“To grasp the nettle” – to tackle a problem with bravery
I have vivid childhood memories of growing up in a beachside location with my parents who were keen gardeners. As a family we spent many happy hours gardening together in our sub tropical paradise. Later, my younger brother became a horticulturist and my mother a lover of all things – roses. Her roses were not limited to plants but appeared in fashion, interior design, the kitchen and of course the ultimate, in her garden. Roses were everywhere and a constant source of delight for everyone around her.
I loved plants and growing things but life’s circumstances withheld a garden from me for many years and my choices of homes did not include the sub tropical paradise of my childhood. So, the lush garden dream remained elusive.
Now, at home on a property in country New South Wales in an area recognised as suitable for roses (because of the hot dry climate and clay soil) the opportunity to restore and old garden did come up. I am not talking of employing a landscape designer and using power tools and bulldozers to remove existing trees and shrubs as I’ve seen on Dream Gardens and the like. No this was hard, dry, compacted soil, a shovel and some occasional help from my reluctant husband. What I lacked though in mechanical help I made up for in determination.
I was naive in thinking all I had to do was prepare the ground and plant… although in essence that is what happened. But, there were many months of hard work and hours of planning before any planting could be done.
Firstly, I had to overcome multiple problems; the forty year old deeply rooted Yucca plants; plagues of ants and mosquitoes; severe frosts and extremes in temperatures. Birds were on the ready to ambush my efforts too and all made my initial attempts unpleasant. I quickly realised the rural climate, soil structure and lack of rainfall were in everyway opposite to the ease of gardening by the coast.
It was a hard slow task to achieve a soil ready for my choices of bare-root roses for the dry clay bed that had not been worked for many years. The Yucca roots were fighters and it took several months of digging to remove the huge roots that were deep within the soil. For quite some time it appeared as if the sound of the crunch of the Yucca roots when digging would go on forever. In fact still today three years on I still come across the familiar ‘crunch’ when digging. I gained advice from rose growers and other experts to ensure the soil was prepared well but I found they all had differing views on what was the best way to improve the soil.
The first section of the garden now clear of old plants and weeds was prepared with what I like to call my first approach – gypsum, mushroom compost (at that stage I did not know it wasn’t suitable for roses) with aged sheep manure from underneath the shearing shed, plenty of water and eco seaweed occasionally. Then the soil was left to rest while I waited for the bare-root roses to arrive in winter of 2017.
Once the bare root roses were planted I mulched the bed with thick layers of newspaper to protect the new plants from excess weeds and I spread compost and other organic material on top. Before the start of Summer after my first bare root roses came up in Spring I mulched again with sugarcane mulch. The perennial plants such as Nepeta, Lavender, Wormwood, various Salvia’s and Shasta Daisies thrived as did my first round of roses. My first roses were not absolutely perfect until the cooler months in Autumn when the extreme heat had ceased and the blooms could flourish more easily. It was a start.
I made mistakes with design, rose choices and locations but overall I was single minded and determined to continue. My next approach after a long planning session was to turn a side lawn into a bed of roses. See Post My French Garden