My gardening year is punctuated by moments of wonder: the first snowdrops, the quince tree in blossom and this week, much later than usual, rosa ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ shaking out the ruffles of her first blush-tinted, creamy blooms. Viewing our home for the first time I was seduced by the sight of her in full flush. She was the rose with which Vita Sackville West chose to smother the walls of South Cottage at Sissinghurst, finding hilarity in the nickname ‘Mrs Alfonso’s Career’. Attempts to find out about either Monsieur or Madame Alfred Carriere have so far proved fruitless (answers on a comment card please). Bred in 1879, Gertrude Jekyll used this rose in many planting schemes, considering it one of the best climbers of her time. And so she is today. Almost thornless, with arching slender stems, Madame Alfred Carriere is a strong grower in almost any soil, tolerates some shade and flowers through the autumn. The fresh green foliage lasts from Spring to the first frosts. Her scent forces you to put down your garden tools and bury your nose in one of her loose-petalled blooms. I am torn, from the moment she starts to flower, between enjoying the blooms on the plant, stretching high into the cherry tree, or cutting an armful for the house. In order to satisfy both urges I have planted a second one at the back of the vegetable plot.