“Who has learned to garden who did not at the same time learn to be patient?”

I spoke too soon last time, and now that drop of rain has continued for days. Not a deluge, thankfully, but enough drizzle, fog and dampness to prevent working outside. The timing of recent rains was perfect because I’d almost finished applying compost and mulch, so the extra water would well and truly have soaked the thick newspaper and diluted the rich compost on all those new perennials planted.

“If only one were as good a gardener in practise as one is in theory, what a garden one would create!”
Vita Sackville-West

Once you live through severe drought and a hot, dry climate, you never again grumble about rain, but I’m glad to see that It looks like in the coming week, the sun will be out, and I can find time to finish the last of the mulching. The benefits of mulching roses are many, from improving the garden’s look to increasing moisture retention and suppressing weeds- all good reasons to add a mulch to the garden at least once a year or more.

According to the experts, mulch will increase the soil’s ability to absorb moisture by about 60%. It will keep the ground at an even temperature, so cool in summer and warm in winter, add nutrients and lessen the weeds and seed germination as long as it is not piled up too close to the rose stems to prevent them from being watered properly.

The person who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world.
Vita Sackville-West

Best Mulch for Roses

  • Sugar Cane mulch
  • Shredded leaves
  • Compost
  • Mushroom compost
  • Sheep Dags
  • Neutrogs Whoflungdung
  • Grass clippings

According to Treloar’s Roses, it is best to avoid any rock or pebble mulch near roses because they will heat the soil and dry out the roots of roses. And prevent any pine or eucalyptus leaf mulches because they interfere with the acidity levels in the ground. Some organic mulches, as they decompose, will draw nitrogen to break down, so it is best to add compost first before adding an organic mulch like bark or woodchips.

This year, my strategy has been to spread Whoflungdung in the garden near all the roses, then cover any spare or open soil with cardboard or newspaper but leave space around each rose, then a thick layer of compost-rich, organic topsoil on the newspaper. In some areas, I used whoflungdung on top. This will add nutrients to the soil as it breaks down, improves soil structure, and reduce runoff and soil movement when watered.

Time will tell if this is better than last year when I used Sugarcane mulch. I think the garden looks better when mulched with a dark even tone mulch to prepare for the bareness of winter. Mulching can’t go down without extensive autumn work of cleaning up the garden mess after summer. Weeding, cutting back, summer prune of dead stalks and blooms, the removal of debris and leaves around the roses, especially after the recent rains when some flowers may have balled or gone mouldy.

Wet, rainy days are a golden opportunity to plan all the tasks for winter and draw up the new garden design. The list of roses to transplant gets longer every day as I am fine-tuning my colour schemes and attempting to create space to build a more layered garden. Layering takes time and patience, and because the nature of some roses initially planted was quite different in size and height than expected, some roses will require moving to better positions, and some will have to go.

Designing the garden is like learning to speak. You begin with odd words learning the individual plants. Then you create a simple phrase, finding two or three plants that look well together, next comes a sentence and finally the complete story.”
Beth Chatto

Although roses dominate this garden and grow well in the nutrient-rich clay soil and dry climate, personal preference and current garden trends are to mix plants rather than the traditional bed of roses as was the tendency for decades. Accordingly, the garden will be healthier and promote beneficial insects that help ward off disease and pests. Combining other plantings with roses and giving them companions will improve biodiversity in the garden.

A gentle plea for chaos
Mirabel Osler

I did feel guilty when taking out some roses that were not doing well until I came across this article from 2020 in Architectural Digest about the rejuvenation of the Rose Garden at the White House and the removal of the row of Crab Apple trees and coloured roses when Melania Trump was in residence. So now I don’t think my small removal is anything in comparison. It put a firestorm in the rose and garden world with many protests and shouts of shock and horror. It is worth a read; otherwise, a quote will suffice

A garden is always in a state of becoming. Plants grow, some eventually fail, and others outgrow their space, all of which has implications for the rest of a garden. You really have to embrace a certain amount of change.”
Bunny Mellon

When old trees, large shrubs and roses are removed unnecessarily, much history is lost forever. However, there are always valid reasons for doing so that I’m sure had been in the planning stage for a long time before implementation. One would hope so anyway.

Today’s rose images are taken before the rain began a few days ago, and blooms will most likely now be few and far between until Spring. One favourite rose pictured as a feature is Summer of Love, which was seriously sick a few months ago from two-spotted mites. It is flowering again at present and back to good health. I couldn’t be happier to see it recover, as the last few years it has been spectacular.

Summer of Love is described in detail in this post from a few weeks ago and below from Silkies Rose Garden. I am just relieved we can continue to enjoy the masses of blooms again next Spring, sometimes in an array of yellows, coral, peach and watermelon pink, forever changing just like the nature of gardens.

Summer of Love is, without doubt, simply stunning – every perfectly formed bloom will take your breath away with its beauty!  
Deep in the throat, Summer of Love is a warm buttery apricot and each petal edge is brushed with salmon/coral and as the bloom opens, you see the lovely complimentary creamy white – a true beauty!
The high-centred blooms last well in a vase and there is a slight spicy fragrance in warm, humid weather conditions.
Highly recommended rose!Diana Sargeant

Title quote by HLV Fletcher, 1949

Title Image Spiced Coffee rose 2022

All Content Di Baker 2022

Images from my garden 2022

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