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Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than Emperors.

According to the calendar, the end of the season is approaching, although it still feels like Summer, and the roses will bloom for many more weeks to come. As long as I keep deadheading, some will bloom right on through until May. In fact, early Autumn is one of the best times in the year for roses in our area, as the intensity of the afternoon sun diminishes slightly and the blooms do not get bleached or the foliage scorched.

At this time of year, the underlying thought I have after Spring and Summer in the garden is how can the garden be better next season, what didn’t work, what could be revamped? It’s easy to see what did work as it looks terrific, but there are always pockets or spots that were a disappointment and that despite patience, and perseverance are not cutting it. My mind races with ideas of improvements although I’m exercising restraint and waiting for the roses to be dormant before making any wider changes.

“Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. You are always living three, or indeed six, months hence. . . . To be content with the present, and not striving about the future, is fatal.”

Alice Morse Earle

Every new season provides a unique opportunity to alleviate the situation and improve next year. In recent years, many roses have been nurtured from disease and damage, but it is time-consuming. Sometimes, you want the entire garden to be easy-care, pleasing and visually satisfying rather than hordes of plants in need of constant attention. This year I’m observing closely to see the roses that are happy-go-lucky, healthy, do not cause colossal concern, grow upright, bushy and are often in bloom without too much assistance. There are several ‘needy’ plants on the cull list so far. Still, I think it’s worth finding a balance between the extravagant notion seen on gardening shows and the ethos of celebrity gardeners and looking after too many sick plants when required. As Paul Bangay is often quoted as saying

“A garden is not a hospital, it’s not there to plant plants that need to be tended or are delicate or need to be mothered along.”

Paul Bangay

In our hot, dry climate, if I did not “mother along the roses and other plants”, at times, I would not have a garden, or it would have to be a dry gravel garden. There is nothing wrong with that choice, but I’m far more drawn to an Australian-style cottage garden with a few borrowed French and Italian features. An old farmhouse with billowing roses in abundance, lambs ears thick and tall between the roses, lots of silver foliage as a contrast to the diversity of greens, a garden bench to sit and enjoy the scent in the evening air and an old statue hiding behind a rose bush. There is an old weatherboard shed and rustic archways with a few vintage farm relics (not people) and roses entwined. Perhaps a gravel path leads you past the creeping thyme, peppermint geranium and lemon verbena bush. The fragrance is divine, and the garden not too wild but not tamed and restrained but left to be itself with a bit of help here and there.

Everything in life has to have balance

Donna Karan
Roses growing in a friends garden in the local town

Nahema rose was one rose I was exasperated with some months ago that had constant issues with two-spotted mites that cause the plants to look stippled and mottled, dried out and sick with no blooms. It grew on the entrance to the garden archway, and last year I cut it right back and took it off the archway, and placed it in my plant clinic for treatment. Now it seems fine. In a conversation with Wagners Rose Nursery, I was told Nahema was one of Brians ( owner) favourite climbing roses. So, inspired by his faith in this rose, I have replanted Nahema in pride of place in a gorgeous new obelisk at the front gate. And after weeks of attention prior to this it was ready and would you believe it is flourishing. The new buds are about to open? I can take pictures soon as It should be out in flower next week.

“Spring flowers are long since gone.  Summer’s bloom hangs limp on every terrace.  The gardener’s feet drag a bit on the dusty path and the hinge in his back is full of creaks.” 

Louise Seymour Jones

Nahema is a delicate soft pink climbing rose with velvety petals in cupped old fashioned bloom form and a strong perfume. The colour is often described as almond blossom pink, and it has unique, almost thornless stems and leaves that curl. Nahema is often mistaken as looking wilting or dry, but it is purely the nature of Nahema to have furled in leaves. Bred by George Delbard in France in 1991 and released in 2006. The parentage is from ‘Grand Siecle’ x ‘Heritage’ both are growing in the garden. The Guerlain range of perfumes uses Nahema rose’s essence as the base.

Fortunately this year there are few roses in need of daily support or pampering to keep them alive like we had during the drought. Weeds are the issue and black spot on roses after the high humidity and late afternoon rains. It causes the leaves to shed but with careful use of eco fungicide and eco seaweed, the new shoots appear again after treatment and in time are in bloom again.

Nature moves towards balance.

Joel Salatin

Gardeners are dreamers who are forever thinking ahead of what might be next season. I am looking ahead and planting new perennials to fill gaps to give time to establish before next Spring. I want to do so many tasks, but late summer heat and high humidity leave only a short window where it’s pleasant to work outside. Autumn’s arrival will be a welcome change. I’ve managed to purchase plants via websites, and thanks to Australia Post, they arrive in good condition despite the distance travelled. I’ve bought chiefly from Lambley in Victoria, and all the plants arrive in excellent condition and are packaged consistently well. Perennial Plants in Canowindra is terrific as well as you know that everything they offer is drought and frost tolerant, plus I can drive over and collect them – a bonus.

The biggest obstacle to good gardening is the desire to know the answers and not the questions.”

Monty Don

The perennials from left to right above are; Salvia Mesa Azure, Erysimum Canary Island Wallflower, Salvia Leucantha White Velour, Salvia Val Lawrence, Salvia Nemorosa Enid, Geums Tangerine, Gaura Lindheimeri Gwenneth’s Pink, Nepeta Faassinil Prussian Blue, and Penstemon Mother of Pearl. These are available from Lambley Nursery here or Garden Express and Perennial Plants. All these perennial plants are frost tolerant and, once established, will tolerate a hot, dry climate, I’m told.

Rose Campion

Perennial plants are defined as a plant that lives for more than two years. They are those beautiful plants that come back up after winter and grow from the same roots. Obviously, you won’t lose the plants in winter frosts if you live near the coast, but they may need cutting back at the end of summer.

Perennial plants are easy to care for, often drought-tolerant, and bring a mass of texture, colour and a wide variety of forms to the garden. There are short-lived perennials that will thrive for up to four years or much longer-lasting plants that live for fifteen years or more like roses.

The short-lived perennials will reseed or multiple by division, such as Lychnis coronaria or Rose Campion, lavenders, gypsophila or Shasta daisies, amongst thousands of other examples. Bees adore perennials because of the long flowering period, in some cases several months.

“Learn to be an observer in all seasons. Every single day, your garden has something new and wonderful to show you.” Anon

Perennials are the perfect foil for roses.

Always check the expected height before planting perennials and whether they are invasive or not. It is hard enough dealing with common weeds, but when plants go viral in the garden, it is a constant job to remove them again. For example, Lemon Balm or Borage. And also the colours; a plant can have beautiful subtle silver-grey foliage and garish bright yellow flowers in summer!
Plant taller perennial species at the back and more compact, manageable plants as borders in the front. Generally, perennials love full sun, are tolerant of heat once established and many are frost resistant. There are also more foliage style plants suitable for shade and even dry shade for planting under trees. Most perennials require less water once established, and they change from season start to end and are often bold and spectacular throughout the season. On the other hand, some perennials dry out and age more gracefully, blending into the environment and creating a windswept Mediterranean style landscape.

Last year I had a Princess Charlene De Monaco rose engulfed by salvia that grew to a massive size, both wide and tall. And again this year, there is a Golden Beauty invisible underneath another giant salvia along the fenceline.

This season I’m planting more perennials in pots and containers to position in the garden as a feature. Also when space is an issue you can manage them more effectively and move them around easily when needed. More on pots and containers next time.

These are gardens worth a visit that showcases the diversity of perennial plant species. One is in Hartley NSW called Highfield’s Garden and Clover Hill Rare Plants 111 John Grant Road Little Hartley NSW 2790.

Another is in Victoria also with a nursery business called Lambley Gardens 395 Lesters Road, Ascot, Victoria. These gardens feature unusual and often rare perennials and many are grown as a dry garden.


Content Di Baker 2022

Images Di Baker 2022 or as cited

Title quote by Mary Cantwell

Images for the Perennial Gallery courtesy of Wikimedia and Pinterest

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