to make accurate scale drawings. Many beds are designed so that you can work in them easily from all sides.
  • Decide on a strategy. What colors do you like? Do you want only roses, or will you mix them with perennials? Think about how tall the plants will grow.
  • Remember that the dimensions given for mature English roses are only estimates. Careful pruning can help control their size, producing somewhat larger or smaller plants.
  • Make notes when you visit private or public gardens that you admire, and think about how you might modify their ideas in your yard.

Now you’re ready to dig in:

  • Soak bare-root or container-grown roses overnight before planting.
  • If you live where the winters are cold, plant the bud union (the base of the canes) 3” below ground level. Gardeners in mild winter areas can keep the bud unions at ground level.
  • Water the roses thoroughly after planting and water deeply each week, depending on your climate and the season. Michael recommends regular feedings of slow release or organic fertilizers, as well as occasional foliar feedings. Follow directions on the fertilizer you are using. Mulch the roses with 6” of compost, soil or bark chips.
  • Michael does not spray his roses, preferring to use organic methods to control pests and diseases. He begins by selecting healthy rose varieties to grow with companion plants that attract beneficial insects. He also practices the basics of good gardening, which include enriching the soil, watering, mulching, fertilizing and using mycorrhizal fungi (fungi that help plants access nutrients from the soil).

Thanks to Michael Marriott of David Austin Roses for his assistance with this article.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Rose Garden Design

Savor the beauty of one of the most beloved flowers: the rose. Discover practical tips for designing a rose garden.

Old English Roses to Grow

Old English Rose Varieties to Grow

How to Grow Patio Roses in Containers

Plant in containers so you can stop and smell the roses on your patio, deck or balcony.

Problems With Potted Roses in Desert

Find out why some potted roses do better than others in this warm area.

Everything You Need to Know About Roses

Learn more about the flower that has inspired poets, painters, gardeners and crafters alike.

How to Rescue a Rose

Everything's coming up roses until intense heat, pests and diseases arrive each summer. Give your plants some TLC and watch the blooms bounce back.

How to Rustle Roses

Learn how to find, propagate and grow old, antique rose varieties to add beauty and fragrance to your garden.

Grow Award-Winning Roses at Home

Rose expert the Redneck Rosarian shares tips on growing roses.

Great Rose Recipes: Put Those Petals to the Metal

Rose petal jam and candied petals are great ways to repurpose your roses.

How to Display Pots of Dried Roses

An old-fashioned look emerges from dried roses and a sandstone-painted clay pot.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

On TV

Desert Flippers

7:30am | 6:30c

Desert Flippers

8:30am | 7:30c

Desert Flippers

9:30am | 8:30c

Flip or Flop

10am | 9c

Flip or Flop

10:30am | 9:30c

Flip or Flop

11am | 10c

Flip or Flop

11:30am | 10:30c

Flip or Flop

12pm | 11c

Flip or Flop

12:30pm | 11:30c

Flip or Flop

1pm | 12c

Flip or Flop

1:30pm | 12:30c
2pm | 1c

House Hunters

2:30pm | 1:30c

Fixer Upper

3pm | 2c

Fixer Upper

4pm | 3c

Fixer Upper

5pm | 4c

Fixer Upper

6pm | 5c

Fixer Upper

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Love It or List It

8pm | 7c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.