Rose Beds and Borders

Most formal gardens, and many informal ones, group plants within beds and borders. These groupings may contain plants of a single type, or may feature a wide variety of plants.

A bed is a planting area that is accessible from all sides and is usually surrounded by lawn. If formal, it will have a geometric shape; if informal, its perimeter will have more graceful, flowing lines.

A border is the narrow area along a path, a wall, a fence, or other structure, accessible from three sides at most. Although some rose borders are only one plant deep (such as along a path or a foundation), they look fuller and more pleasing if they are two or three plants deep. Rose borders deeper than three plants are usually difficult to tend, since you may have trouble reaching the plants at the back.

In a formal design, the rose border might be fitting for a straight pathway to the front door, perhaps accented by tree roses; in an informal design, the border could line a curved walkway and be interplanted with annuals or other garden flowers.

Large beds and borders composed of only one rose variety are known as mass plantings. Mass plantings of roses can be dramatic in both formal and informal settings. When selecting roses for a mass planting, choose from floriferous classes such as floribundas and miniatures to enhance the visual effect.

If you are laying out a network of beds or borders, be sure to leave enough space for paths, and make the paths wide enough so that garden equipment such as a lawn mower or a wheelbarrow can pass through easily. To allow for comfortable strolling, paths should be at least 2 feet wide; if you want two people to be able to walk side by side, construct the path 4 feet wide. Paths can be paved with brick, slate, gravel or other construction material, or can be lined with grass. Set the roses far enough back from the path (about 2 feet back for most rosebushes) so that they do not entangle visitors in their thorns.

In beds, the taller plants are usually grouped in the center and are framed by lower plants. In borders, the tallest plants are typically placed at the back.