“If you have never had a garden you cannot understand, and if you have had a garden you will know that it would take a whole book to describe all that came to pass there.”

The essence of gardening is doing, digging, shaping, moving, and fine-tuning. After weeks of work, it is time for the best part, the planting. The bare-root roses have arrived; half are planted already, with the remainder soaking in buckets waiting for the welcome rain to stop. It is a heady time of year that culminates many months of patience, planning and pondering the design for this coming season. To say I’m excited is an understatement. I’ve relished the challenges of pruning and restoring neglected areas and tackled much more than anticipated, so I can hardly wait to see the outcome.

Processes have always given me more satisfaction than results, any real gardener knows, gardening is all about the delights of the journey- the destination itself is never reached

Alan Titchmarsh

Any plants that were dead, diseased, dying or dreadful have been either uprooted or moved for recovery and the chance to grow in better conditions. As my eyes roam the garden, the position of the roses are laid bare after weeding and removing the messy remains of last summer’s bounty. It is satisfying work and, at times, due to the substantial undergrowth, reminded me of the children’s book The Secret Garden. Under a few impenetrable spaces were sadly forlorn roses covered by thick weeds or wild salvia plants. I knew they were there, but I must admit they had been neglected, and it is a joy to resurrect them, ready for spring.

Kardinal Rose last season

“There’s naught as nice as th’ smell o’ good clean earth, except th’ smell o’ fresh growin’ things when th’ rain falls on ’em.”

FRances Hodgson Burnett

Ingrid Bergnem Rose

The pruned roses sit naked in the ground with shape and form so clearly visible that any other defects or oddness catches the eye. This year I’ve completed a hard prune and focused on repairing and rejuvenating the garden, building up the soil, and fine-tuning rose positions. Some areas get much more frost, sun or wind than others, so many micro-climates exist. The roses were tweaked for colour reasons, moved sideways to make room for a path, lifted out to weed around the roots, and then replanted. Some were removed to make space for the new garden with clusters of three roses of the same variety or moved because they were too close to other roses or were often sunburnt in summer. Most of the moves and pruning are complete, and it has been a great learning curve because clarity was essential, and I am now much more confident and can move on to planting.

“Clarity is the most important thing. I can compare clarity to pruning in gardening. You know, you need to be clear. If you are not clear, nothing is going to happen. You have to be clear. Then you have to be confident about your vision. And after that, you just have to put a lot of work in.”

Diane Von Furstenberg

Christchurch Botanic Gardens NZ

 “Essentially, all life depends upon the soil… There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.” 

Dr. Charles E Kellogg.

The most crucial part of any gardening is the soil; without fertile, nutritious and healthy soil, nothing will grow. Roses are very adaptable but hungry plants and require well-drained soil with loads of humus or decaying organic matter for nutrition.

How To Improve the Soil

  • Adding organic matter will improve soil and make it more friable such as aged manure, compost or mulch. Compost is beneficial because it is rich in humus a form of organic matter that has nutrients, water and carbon in a stable form.
  • Cultivation can be useful to break up hard or compacted soil and aerate the soil to improve drainage. It is important not to turn the soil so that the natural way of the soil is mixed up. Instead, use a gardening fork or a No Dig Method.
  • Gypsum, lime, or dolomite can improve the soil structure by adjusting the pH or increasing minerals that assist the soil particles to cohere to one another.  Gypsum is for hard-packed clay soils and causes the clay particles to become smaller crumbs, improving the structure. It can be applied in powder form or liquid.
  • Soil fertility can be increased by adding store-bought manure pellets, rock phosphates, minerals, mulches, seaweed solutions or pellets, fish emulsions, blood and bone or other chemical-treated nutrients.

Apart from using Sudden Impact fertiliser and Eco seaweed, I am using a product called MycoGold™ this year. It is a mycorrhizal fungi used to improve plant and soil health. The fungi come in an extremely fine powder form that can be used to dip the roots in before planting, made into a solution or added to the planting hole. To test this, there are some roses I’ve not treated, so, it will be interesting to see which roses are more prolific and healthy.
Adding mycorrhizal fungi to garden plants makes them less reliant on other fertilisers and extra water and can achieve better growth, root development, and flower production. Mycorrhizal fungi are not fertilisers, but they make the existing nutrients in the soil easier for the plants to access

“Land is not merely soil, it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.” 

Aldo Leopold

Several areas have been planted with new roses where roses were grown previously, I was concerned that the soil may not be as beneficial for the fresh roses. But, it has been proven that roses treated with mycorrhizal fungi will thrive in the ground where roses used to be and will not be susceptible to rose disease.

One of the most critical aspects of soil and plant health is the ability of plants to uptake nutrients from the soil via mycorrhizal activity. Definition Mycorrhiza is ‘ a symbiotic relationship between a green plant and a fungus. The plant makes organic molecules like sugars by photosynthesis. It supplies them to the fungus, and the fungus supplies the plant with water and mineral nutrients, like soil phosphorus. Existing mycorrhizal activity may have been damaged from over-cropping, pesticides and digging or cultivation,

Benefits of Mycorrhizal

  • Contains Trichoderma, which suppresses the growth of plant pathogenic microorganisms
  • Produces vigorous, healthy plants and develops root growth
  • It helps plants become established from seeds or when transplanted.
  • Increase plant yield and quality
  • Improves drought tolerance
  • Enhances flower production
  • Optimisers the use of fertilizers, particularly phosphorous
  • Improves soil condition
  • Improves uptake of nutrients
Ingrid Bergman Rose taken at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens

……in all my garden there is no red rose.….

Oscar Wilde

Splashes of red roses will be highlighted this season and are planted; across an archway, in a new mass-planted border and a cluster of red in a garden bed. I’ve never grown red roses before except the Kardinal Rose. Kardinal had grown tightly against the far corner fence, making it difficult to reach to photograph or to cut flowers. The nature of the Kardinal rose is quite thorny and vigorous, so it was always hard work to look after. Not to be outdone, my shovel and I executed a dig-out after clearing the surrounding area and pruning the branches. Kardinal is growing in a cluster with Ingrid Bergman and Hommage a Barbara rose planted a couple of months ago further in the garden bed within easy reach.

As mentioned in a previous post, As Good As It Gets, roses were to be mass planted this year into long troughs by the front windows. Instead, I’ve decided to transplant my Fire Opal mass-planted roses to a semi-shaded position leaving a perfect garden bed for As Good As it Gets roses in full sun. This involved digging the twelve Fire Opal roses out and replanting them into new holes. The As Good As It Gets roses arrived this week and were planted immediately because I had already moved the other roses, prepared the garden bed, weeded, and enriched the soil with compost. Thankfully the roses are settled in with the help of the current rainfall- always a bonus.

Fourth of July Rose courtesy of Wikimedia

Another red rose – called the Fourth of July- was bred by Tom Carruth USA in 1999 as a Floribunda large flowering climber now planted with the existing Dublin Bay climbing roses on the front archway. What started as a touch of red in the garden has developed into red highlights and might even become the season’s dominant colour. Why not? Red roses are romantic and add an air of sophistication, and who wouldn’t love to have a bunch of red roses?

“Love and a red rose can’t be hid.”

Thomas Holcroft

Content Di Baker 2023

Images Di Baker or as cited.

Header Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Title quote from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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