“And the shower of roses spun around me, inviting me to take part in their ever-present waltz.”

It would be lovely if the sentiment expressed in today’s quote was the reality in the garden now but the roses are still not as prolific as anticipated. There are some beautiful blooms but no grand colour splash across the garden as a whole. Patience is what is needed now.

Coaxing the roses through the severe winds and dust of recent days has hopefully been enough to keep them in good health and to nurture the slow ones to another bloom. The lack of colour is due a combination of my rigorous cutting back of the damaged rose blooms early in the season and the usual wait for the second flush.

I am hoping for better times. That’s how you know us hapless gardeners — by our dirty fingernails and our absurd, unquenchable optimism about next year.

Rumer Godden
Ballerina Rose

All the roses in the garden have had a thorough inspection this week to check for problems and whether or not the groundcovers are suffocating any of the newer bare root roses planted this year. The two spotted mites appear to be eradicated for a while and the garden is looking very green, lush and healthy. 

You’re not a gardener, are you? So perhaps you don’t know that once a garden is established, much of good gardening is about removal rather than planting, honing what you have to produce a pleasing effect, sacrificing the particular for the good of the whole. Gardening is a creative pastime, but the result is always a work in progress; unlike a painting or a piece of music a garden is never fixed in time.

Rosalie Parker

Several roses have been removed that were struggling to grow for unknown reasons and I’ve planted them in large pots with top grade potting mix. One was a Just Joey Rose that has an intense had always looked stunted and in was clearly having difficulty in the exposed spot where it was initially planted. It was too hot and dry and had exposure to full afternoon sun. The difference in this rose now is extraordinary. I realise that once established the heat is not an issue but getting the roses to that stage can be tricky in such dry conditions. In a few weeks Just Joey has grown three times the size or more and is full of new growth with many buds about to open.

Likewise, the new growth on five Many Happy Returns roses is incredible since they were moved into pots because the area in the garden was too hot. Hopefully they will reflower in the next two weeks.

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finally, I had to take it on the chin and remove the few bare root roses that despite my nurturing did not make it this year. The very late frosts are the culprits and I’ve held off digging the stalks out just in case they came to life and a few have but not all of them.  It certainly is survival of the fittest in this rural garden.

There are several roses that I’ve potted that are on wait and see, they have been put in the semi shade, given eco seaweed, plenty of water and time will tell. So, I’m running a plant hospital of sorts at the moment. I hope that two gorgeous roses potted out called Ophelia and another Diana Princess of Wales will survive. I can’t pull all the plants out of the garden that are looking a bit slow but a good strategy for those few roses that were not thriving at all.  The garden has heavy clay soil and although it has been broken up with added gypsum, compost and manure many times there are pockets that are still quite hard.

The full summer heat will be here soon and this year promises to be exceptionally challenging. The dust storms alone without the high daytime temperatures are enough to flatten any garden. I have never experienced weather like we’ve had lately and I am so grateful that we have a good water supply or no doubt the entire garden would be dead by now.  Last Tuesday the city had a major thunderstorm and a massive amount of rain. For us over the sandstone curtain of the Blue Mountains we had a full day of strong winds blowing masses of red dust but not one drop of rain. This has been repeated almost every afternoon since.

Despite the odd weather the outstanding blooms this season are Manou Meilland a distinctive rich, cyclamen, pink rose with a sliver edge underneath the petals. Bred in France by Marie Louise Meilland in 1977 it is a really stunning hybrid tea rose and always very healthy. In Appreciation is also fabulous with its luminous, bright, pink colour and classic rose shape.

“Going out to the garden is to go on a holiday; when you travel amongst the flowers, your body touches heaven and your mind tastes the secrets of ataraxia!”

Mehmet Murat ildan

One of my favourite roses I planted in the new garden very late in the season is Twilight Glow. The petals are serrated and a glorious rich creamy apricot colour in very large double blooms that make the flower appear old fashioned.  In the same soft apricot colouring is the rose Cubana that has perfectly formed medium sized light apricot blooms on long clean stems.  The plant is very tall and erect and once in bloom the flowers just sit for weeks without change. Cubana is not troubled by wind and likes to bloom in part shade. It is beautiful.

Survival is the word for this season in my garden unlike the year I had planned which was Flourish. As I write though, we are suddenly in a welcome downpour of rain. After months it is actually raining. It may not last long but it is a welcome relief to see the dust settled and a few puddles decorating the driveway and garden.

All Content and Photos Di Baker 2019

Title quote by Gina Marinello-Sweeney, The Rose and the Sword.

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