Today is crisp and beautiful; the sun shines after yesterday’s wet day. Sheep graze in the long grass and the new roses that were ‘heeled in’ are now all planted. The days after rain have an allure all their own that no amount of watering can replicate. It’s like waking up to a promise of a perfect day ahead.
This winter I have spent a great deal of time in the garden, making considerable changes, planting bulbs and perennials. In the past, we would have been travelling during a good portion of June and July. But, it is inspiring to be home and witness the unfoldment of the foliage at the end of winter dormancy. After all the culling, disease eradication, expansion of the garden beds and new roses planted, I expect a magnificent first flush of blooms and, let’s hope, a great season ahead.
Last week’s widespread cold snap will hold things back some, but generally, the garden is beginning to have a sense of new growth. At this time of year or whenever we make significant changes to the garden a new landscape will slowly come into view as September turns towards the Summer months. I wonder exactly how it will look after all my changes.
A rural garden is unlike a residential or suburban garden, and has an altogether different appearance. Rather than being about kerb appeal to highlight your home on a street, a rural garden is a balance of aesthetics and utility areas. It provides protection from the elements and surrounds the workings of the land rather than being an appealing garden that is attractive to prospective buyers.
Generally, a rural garden features; no close neighbours, few regulations so you can build a greenhouse etc without council permission. The area is often sparsely populated so gardens can be spread out, with possibly vegetable patches, beehives, chickens, geese and ducks, plus plenty of native wildlife. ‘Rose Beds and Geese’ by English Impressionist -Timothy Easton.
A rural garden requires a bit more extra planning and maintenance. I see this as a positive aspect because it means gardeners develop valuable skills in coexisting with nature and the local wildlife. Often, the best mindset is an attitude of ‘take it as it comes’ ( especially the weather) and to keep away and ‘let them be’ – certainly in the case of snakes. One thing for sure is it results in an abundance of patience.
No garden is ideal; our houses can be orientated so we miss the much-needed northern sun, or we can have large structures in the wrong place that create too much shade, high fences, water tanks, pumps, or other unsightly issues. Every gardener has problems to deal with; perhaps heavy clay soil, open and windy sites, sandy soil, very close neighbours, salt spray, deer, cats, wallabies, insects, foxes, ants, possums and birds that can sometimes devastate our work and make gardening difficult.
Painting by Ann Mortimer, “Sunlight door with geraniums”
Lately, we have had a lot of sheep grazing around the fenceline; and surrounding paddocks. They eat the outer perimeter weeds, and for once, I’m so glad we have high fences; otherwise, the sheep would have eaten the entire garden.
I have tried to hide our not-so-attractive fence this year with plants without letting vines and climbing plants grow over it. That would be easy, but this region is relatively flat and it is a welcome sight to see through the distant paddocks and hills. Instead, here and there, I’ve added shrubs that hopefully will fill some gaps; A purple Buddleja or Butterfly bushes as they are commonly called. They have beautiful cone-shaped flower heads in various colours and a sweet honey-like perfume that attracts butterflies. They love the sun, grow quickly, are evergreen and are best pruned to keep the bushes fresh and not woody. The best feature of Buddlejas is they do not mind clay soil and seem pretty drought tolerant
I’ve planted several old-fashioned bridal wreath –Spirea Cantoniensis plants with white sprays of tiny flowers that grow in long arching branches during late spring and early summer. Despite the size of these plants, being tall and wide they remain light-looking and not dense, which I like. The soft green foliage is like its name- a bridal wreath.
Ceanothus hybrid “Blue Sapphire” is deep bright blue and commonly called Californian Lilac. The colour is vivid, so hopefully, it will be a real eye-catcher in the garden when it gets a bit bigger.
Ceratostigma’ Summer Skies’ Chinese Plumbago is also blue but soft pale blue. It is a small-sized shrub with lacy heads of powder-blue and large leathery green, red-edged leaves. It flowers from mid-summer to autumn, and then its leaves turn red and orange.
Two of these shrubs are blue, a coveted colour in the garden because it is less common in flowering plants and non-existent in roses. Blue as an accent in the garden brings a calm elegance and is easily added with particular plants, flowers and foliage, pots and furniture.
Other blues in the garden are Delphiniums, Salvia Mystic Spires, Nepeta Six Hills Giants and Walkers Low, LObelia, Phlox- Emerald Cushion blue, and Ajuga Caitlins Giant. Painting by British Contemporary Artist – Stephen Darbishire.
With no new blooms in the garden, it is back to inspiration from garden paintings during the last stages of winter. This season I can see already that the garden is going to be quite different to previous years with all the changes, new plants and so much rain and cloudy conditions that have made everything so lush and unseasonal. I began to write this post when the sun was out and Spring seemed not that far off. I spoke too soon, and now the rain is pelting down and is expected to continue for some time yet.
Plants that happily grow with roses and are good companions for roses are Lavender, Catmint, Dianthus, Pansies, Snapdragons, Geraniums, Achillea, Wormwoods, Liliums, Larkspurs and Lambs Ears. They tend to hide the bare legs of roses and fill the gaps between the rose plants providing a full display. I also like the onion family of plants growing with roses such as society garlic, chives, edible garlic and onions and ornamental alliums. These will help deter pests like aphids, ward off black spot and are said to improve the perfume of roses. All good reasons for growing the onion family.
Herbs are also excellent planted with roses and deter pests like Japanese beetles and aphids: Rosemary, Thymes, Marigolds, Sage and other Salvias. Remember to keep the companion plants away from the stem of roses and create an open structure for the roses to have good air circulation. The only drawback to densely packed garden beds with roses is that some plants like Nepeta, Thymes and Salvias will crowd the base of roses and need cutting back during or after summer.
The title image is ‘Bluebonnet Scene’, 1921 by American artist, Robert Julian Onderdonk. He was often called the Father of Texan painting.
The first image is by American artist, Claude Guillaubey.
All other garden paintings as cited.
Shrub photographs courtesy of Wikimedia.com
The title quote is a Chinese proverb
Content Di Baker 2022