Helen Yemm on life after roses and the defoliation of birch trees

Perfect bedfellows: add vibrancy to roses with catmint  Credit: Alamy

Life under roses 

What can I grow under my roses in their sunny, brick-edged, raised bed against my fence? My soil is clay. I would prefer to grow perennials since the various annuals have got tall and leggy, detracting from the roses. 

Sally Tomlinson, via email 

Your accompanying picture showed a delicious raggle-taggle of yellow and red climbing and floribunda roses and as you describe, some rather unsatisfying annuals.

There are plenty of low-growing, low-maintenance perennials that would be at home here – cottage garden stalwarts that would clump up and cover the soil and fill the gaps between your roses. A froth of lime-green Alchemilla mollis would sit beautifully on the edge of the wall,...

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