The weather is humid, and looking around the garden, it is undeniably late Summer. There are a few scorched leaves from the afternoon sun but not too many this year, thousands of spent rose blooms, a few signs of rose hips where I didn’t deadhead quickly enough, plus a variety of salvias dancing in the breeze, some towering over the garden and others gone to seed. Fortunately, there are a few late-flowering rose specimens to view. The telltale sounds accompanying summer continue; a multitude of birdsong, frogs, hornets and cicadas and the silent stillness of afternoons before a storm.
While the east coast of Australia is drenched in continual rain with many areas severely flooded further inland we continue to have sunny days and so far just one powerful storm. Heavy dark clouds loom at times but no more storms since then, in fact the garden is quite dry. It is a good time now to evaluate and stocktake the roses ready for any winter additions and replacements and decide on any design changes so orders can be placed with your favourite rose grower.
At the moment I must admit the entire garden is in a bit of a shambles but I’m hoping I can manage the garden to look and be a whole lot better through Autumn. I’m, counting on some cooler days to have more time to fix things with the list of tasks getting longer every day. On the bright side at least I know what has to be done, what didn’t work last season and can implement new ideas.
There is one area, in particular, that has since inception been a failure in my opinion. It is disappointing that roses in this spot start off well but once the roots reach down into the hard clay the bushes become stunted. The area has several restrictions, including phone line cables under the soil (still necessary here with poor mobile service) that prevent deep digging, compacted hard clay soil, and open afternoon sun exposure. So, my aim is to improve the soil structure and plant more dry garden perennials that are more inclined towards the conditions of this corner than roses.
Around the edges of this area are some gorgeous roses though -the legends of my garden. These hardy roses are; Windermere, Princess Charlene de Monaco, Winter Sun, Wollerton Old Hall, Jude the Obscure, Just Joey, Sally Holmes, Penelope, Shirley’s Rose, Kardinal and Gold Medal. They are spectacular, carefree and disease-resistant; now they’re a few years old. The ones that don’t do well will be moved into pots and relocated.
Celebrating success is always a good idea as it keeps you motivated and moving forward. I’m heartened by the appearance of a rose bloom on French Lace this week. This one, like many roses, was rescued from the ( hard clay soil) in the garden and placed in a pot with good quality potting mix( Searles premium.) It is beautiful again, blooming by the back door. French Lace is bred in the USA by William Warriner and introduced to the market by Jackson and Perkins in 1980 as ‘French Lace’. It is an upright Floribunda that won ‘ best rose’ in 1982. The fragrance is subtle but charming with lovely white to cream with almost a slightly pink tone in the decorative buds that open to perfect blooms to cut for inside.
The nature of the Garden is that it is complex and evolves through perseverance, trial and error. The bigger the obstacles, the more scope to create new strategies to rise to nature’s challenge. Every year since the garden began, a new landscape has appeared in Spring because some plants inevitably die, fresh plants are added, seasons change, and immature plants develop. You learn new techniques and discover different plants, new ideas appear and are trialled. That is why gardening is so enjoyable, as Helen Mirren is quoted as saying.
That’s the beauty of a garden, isn’t it? We arm ourselves with a small amount of knowledge and our experience learned from past years’ mistakes and aim to make a garden our own and enjoy watching the spaces evolve into our own private sanctuary.
Whether your favoured style is a Japanese garden, French Potager, Mediterranean, native, vegetable, secret wild garden or a patio or balcony filled with pots, , a cactus or tropical or any other unique garden style. One aspect for sure is that change is the core of gardening; nothing is static or stays the same from one season to another.
Gardening is a hugely enjoyable pastime that brings plenty of rewards when you see your design come to life. It can be very satisfying and builds one’s confidence to try new ideas over time. Planning is the key, yet a considerable amount of adaptability is also needed because things do not always grow as intended.
Having some sound knowledge of gardening, whether from past experience or handed down through the family, picked up from ABC’s Gardening Australia or other notable garden shows or professional study. There are tried and true basics of successful gardening. What has worked for generations and some good newer ideas and techniques all go to building a solid understanding of how to garden successfully. The areas to focus on are;
- Your Garden Soil type. Is it sandy, loamy, clay, or silt? It is essential to know and to test your garden soil so you plant the most suitable plants and can add the proper nutrients to the garden for them to flourish.
- The conditions in your area. It is good to be aware of the usual wind patterns, the rainfall, the frosts, the sun exposure or lack of sun and what key elements need consideration. When planting any local knowledge is always helpful and generally readily available.
- Your climate is the key to knowing what will grow best in your area. Looking around and seeing what thrives nearby is a good safe option. Otherwise, do your research, and of course, there’s always trial and error.
- What are the microclimates in the garden? The areas unique to the site; are a dry, shaded area, a moist section or a tropical area where you can grow different plants than the main garden. These may be due to protective larger plants and trees or a stone wall that absorbs the heat from the sun or a creek or spring. Low lying areas that always have frost in winter will need consideration to allow the right plants to thrive.
Heavy clay soil is my main obstacle whereas to others it may be coastal sandy soil that is also tricky to garden and requires certain plants for a garden to thrive. Both extremes can be helped by adding compost and organic matter to the soil.
Correcting Compacted Clay Soil
- Aerate with a garden fork or aerator.
- Add Gypsum as either a spray or powder and water in well.
- Add organic matter like compost, worm castings, whoflungdung, mushroom compost, aged cow manure, aged sheep manure, grass clippings and straw.
In my rural community, I visit gardens quite regularly with a local garden club. The gardens range from magnificent stately homestead gardens to local town gardens and everywhere in between. What has struck me is the sense of pride that no matter how humble or how gracious and beautiful the garden is, they all reflect the person who owns or tends them. Gardens express who we are in the same manner as our homes’ interior, be they an apartment and balcony or a house and garden.
So, it has taken a few days to write this last summer post because I’ve had very little time available away from the garden. Now it is the 1st March, officially the start of Autumn in Australia. Right on queue, the weather is windy and cloudy with expected rain and storm this afternoon. Autumn heralds the beginning of a busy time outside after a long wait for cooler climes and a chance to get more tasks done. The thick grass and weeds in the troublesome corner will be attacked shortly; weeded, mulched with two old carpets to suppress new weeds, and new perennials added.
Two new additions this week; firstly, this spectacular foliage plant, Doryanthes, is an attractive focal point that will eventually reach three metres and is said to be drought hardy, frost-resistant, and non-invasive. Perfect. And secondly, a new structure in the garden; a simple metal gazebo. It is rustic and gives a vintage appearance already, even without plants growing over it. If you have read my other blog called theteapotsite.com you will know I am always looking for new places to photograph my teaware and tea stories, so the new gazebo will beautifully combine roses and tea.
Rain is forecast in the next hour or so and along the coast, the deluge is expected to continue for the next week. The past week has been a nightmare for many thousands in Australia as the unprecedented wet weather and severe flooding continues all along the coast and into Queensland. My heart goes out to everyone involved, it is a frightening and unpredictable situation.
All content Di Baker 2022
Images Di Baker 2022
The title header image is La Jago Rose