rose from English country garden

Roses in the garden and the kitchen

When I first planned my garden, top of my list were roses. Exuberant, scented roses. No formal standard roses. No apricot or yellow coloured roses. Just climbers, ramblers and bushy roses.

rose Pleine de Grace

Pleine de Grace

In my head, I envisaged them tumbling over arches with glimpses beyond of borders overflowing with roses, lavender, hollyhocks and catmint. The reality has been a little different. I’m not a good gardener. One of the climbing roses was planted in what amounted to little more than a bed of hoggin because I was too lazy to dig out a bigger hole and fill it lovingly with decent dirt, though surprisingly, the rose has thrived. My attitude to pruning is all or nothing, which means some bushes are tangled and overgrown while others seem a rather odd shape.

Rose The Generous Gardener

The Generous Gardener

The border (note the singular) does indeed contain a chaotic mix of roses and other plants and for one brief week each summer it looks wonderful. Best of all though is the smell. I can ignore the aphids and put up with prickles just for the joy of breathing in the heady fragrance of the roses.

Each year, I try to capture a little of that summer goodness. I pick the flowers in the morning before the sun blazes down on them, give them a shake to dislodge any insects lurking within and take them inside.

The flowering of the first roses coincides with the elder flowers, so the two are combined to make Rose and Elderflower cordial or Rose and Elderflower marshmallows. Later in summer, I add a few rose petals to my normal lemon cordial recipe to turn it a pretty pink colour with just a vague hint of rose flavour.

This year, following an exchange of emails and packages with Elizabeth, I’ve revived my interest in making bitters and developed a new enthusiasm for making tonic water. Before you harrumph and mutter about perfectly good tonic water being available to buy (this was the response of my family) just hang fire. Elizabeth suggested that I might like to experiment to “… devise tonic water to pair with particular flavoured gins for example a rose tonic with rose gin or blackcurrant leaf tonic, say, with blackcurrant or blackberry gin”. Now, where can you buy tonic water like that?

Before you attempt to make tonic water, you should first read about the potential dangers of homemade tonic water. There’s a good article here that gives the details.  From my limited knowledge, I would advise that you use cinchona bark rather than powder, measure carefully and strain properly.

Rose Petal Tonic Syrup

For home-made tonic water, you first infuse a mixture of flavourings including citrus peel, spices and cinchona bark in water. This is strained, filtered (which takes an age), mixed with a simple syrup and bottled. To drink, you dilute this tonic syrup with still or sparkling water. My first attempt at Rose tonic water was a bit too citrussy so I’m tinkering with the recipe. I suspect I may spend the rest of the summer doing this.

Before Beth picks all my roses for her gin, I shall make my favourite recipes with rose petals and use the rest for flavouring cakes and creamy desserts. If we have many more hot days like this week then the roses won’t be flowering for much longer, so I shall have to be quick.


six favourite rose petal recipes





The View from the Back Door

Every morning, I pull on my boots to take Morris the fox terrier for a walk and open the back door. Each day the view changes imperceptibly. This is the current view.

herb bed

Four raised herb beds outside the back door, though this bed has been infiltrated by lady’s mantle, antirrhinum and aquilegia, which can stay because I like them. Just close enough to dash out barefoot to grab a few herbs mid-way through cooking.

hen on chair

The fruit trees just beyond the herb beds. It’s good to see that this chair is getting some use. In my mind, I spend lazy Sunday afternoons sitting in the shade of the crab apple tree reading a good book.  In reality, the hen makes more use of the chair.


Every time I walk through this rose arch, I breathe in the delicious scent of the roses and brush past the lavender. There is a bit of ducking as I pass through the arch (must push back that branch so that it grows over the arch and not across) and a little sidestep to avoid the stinging nettles (must pull them out). While the roses are flowering, the pathway is strewn with rose petals, which would be rather more romantic if the main user of the path wasn’t the postman. I hope Colin appreciates them.


first day of summer rain on the window

This is the view today before I opened the back door. Rain. And then more Rain. On the first day of summer. Let’s hope it isn’t a foretaste of the months ahead.

What do you see from your back door? Put up some photos somewhere, send me the link and I’ll share it here. It would be good to know what we all see.

Here are some views from back doors:

Helen at Silverbells Steps Out

Elizabeth on Instagram

Brian at Our Garden@19

And for more views of wonderful gardens, take a look at these:

Jane at The Shady Baker

Cecilia at The Kitchens Garden

Jessica at Rusty Duck

Sam at A Coastal Plot

Julie at Frog Pond Farm