“In all the recipes for happiness I have ever seen, ‘something to look forward to’ has been given as an important ingredient. Something to look forward to! How rich the gardener, any gardener, is in this particular integrant! For always he [or she] looks forward to something, if it is only the appearance of the red noses of the peonies in the spring or the sharp aromas that fill the air in autumn after the frost has touched the herbage.”Louise Beebe Wilder, 1887-1938,
A few years ago I moved to a rural property in the Lachlan Valley and decided to restore the garden and grow roses. I had until then never grown a rose plant before, although I’d given many roses to my mother as gifts for her garden in the Blue Mountains. I knew our rural area was known for prized rose specimens and roses were a common sight in the gardens and parks of the local town 40 kilometres from us. It seemed a fairly simple task and how hard could it be I thought?
My dream was for massed roses, with underplantings of silver foliage and plenty of companion plants. A rose garden far removed from the formal, bare earth rose gardens of Grand estates, local parks and Botanical gardens. I had a vision of beds of roses with a sense of abundance, fullness and a happy air of disorder.
Having read a dear little book by Mirabel Osler called ‘A Gentle Plea For Chaos” Mirabel’s ideas mirrored mine and I was fascinated by her sense of “amiable disorder” where plants are allowed to scatter and do as they please”. I envisaged, a full mass of spectacular rose blooms but carefully selected to appear like a natural, perfectly hued landscape growing as if by chance.
“At the heart of gardening there is a belief in the miraculous.” –Mirabel Osler
Armed with a Treloars rose catalogue and their website I began the first tentative search for roses to fill the first garden bed. I had no clue whether it was the right time to plant or in fact how to go about it at all. I found many of the beautiful varieties I coveted were sold out so I purchased a ‘Cut Flower Rose Collection’ and a mix of ground covers and various other perennials suitable for a our climate being hot and dry in summer but cold and frosty in winter. I learnt very quickly all about bare root roses and their requirements and the garden began.
The first round of roses in 2017 included a ‘Cut Flower Collection’ which was Cinderella, Eliza, Kardinal, Queen Elizabeth 11, Magma and Gold Medal. I also planted Nahema, Lady of Shalott, Jude The Obscure, Seafoam, New Dawn, Shirley’s Rose, Carmagnole, Spirit of Rural Women, Pierre de Ronsard, Seduction, Peach Profusion and underplanted with lavenders, herbs, shasta daisies, annuals, various perennial groundcovers from Perennial Plants in Canowindra specialist in drought and frost resistant plants. Lastly from Bunnings a weeping cherry tree as a focal point.
“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. ”Mirabel Osler
The Spring season came and much to my surprise glorious rose blooms flowered and flowered until Summer. The summer heat and hot winds knocked them around but I was able to keep plenty of water up, although, I did lose the Cherry Tree and later replaced it with a weeping Wollerton Old Hall rose.
There were many surprises amongst the blooms that I had had carefully planted and it was a massive learning curve for me. My roses looked wonderful and many people admired the changes I had made to the old garden, my husband included. However, my vision had not been fully realised and many moves and changes were to follow during the dormant season in winter.
That first attempt was not all a bed of roses, it was constant hard work and I made numerous mistakes. ‘New Dawn’ imagined as a full flowering thick climber across the old 1900’s garden shed in actuality was eaten by wallabies and sheep. It never had the chance that year to bloom despite the thorns and our makeshift fence. I also underestimated the intensity of the sun in mid summer when the days were well over 40 degrees. The hot winds burnt the leaves of some roses and the heat disturbed the flower formation. On the other hand most roses flourished as did the herbs and perennials.
Many of my mistakes in the first garden needed to be transplanted during Autumn, one being a rose called Carmagnole. At this stage, I did not understand the wording of catalogue comments and was enticed by the description “Clusters of delicate, ivory white, ruffled double blooms with crimson/pink blush edges” How delightful! What I failed to read clearly was “A sturdy and extremely healthy bush, it produces masses of incredibly large thorns making it well suited as an impenetrable hedge-row”. Clearly not the best rose to have by the border of the adjacent lawn where we regularly walked. This ‘impenetrable hedge rose’ as I love to call it is now banished to the corner, where it can flower happily undisturbed.
At summer’s end the design and plans for expanding the rose garden optimistically began. I found more online rose growers who were extremely patient and helpful with my pedantic choice of colours and rose types and could provide me with the colour selection I wanted. Wagners, Silkies Rose Farm Magic Gardens, and Misty Downs
My expanded garden would I thought, fulfill the idea in my mind’s eye of a sea of massed roses. Colour dominated, full and abundantly under planted with silvery foliage of Lamb’s Ears, Lavender, Sage, Dichondra Silver Falls, Dusty Miller and Dianthus. After many happy hours pouring over rose websites, online nurseries and books I became much more aware of roses in general and had a better idea of what to order.
A large section of this garden was to be a range of Delbard and other French Roses: Bordure Nacree, Bordure Rose, Belle Seigneur, Chateau Versailles, Belle Perfume, Dioressence, Paul Cezanne and Chartreuse de Parme. The garden after the second attempt hosts many roses and as custodian and carer, I fuss endlessly about position, feeding, companion plants and soil improvement.
It is still not perfect but my intuitive approach appears to have given me the start of a wonderful rose garden. The garden has been prolific with blooms galore for two seasons. Stunning pinks, magenta, crimsons, peach, apricot, soft yellows and creams that all flow together from one end to the other. The roses are brilliant and steadily bloom day after day. I have fully realised one dream of my rose garden when I was going away travelling for a month and I was able to pick a massive basket of rose blooms for a friend to enjoy whilst no one was going to be home to appreciate them. Like so many gardeners before me, I say when complimented on the garden “Oh, but wait until next season it will be even better ” and it will be.
Words and Images Di Baker 2019 with the exception of header image a random photo of an old farmhouse.