“Don’t think the garden loses it’s ectasy in Winter. Its quiet but the roots are down there riotous.”

With only a few days left before winter is officially here, we have tasted days to come. On cloudy days when the sun’s warmth is missed retreating indoors to winter comforts, the fireside, cosy rugs and delicious hot soups are welcome diversions.

“There ought to be Gardens for all Months in the year, in which, severally, things of beauty may be then in season.” 
Sir Francis Bacon

Thankfully, the sun is out a few days on, so after a cold start is the perfect temperature for garden tasks, like transplanting and repotting larger roses. I managed today to repot the Lady of Shalott roses with no disturbance to the roots. By simply holding the plant in one hand below any thorns and lifting them straight out and into their taller new home, I had already filled with fresh premium potting mix up to the right height. Each one was almost too heavy, but fortunately, the rose and the root ball stayed intact, and they have hardly skipped a beat since and continue to flower on.

Every gardener knows that under the cloak of Winter lies a miracle.
Luther Burbank

Due to recent rains and damp conditions, the two large terracotta pots have developed a lovely, mossy patina and sit in pride of place under my watchful eye, at the back door. These pots are ideal because they are much deeper, so the roots will have more space to grow. Next to them are large troughs of French Lavender, and in August, white standard roses will be added along the verandah edge. I’ve also potted up the last perennials, Santolina, Euphorbia’ Ascot Rainbow’ and Japanese Silver Grass, ready for spring’s arrival and planted more bulbs through the garden.

“I prefer winter and autumn, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.”
Andrew Wyeth

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is time for home.”
Edith Sitwell

One of the best displays in the garden is the Fire Opal roses mass planted as a group along the front verandah. The foliage is strong, glossy and thick, and they never have problems with any disease or pests. Even now, so late in the season, the bright pink buds are still opening to soft double blooms that are charming and unique.

Mass planting is the simplest way to create an impact and visual appeal in the garden. At the height of spring and summer, it provides a real wow! Regardless of the garden style, small cottage, heritage, ultra-modern or contemporary, mass planting is stunning to view and very easy to look after. The dense nature of the plants will suppress most weeds, and there are always blooms out at various stages, so if you choose the right variety, you’ll never be short of colour.

Growing roses is always a toss-up between collecting a multitude of ‘must-have plants’, and there are many collectors out there; those that love Hybrid Teas and others who adore Heritage Roses. Or rose lovers like myself enjoy both; the simplicity of massed varieties that help define the landscape and as many different roses that will thrive in your particular garden climate. The key to creating harmony in the garden is the balance of being an avid collector with an eye for appropriate landscape design. I hope all the planning and work undertaken will do just that.

“Gardener’s , like everyone else, live second by second and minute by minute. What we see at one particular moment is then and there before us. But there is a second way of seeing. Seeing with the eye of memory, not the eye of our anatomy, calls up days and seasons past and years gone by.”
Allen Lacy, The Gardener’s Eye, 1992 

The last rose blooms are a welcome sight and a pleasure to view each morning as the weather turns cooler. In fact, in some ways, the roses still flowering this late in the season appear almost perfect, deeper in colour, as if they saved the best till last. Some are larger than I’ve seen throughout summer, and they seem to last longer. Perhaps some roses struggle in the intensity of our hot Australian summers and can really flourish at this time of year.

“There ought to be Gardens for all Months in the year, in which, severally, things of Beauty may be then in season.” 
Sir Francis Bacon

Winter always makes the garden very bare because I don’t have a lot of winter flowering plants except for annuals such as Pansies and Viola’s. To grow winter colour from Camillas, Hellebores, Daphne and Clivias require more nicely shaded areas than the garden enjoys. Even Autumn days are pretty sunny and hot. Nonetheless, early spring is well catered for with Snowdrops-Galanthus in several pots that always herald the start of Spring. Similarly, Daffodils, Bluebells and Hyacinths are my first attempt at layering the garden more efficiently.

The winter months are still a busy time in the garden it is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun and make some improvements ready for spring. Firstly, what’s needed is to prepare the ground for new plantings by adding compost, aged manure, and soil conditioner like Seamungus and then leaving the worms and soil alone to wait for the bareroot rose season.

No winter wind shall chill my gardening heart“.
Blake Schreck

Before winter sets in there are untold jobs to do in the garden; the Salvias are still blooming but will need cutting back, as will all the Lavender plants once the flowers fade. There is Buddleia to deadhead, perennials to divide, any mouldy heads of damaged roses to remove, and a general garden tidy around the base of all roses to prevent fungal diseases. Once the last days of frosty mornings end, it will be time to prune the roses. It is a massive job and one that I’d love to do long before August, but I do not want to risk damaging the roses from severe frosts during the middle of winter.

“The color of springtime is flowers; the color of winter is in our imagination.”
Terri Guillemets

Now is a good time for all those missed projects from summer too; irrigation repairs, painting or sealing outdoor furniture, relocating underperforming plants, training climbers on arches and pergolas, repotting, fixing edges or stepping stones and paths and always there is weeding and mulching.

As far as I’m concerned, the planning stages on cold days are as enjoyable as being out in the sun and preparing for warmer seasons ahead. I’ve gone all out this year mainly because of being ‘at home’ so much with the usual travel in May, June and July simply not happening, although it is looking like travel is back on the agenda again soon. Armed this year with more knowledge of varietal differences and what will survive and flourish in this climate, I’ve gone all out and my new rose orders are considerable. One thing for sure this Spring and Summer; there will be mases of roses everywhere and hardly a spare patch of earth in the garden once perennials and bulbs start to thrive as well.

Content Di Baker 2022

Images are all taken in the last few days, May 2022

Title quote – Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet and scholar.

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