“Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipations. It is not much matter if things do not turn out well.”

Spring has flooded the garden with colour from hundreds of plants: salvias, geraniums, perennials, herbs and roses. The Lady of Shalott roses have been superb this spring, although, nature always has the upper hand. Looking closely around the garden, overall the first round of rose blooms did not open as well as expected. There are signs of various issues with the garden roses and less with the potted roses. Primarily, browned petals, damaged buds, and in both areas, insects have eaten the blooms from inside the buds before they can open.

Dark Desire Rose

The garden reads like a textbook on ‘Rose Problems’ with signs of fungal issues, dieback, phyllody and several roses have reverted to their root stock. Plus a five year old Crepuscule rose growing in a large terracotta pot had root gall so, unfortunately it was discarded. Despite regular deep watering, observing, fertilising, mulching and weeding, things can go awry sometimes.

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself” 

May Sarton
La Vie En Rose with insect damage

Oddly, this is the first year in the garden that I have followed the expert’s advice, pruned heavily, opened the garden for more air circulation, fertilised regularly, and made significant changes to increase biodiversity. As anyone who gardens will know, the only way forward after taking stock of the situation is to move on and try again. However it was pleasing to see that the local nursery had the same issues in the remaining roses for sale, so perhaps these insects are widespread and seasonal.

Mademoiselle Meilland Rose Standard is unaffected by the insects.

In rural environments, insect infestation occurs on a greater scale, and we never have just a few of one variety of insect. I’ve noticed that they arrive in massive numbers when they blow in, as we experienced in last year’s wasp plague. The hot, dry climate and heatwave conditions are conducive to an array of insects, especially on the Thank You and Mango Tango roses. Bees still love the rose blooms, even if they are unsightly. After deadheading and cutting back problem blooms, I’ve noticed the second round of roses are opening and looking much better. Not perfect, but promising.

“All the accomplished gardeners I know are surprisingly comfortable with failure. They may not be happy about it, but instead of reacting with anger or frustration, they seem freshly intrigued by the peony that, after years of being taken for granted, suddenly fails to bloom. They understand that, in the garden at least, failure speaks louder than success. 

Michael Pollan

I have learned that several plants are susceptible to a fungal disease called Botrytis cinerea, that attacks the blooms but not the leaves on roses, grapes, tulips, gladiolus, and marigolds. Also, bare-root roses can also develop problems in the cool, moist conditions of shipping them from the growers. The fungal disease can remain dormant in winter until the humidity and warmer conditions start. Often roses are planted on the end of grape vine rows to warn the farmers that fungal activity is present. Botrytis will settle on the roses first.

“The garden is an unhappy place for the perfectionist. Too much stands beyond our control here, and the only thing we can absolutely count on is eventual catastrophe.”

Michael Pollan 
Tangles Rose and Pope John Paul behind.

The diversity of the plants now in the garden has created a terrific textural display, and the efforts spent on tweaking the design have finally paid off: planting more heat-resistant hardy roses for the archways, removing recalcitrant roses. Last year was dominated by abnormal amounts of rain that resulted in a flooded garden and almost all the lavender plants died, followed by some roses, I am well satisfied that the effort spent on recovery was worth it even if a magnificent floral display is now delayed. With temperatures already at 37 degrees the past few days, I’ve been busy with deadheading, mulching and watering. However, some days have been cooler, with less hot dry winds so it’s an opportunity to spray the eco-seaweed and eco-rose to combat the fungal issue.

After all that work to remedy the garden issues, time has moved along, and slowly new roses are beginning to open. One unique, beautiful rose is the Soul Sister Rose. There are two new elegant standard Soul Sister roses in the front garden to replace two other standards that had to be removed after the flood. I chose standards for Soul Sister to help establish the roses more readily at a height to view them easily.

“Working in the garden … gives me a profound feeling of inner peace. Nothing here is in a hurry. There is no rush toward accomplishment, no blowing of trumpets. Here is the great mystery of life and growth. Everything is changing, growing, aiming at something, but silently, unboastfully, taking its time.”

Ruth Stout

Soul Sister is a gorgeous floribunda rose bred by Christian Bedard in 2008 in the USA and called Koko Loco. It was introduced in the United States by Weeks in 2012 as ”Koko Loco”. It was released in Australia in 2015 as ”Soul Sister” by Swane’s Nurseries, who are the agents for Weeks Roses. Soul Sister has a stunning yet subtle colouring from classic-shaped, high-pointed blooms that are both singular and in small clusters. The colour starts as bronze chocolate brown buds that open to a café latte colour and fade to a soft lavender pink. The blooms are hardy and stay on the rose for an extended time.

“The beautiful Spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” 

Harriet Ann Jacobs

As part of the garden redesign in winter, I moved all my Ballerina Roses to a site by a large palm tree that dominates one of the garden beds. It is a tricky site because of the strong afternoon sun yet also has shade at times. Any plants trying to grow under trees will have extra issues with the soil, so I’ve been careful to build the soil up here and mulch well, and so far, they are settling in. The idea is that they form a pretty billowing hedge that will be viewed from our outdoor dining area on the long verandah.

The Ballerina Rose has long, large clusters of tiny pink blooms with white centres. The perfume is a mild musk scent. It was introduced in 1937 by J A Bentall in the UK and is classified as a Hybrid Musk Rose. After being planted out in the garden from five pots, I’ve enjoyed the first flush of flowers, which should return again in Summer and later in Autumn will be covered in a beautiful array of orange-red rose hips that follow. The Ballerina Rose was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society “Award of Garden Merit” in 1993 because it is so disease-resistant, almost thornless, and is suitable for many situations: as a hedge, as a climber, shrub, or potted billowy rose.

The gardener learns nothing when his carrots thrive, unless that success is won against a background of prior disappointment. Outright success is dumb, disaster frequently eloquent. At least to the gardener who knows how to listen.”

Michael Pollan

The other new rose is a David Austin climbing rose – Graham Thomas. It was planted this year as a bare-root rose, and hopefully, it will grow along the pool fence. It is vigorous, upright climber with cupped blooms in rich yellow. This one is also a replacement rose as the original was lost as well.

So much of the garden is new this year, and combined with the heavy pruning and the transplanting of particular roses that will take time to reestablish, means delayed blooms this season. I’ve had to cut so many damaged buds and blooms off early. I have collected a few photos of the varieties that have graced the garden with colour for now.

On the other hand, there are always some roses that at times develop problems especially when grown in hard clay soil. The roots get down to the impenetrable clay and do not grow much more. So I’ve moved them at times into into pots and placed the pot in what I call the hospital area. This effectively isolates a rose if it is not doing well and helps it recover. It has worked well for example, the Diana Princess of Wales Rose. One such rose, potted from the garden has now recovered and bloomed magnificently this year. The rose is called Cote d’Azur and features bright sparkling yellow flowers that appear to love the hot weather. It is a Delbard Hybrid Tea from the Grand Parfum Collection bred in France in 2001. It also features an abundance of high-centred blooms that exude a lemon spicy scent. It is always rewarding to see a rose recover after the time spent nurturing them.


Not perfect ‘Summer of Love Rose’.

Also beginning to flower is a rose I simply adore, called ‘Summer Of Love.’ The colouring is a standout that changes throughout the season depending on the weather. Unfortunately, this rose was not going well last year, so it was potted up out of the garden. You may recognise the roses on the header image ( the three roses together). I’m pleased to say the Summer of Love Rose opened yesterday and is now much brighter in colour, but it only lasted two days due to the hot weather. Nonetheless, a gorgeous Hybrid Tea Rose that was bred by Dr. Keith W. Zary in 2000 in the USA. Until this unique rose becomes well established, it will be grown in a large white pot and sit by the back door so I can keep an eye on it and enjoy the buttery yellow to apricot flowers that fade to salmon and coral.

I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.

David Hobson

Another elegant rose is Dark Desire, with its sensual deep burgundy red blooms set off by dark green foliage. This extraordinary rose was bred by Tim Hermann Kordes in Germany in 2003. It was known as ‘Grafin Diana’ in Germany – in 2012, in South Africa as ‘Burgundy Panarosa’ in France in 2015 as ‘ Madame de Montespan’ and in the USA and Australia as ‘Dark Desire.’ ( Australia 2016, USA 2015).

Dark Desire is a hybrid tea from the Parfuma Collection with nearly black buds that open to reveal stunning violet-to-red blooms. The full parentage is unknown, but the colour suggests one parent must have been Chartreuse de Parme. And the best feature is, that the Dark Desire rose is very disease resistant to blackspot and mildew.


“It’s the time that you have wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important…”

So, the lesson learned from this rather disappointing spring start is patience. At times, that first flush of roses attract many insects, but the next round of roses, may be better and more beautiful. Perseverance is the key and going with nature’s course. As the garden is young, it will take some time to appreciate all the changes fully. In the meantime, I aim to keep the spider mites, blackspot, and other fungal issues at bay and wait.

Title quote by Charles Dudley Warner

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