Rose garden beginnings
A passion for roses and travel, especially to France, inspired Linda Knowles to turn her dull Sacramento, California, backyard into a beautiful rose garden oasis where she can relax and entertain friends and family — she loves having a reminder of those trips right outside her back door and it's a beautiful and relaxing place to make even more memories. Linda and her best friend, Charlotte Owendyk, share some of those memories and some great rose gardening tips in the video below.
Falling in love with roses
Creating a rose-filled garden was a natural choice for Linda — her maternal grandparents were both gardeners and when she was a child they’d take her to Exposition Park in Los Angeles to wander the paths of the rose garden. Linda started her first garden when she was 19 by planting 20 roses. Today she tries to keep her collection to around 300! Linda is a dedicated member of the American Rose Society, has her Master Rosarian certification and teaches classes on rose care and maintenance.
Her beautiful rose garden is divided into four sections:a rose allée, a parterre, the pergola and a seating area called the “olive lounge”. The garden developed in stages as time and budget allowed. Each area recalls places she’s visited that really struck a chord and provide space for entertaining, as well as for growing the roses, many of them fragrant, to enjoy in spring, summer and fall.
The rose garden allée
This path lined with arbors above provides a stunning welcome to Linda’s garden. These simple structures raise a rainbow of climbing rose blooms to eye level so visitors can get up close to their beauty and easily enjoy their fragrance. It was inspired by a garden Linda visited on her first trip to France—the La Roseraie du Val-de-Marne (also known as Roseraie de L’Hay). It took her breath away. One of the main features was a huge rose allée.
Linda started the allée with four arbors on the side of the yard between the garage and the privacy fence but over the years she's added to it so there are now eight. The original four were all Linda had at the time, so she spaced them 6½ ft. apart in order to fill the space. That turned out to be a good thing because it allowed as much sunlight into this part-shade area as possible. Linda has had success growing David Austin roses, old garden roses, ‘Eden Rose’ and 'Mutabilis' in this area that gets a bit less sun.
A rose garden parterre
If you visit gardens in France, you’ll most likely come across parterres like the one above. It’s a design with a long history that grew out of Medieval knot gardens. Originally the beds were separated by low hedges that, as time went on, were replaced by edging. In a parterre the pattern created by the division of the beds becomes the highlight — even more so than the plants growing within the beds. For years Linda collected different photos and ideas and finally settled on this classic pattern to replace the last section of lawn in her backyard.
So now instead of turf you’ll find lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus), tree roses (Rosa hybrids), Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) and other herbs, with a lime tree (Citrus spp.) as a focal point in the center. These plants that take summer heat and still look good. Lean over and enjoy the fragrant roses or brush your hands over the lavender or lavender cotton foliage to release their aromas.
After Linda added sliding glass doors off the kitchen to provide easy access to the garden, she decided she wanted a pergola that would provide some shade in her sunny yard. Her sister Gloria designed it incorporating features from structures seen in their travels and ideas from family discussions. Another sister, CJ, and brother-in-law, Greg, built it. The pergola is 18 ft. long by 12 ft wide and lines up with the sliding doors so from the inside it looks like an extension of the house. The long, narrow space framed by the brick and wood pillars and topped by lush greenery draws your eye through to the focal point at the back: A rustic fountain. It's a recirculating type to save water in this dry climate and adds a soothing sound to meals al fresco.
The pergola supports a grape vine (Vitis hybrid), a wisteria (Wisteria spp. and hybrids) and a lady banks rose (Rosa banksiae) that provide plenty of shade. But these enthusiastic growers need to be pruned every other year. Linda cuts all the growth back to where the metal frame meets the posts in late winter.
This seating area in the photo above, which Linda dubbed “the olive lounge,” provides a place to unwind or chat with friends against the backdrop of Grand Prize™ rose’s graceful white blooms and soft, spicy scent. Inspired by an outdoor café in Provence, Linda decided to create a similar feature in her backyard. So she enlisted the help of her youngest son, David, to help figure out the layout and do some of the work. A dozen Grand Prize roses (Rosa hybrid) form an arching hedge behind the benches, and two olive trees (Olea spp.) create the entrance. At 3 to 4 ft. tall, the roses give this spot a sense of enclosure, and the trees form a graceful arch that frames the view.
Rose garden care tips
Now you have some inspirational ideas for how to create a beautiful rose garden. Make sure the plants look great with these organic rose growing tips from Linda:
- Water regularly for good looking foliage and plenty of blooms.
- Use an organic plant food, such as seaweed and fish fertilizer, every 2 weeks if you're showing roses or monthly otherwise.
- Apply composted horse manure twice a year — once in early spring before blooming and again in August.
Grow your own rose garden
Here are just a few of the roses that Linda has had success with over the years.