Danaë's Ways with Roses
March is a good time to plant roses - they like plenty of sun and clay soil. Leave at least 2ft between your bushes, because they need good air circulation. Also, provide wind protection in the form of walls, hedges or specialist netting.
I love the deep pink Bourbon rose Madame Isaac Pereire. For scent and colour it is unbeatable, but the stems are often short, so float them in bowls. For taller versions of the same vivid colour range, I use Princess Alexandra, which lasts well; also Constance Spry, Mary Rose and Louise Odier. Susan is one of the prettiest whites and, mixed with English Miss, which comes in tiny sprays edged with pinks, it is perfect for bridesmaids' bouquets or wildflower mixtures, and I love the slightly less robust lilac colours of Shocking Blue or Purple Tiger, which mix brilliantly with pink.
We use an old-fashioned method that utilises orris (iris) root to preserve the petals, which takes several weeks of treatment. You can make a simple pot pourri by spreading fresh picked petals out on a newspaper or cotton cloth to leave i a darkened airing cupboard for about three weeks. The petals need to be dry and crisp like cornflakes. You then put them into a ceramic jar with an airtight lid, perhaps with a sprinkle of rise oil, and shake them out when you want them.
Choose the darkest reds and pinks, such as Prince William, L. D. Braithwaite, Valiant Prince, Deep Secret and Charles de Mills, as they last longest once dried.
Many cuisines, from Turkish to Lebanese, Moroccan to French, use rose petals or rose water in their recipes. I like to use red and pink petals for freezing in ice cubes. They look very pretty in a glass of Pimm's, white wine or lemonade. We also make 'Rose-ade' with dark rose petals thrown into a litre of mineral water and brought to the boil for one minute. Pour into a glass jug, add a spoonful of honey and a squeeze of lemon and leave overnight.
When it comes to fragrance, I love Evelyn, a David Austin rose developed for Crabtree and Evelyn, which is used in its scent, Evelyn. Other fragrant favourites include Abraham Darby, a many-petalled creamy apricot pink rose; Pure Bliss; and the famous, huge, yellow Peace Rose, which was created in France in the early 1940s, and came to symbolise the ned of World War II.