Overnight the garden has gone from an abundance of colourful perfumed roses and perennials to a windblown saturated, flooded garden. Many roses lie in a sodden mess face down in ponds of still water. I love the sound of rain on our tin roof, but just now, rain is not what we want to hear.
Rain was expected and came on queue, delivering a deluge of 128 mm ( over 4 inches) in just a few hours. Fortunately, the wind is blowing, the sun is shining, and the rain has ceased. So, time now to evaluate the damage. In this region, the farmland is flat, and the garden sits adjacent to an ephemeral creek spread across the paddocks way beyond the usual parameters. We have water views in every direction, and a massive expanse surrounds the house. Fortunately, levy banks around the garden and home have kept us safe and dry inside, so although the garden is underwater, the sun still shines.
Hundreds of late spring blooms are rain damaged, but they can easily be cut off, and new buds will form. The water in the garden may recede quickly before too much damage occurs to the roots of the roses. So, although the garden looks a shambles, with many shrubs blown off the arches and branches of roses lying down with their heavy blooms underwater, I am hoping for the best in the garden.
We were only just getting back on track after the recent floods and rains, and our local road had opened to be able to leave the area. But now every road, including our town’s main highway, is closed. It is hard not to be concerned for the garden but unimportant compared to the devastation others are experiencing in many rural towns across our state. Our neighbouring small communities that reside by the river are all evacuated as floodwaters inundate their homes and businesses. The devastation is heartbreaking.
Initially after a flood the garden is best left alone and I am not walking on ours for fear of snakes, and it’s alive with mosquitoes at present as well. It will be better to work on it after the levels go down overnight and for the next few days.
However if others are in the same position and need advice on flooded gardens, this website may be helpful. It is an article from Sustainable Gardens Australia on flooded gardens’ do’s and don’ts.
Ten Tips for Garden Flood Recovery
1 Keep off the Garden is the main thing to do initially. Let the water drain off before attempting to walk on the soil. Otherwise you will do more damage. Foot traffic causes compaction of the soil so even less oxygen can get to the roots of plants. Wait until it can hold your weight and not sink in when walked on.
2 Pressure Wash It is best to pressure wash the leaves of large shrubs and trees to allow photosynthesis, If you can wash the silt off early it will help prevent losses later.
3 Soil microbes are important and the highest priority after a flood. Soil microbes are exactly what the garden needs after waterlogging. If you do nothing else add microbes back into the soil in products such as Seasol, Go Go Juice, Searles Compost, Eco-Seaweed, Garden Mate, or Seamungus.
4 Wilting and Waterlogging causes depletion of oxygen from the soil and the longer plants sit in waterlogged garden beds the more damage is done. Initially the leaves may drop off, so gentle pruning may help but most plants once the sun is out will slowly recover. Don’t be too hasty with pruning.
5 Fungicide may be necessary for the garden if it is showing signs of stress. Apply a general organic fungicide before any other treatment. Then apply the microbes a week later so the fungicide does not harm the soil microbes that are needed to build up the soil.
6 Compaction Heavy rain will cause soil compaction, but if it is not compounded by walking on the garden it may not need any remedy. The weight of floodwater can cause severe compaction and the longer the soil is underwater, the worse the compaction will be. If required, pumping water out of the garden is advised then add compost and organic matter.
8 Silt is made of fine particles of highly nutrient rich soil. It is good for gardens when combined with compost or mulch. On its own when left on leaves and branches it will dry like concrete.
7 Trees may require fungicide to prevent slow damage from fungal pathogens.
9 Contamination can occur from sewerage, rubbish, oils and heavy metals in floodwaters. When entering the garden after a flood be careful and aware of possible rubbish, broken glass and debris, dress appropriately and to prevent bites from mosquitoes.
10 Fertilising It is definitely not the time to fertilise the garden because stressed plants cannot take up fertiliser. An organic fertiliser can be added after a month or so for maximum benefit.
At times the best action is to do nothing and let nature prevail. I am heeding the advice from my research and doing nothing in the first instance. until the ground is dry enough to stand on. We are pumping the water out in the deep garden areas, and then I’ll evaluate later as the water recedes. It has only been a week since a location in the back garden was flooded, where I lost several roses and lavender plants because they had sat in stagnant water with wet feet for too long.
On the other hand the extra water has been welcomed by many roses growing in pots and in other areas of the garden that are on slightly higher ground. Meet the Ashram rose, a spectacular hybrid tea orange rose consistently free of disease and black spot. Bred by Hans Jürgen Evers in Germany in 1998 and introduced in Germany by Rosen-Tantau/Tantau Roses in 1998 as ‘Ashram’.
Ashram rose catches your eye from the golden orange apricot blooms that simply glow in the garden and have a mild fruity scent. It is a strong rose with a high-centred bloom form and is nearly always in flower growing to 120 cm tall. This one is a standard rose now growing four years on, with strong healthy dark green foliage, and vibrant orange roses that last in a vase. A highly recommended rose as a bush rose or a standard.
Title quote by Alan Watts
Content Di Baker 2022
Images November 2022 Di Baker