“There is no gardening without humility…

“There is no gardening without humility, an assiduous willingness to learn and a cheerful readiness to confess you were mistaken. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder.” [So just keep studying and enjoy it!]

Alfred Austin, English poet laureate, in The Garden That I Love, 1894

This year nature has certainly made it tough for gardeners. The weather is so extreme and so hot, but it’s the wind and the dust storms in our area that have caused the most damage to the garden. The garden generally is scorched, sunburnt and in heat stress. It hardly seems fair to worry about one’s garden when, due to the fires in Australia, many people have lost their homes and gardens. It is important to protect and care for what has been built and grown so far in our gardens.

There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.

Janet Kilburn Phillips

After the New Year spent in the city, I arrived back to my garden just a few days later. What a shock! There was so much destruction, I didn’t know where to look first.

The birds had completely dug up all my hard work of laying newspaper mulch with compost on top. So, strewn all over the garden beds were masses of newspaper fragments. It looked like a rubbish tip. Everywhere I looked were roses with burnt, brown, crisp foliage. All the tall roses had at least a third of the plant totally eaten off by birds, leaving long bare stalks. Here and there were rose plants with no leaves at all and some completely dead including three standard roses. My large standard roses across the front of the garden were eaten by the birds who it appeared had sort shelter from the heat and taken up residence on the long verandah, so it looked like a chook pen.

The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.

Michael Pollan

Did I dare go around the back? What would it be like as it also gets a lot of afternoon sun? Sure enough not too much bird damage but major heat and wind destruction with a total loss of 12-15 plants at least ( roses and lavender) Many other disasters have rolled out over the past week but I am taking it in my stride and rolling with it. One step at a time.

Since then I have been watering more often than usual to catch up and most plants have come good and are showing signs of recovery. There are a few more losses of plants that were just hanging on but gave up completely. On the other hand, this week is cooler, with the top temperature only 29 degrees, so beautiful. The garden has thousands of new shoots on most roses, that due to the heat and wind had abandoned all their leaves.


For the last three weeks the temperatures have reached 45C and on some days even higher than that. I’ve followed my own advice and the experts and watered in a deep soak each time quite regularly to feed the roses. This is essential prevention as well as recovery. The dust storms leave a thick layer of red dust over all the foliage so I hand spray with the hose to wash the foliage. I’m so lucky to have a good supply of water.

We cannot predict the severity of the weather unfortunately. Many plants in pots have grown and done pretty well. At least they are alive. So, the rest of the season is all about survival and letting the plants recover. Protecting them from the next period of high temperatures in February and more winds and dust to come. It has not rained a drop recently although some areas nearby have had rain.

As I write, a lot of roses are now flourishing, some of the blooms are bleached from too much sun so are small and miserable but everything is very green and lush from all the water and also watering with eco seaweed.

New red tips growing after bird destruction

Hindsight is a funny thing and this is what I should have done, but I didn’t imagine the weather in late December would be as severe as it was.

How to Protect Roses From Sunburn

  1. Cover the entire area with netting to filter the light and afternoon sun.
  2. Protect from strong winds with shade cloth or temporary enclosure like bamboo fences.
  3. Use umbrellas to shade specific more sensitive roses
  4. Put potted roses in less sun, even part shade for the height of summer
  5. Arrange more frequent watering if you are away.
  6. Use shade cloth sails or row covers or a pop up shade canopy structure.
  7. Use eco seaweed regularly before the hot season.
  8. Set up drip irrigation before the hot season.

How to Repair Scorched Roses

Water, water, water. The rose growers recommend

Roses require 10 litres of water in one session – each plant. In normal conditions this will have to be done twice a week, spaced evenly. If the weather is extreme or you are in the hotter states then three times a week is recommended.

Treloars Roses

Water is the main requirement that will allow the plants to defend against heat, wind and scorching sun. Clearly my garden did not have enough water to defend itself whilst away.

Manou Meilland

Heat also causes roses to have smaller blooms, deformed blooms, burnt petal edges, shriveled looking blooms and buds that do not open fully. I’ve taken advice from the experts and cut back flowers and buds, dead headed the roses. It is recommended not to remove all burnt foliage as the burnt leaves may protect the new shoots from further sun damage.

Gardening simply does not allow one to be mentally old, because too many hopes and dreams are yet to be realized.

Alan Armitage

Content and Images Di Baker 2020 Images except the rain gauge below by Unsplash

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