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How to grow Rosa 'Goldfinch'

Val Bourne

How to grow and care Rose 'Goldfinch', a glorious once-a-year spectacle that bursts into life in June.

Roses come in two main flowering groups - those that flower once and those that repeat flower.

All too often gardeners opt for continuity and go for a sprinkling of roses throughout the year. But once and only-flowering roses are more eye catching and more magnificent. They bombard you with their generosity for three weeks in June when they are truly glorious. You need to grow both!

‘Goldfinch’ is one of the most floriferous and amenable ‘once-and-only’ rambling roses. It has neat, mid-green foliage, almost smooth stems and pretty clusters of semi-double flowers which open apricot before fading to clotted-cream. And it’s fragrant too, wafting its fruity, citrus scent through the air.

Goldfinch' was bred from Rosa multiflora, a Japanese and Korean species introduced to England in 1862. Multiflora ramblers derived from this exotic import were highly popular in Victorian gardens. Most came in shades of mauve, pink and white. The egg-yolk yellow flowers of 'Goldfinch' (bred by the famous rosarian William Paul in 1907) were unique then and are still unusual today.

How to grow

This medium-to-short rambling rose can be planted on a fence near a gateway, or woven over an arch so that you can pick up the scent. The smooth, almost thornless stems make it safe near gates or paths and it’s not as aggressive as some ramblers in growth habit - so it flowers low down on its stems.

You can use it to disguise the thorny, bare legs of other climbing roses or over-enthusiastic ramblers like ‘Rambling Rector’.

When to plant

You can plant containerised roses which can be planted throughout the year, except in very cold or very hot conditions, or you use buy bare-root roses.

Bare-root roses are planted when dormant (between November and March) and although they look like bare twigs they often get away very quickly.

How to plant

If the roots of bare-root roses are very long, trim them back and also cut the rose back hard, to outward facing buds, after planting to prevent wind rock.

If you are planting a container-grown rose try not to disturb the root ball and leave the top intact. Be prepared to water container-grown roses in the first growing season whenever the weather is dry.

Roses need fertile soil and careful planting in an open, sunny position away from trees or large shrubs. But whichever you buy (container or bare-root) prepare the ground well by addingorganic matter to the hole. It could be garden compost, well-rotted manure or leaf mould. Leave the ground to settle if possible and then position the rose so that the graft union, the bumpy part of the rose above the roots, is level with the soil.

Feeding roses

Feed roses every spring with an organic fertiliser, or chicken pellets, or well-rotted organic matter.

How to prune

There is no point in deadheading ‘once and only’ roses such as Rosa 'Goldfinch' as they will not flower again. Leave the flower sprays and some, though not all, will produce small hips for winter interest.

Healthy ramblers produce vigorous new stems from the base about four weeks after flowering. Tie these new growths in to prevent wind damage but don’t prune until late autumn. Then cut one or two of the oldest, brownest stems out at the base and bend the new, shiny green stems into place at the same time.

Late autumn is the best time for this job as the wood is still pliable enough to bend, without snapping, and you can still tell the new stems from the old wood. Defying gravity by looping the stems downwards, or pulling them down to ground level slows the sap and produces more flower. Or you can coil them round supports.

Grow with…

Rosa ‘Goldfinch’ is a softly-toned rose and it mixes well with other ramblers - whether it’s the violet-grey ‘Veilchenblau’ or the clean-white, slightly later ‘Sander’s White’. It is also excellent grown as a shrub rose with the later flowering, similarly toned ‘Buff Beauty’.

Underplant with lavender, or with blue hardy geraniums, or with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ as these colours show off this pale creamy rose. Magentas are also good and you could use Gladiolus byzantinus or Geranium psilostemon.

You can extend the flowering season of all ‘once and only’ roses by adding lightly scrambling ‘viticella’ clematis like ‘Etoile Violette’, ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’ or ‘Polish Spirit’. These easy to grow clematis produce a lot of smaller, often asymmetrical flowers in late summer. They tolerate drought, so they never get clematis wilt, and they are easy to prune. Just cut back to the lowest buds in early spring.

Where to buy

David Austin Roses - or use to find a more local supplier.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.