This is the story of a country garden in the Lachlan Valley of NSW, an area known to grow beautiful roses due to the fertile clay soil, and hot dry climate. This page is is my record of the beginnings of a rose garden that others may find inspiring. I’m an amateur gardener who has learnt through trial and error the complexities of gardening in our rural setting. There was never any doubt about, what my heart was set on, in starting a garden- roses!. And so the garden began.
A garden on a farm is a necessary and important sanctuary from the harshness of the Australian rural landscape for many farmers and their families. So, early in the Autumn of 2017, my youngest son on a weekend visit helped me start the difficult task of removing the 40 year old Yucca plants from what had been a small garden bed After that early initiative, many hours were spent digging out the hundreds of massive Yucca roots from within the earth in preparation for the garden.
Once the Yuccas were removed, gypsum, compost, dolomite and aged sheep manure from under the floor of the shearing shed were added to the soil. Then it was time to let the worms do their work by mulching with newspaper and compost then leaving the ground alone over winter before any actual planting took place.
There are always limitations, constraints and challenges, in every garden with varied climatic conditions, soil quality, available space and budget. Whether we have a balcony garden, a sprawling vegetable garden, a suburban garden and entertaining area or a garden on a farm. Whatever garden we undertake the most important aspects are a vision of what we want, passion for the task ahead, plenty of perseverance, and the ability to learn from our mistakes. Things will miraculously grow.
These images show the first steps taken to create the garden and note that the soil is starting to change colour as nutrients are added. I planted a range of annuals to give a tentative idea of a possible garden until ready for the first order of bare root roses and perennials went in the winter of 2017.
Fire Opal was a new release rose from Treloar Roses 2018. I mass planted this rose along the verandah edge and it has since given us many days of continuous blooms. It is a short rose with beautiful lush green foliage, and lovely, novelty style flowers that dance in the breeze all season long. It has been a great choice, and now several seasons on in 2022, it remains bright green, free of disease, healthy and always in flower.
It is hard to imagine that a garden grows in this area at all as the soil seemed impossible to cultivate and yet miraculously it has become a lush and prolific garden full of underplantings, and spectacular roses.
My garden was initially a lawn that would die off in winter and the method I used to transform to a garden bed was the no-dig style. Every time you break the soil by digging, you release more weed seeds, and disturb the soil’s complex nature. It is best to leave it alone, and the microorganisms, and worms will do the digging for you.
The basic steps are to
- Smother the grass with a thick, wet layers of newspaper, plain cardboard or old natural carpet and cover thoroughly in layers with compost, straw, mulch or whatever organic materials you have.
- Water it well and leave. Note: I had already dug the holes for roses before mulching and I placed an old plate on top of each so, I knew where to plant my roses when they arrived in winter. I then planted directly into the prepared holes,
- Water well, do not fertilise at this time and wait.
Although clay soil is fertile, with loads of nutrients, it can have drainage problems, so adding compost material and gypsum will improve the soil structure over time. Roses do not like being waterlogged because it deprives the plants of oxygen. Clay soil is also better if not walked on too much, as compaction makes the clay very hard. Again, adding more organic matter will help improve heavy clay soil.
There is an area I call The Palm Garden as it has a large date palm in the centre ( not ideal, but it’s already there so far, be it from me to remove a hundred-year-old tree.) This area is slightly protected from the afternoon sun by an archway with Papi Delbard climbing rose adorning it and a La Vie En Rose that has grown quite large, creating its own micro-climate. The Palm Garden is rarely without blooms in a beautiful range of colours, from creams and yellows to peach, apricot, orange and magenta roses. Low roses grow at the edge, and taller roses: Enchanting, Opportunity Rose, My Yellow, That’s Life, Paul Bocuse, and Cubana towards the back, amongst several other roses.
These photos show the difference that a bit of work, patience, sunlight, and water can make. From time to time, various fixtures have been added to create interest. An arch was added at the end of the path, and a weeping cherry was planted as a feature, but it did not survive and was replaced with the Wollerton Old Hall weeping rose. This has started to grow but has yet to reach its full potential. It flowers beautifully but continues to grow upwards and has no desire to weep down as planned. There are now, in 2022, three archways and a gazebo with Pierre de Ronsard, Quicksilver, Cecile Brunner, Peace and Kathleen Harrop roses growing. It is almost a race to see which will make it up and over the arch first. My bet is Quicksilver, even though it was planted only last summer. Time will tell.
It is a common habit in the country that the front door is rarely used even when there is a straight path across the lawn to the door. The lavender growing when this photo was taken shows how lavender thrives in the hot afternoon sun, and the bees love it. Two steel obelisks stand proudly at the entrance, growing Shropshire Lad and Pierre Gagnaire roses. It has taken some time to get the roses going on what we call ‘the rockets’, and I’ve made several changes in variety because for one reason or another they did not grow well in those spots. Now in 2022, Pierre Gagnaire rose has completely covered the rocket and has gorgeous glossy foliage and hundreds of blooms.
My garden is surprising, I would not have thought it possible to have such an abundance of roses so quickly. The challenges are the unattractive high fence to keep sheep and kangaroos out of the garden, the ravage of rural weeds, insects, and other pests, and the intense sun exposure for the plants, and the gardener. Within these constraints, the garden is both a work in progress, and a triumph, providing many hours of joy, and a magnificent supply of rose blooms and fragrance.
From time to time, I look back at these photos after setbacks; drought, floods, insect plagues and heat waves have caused significant problems, and it reminds me where it began. I’ve learnt that a garden does not happen overnight. It takes patience, and you have to work the best you can within the scope of your garden space, climate, soil, and weather. I’ve learnt that roses vary from one season to another, and take time to be fully established- some more than others. Their characteristics can take several seasons to become the spectacular roses we admired in pictures or catalogues when we planted them. There are always compromises to deal with; the most important thing is to enjoy gardening; the fun, the digging, the sun, the soil, and most definitely, the rewards. And
Content Di Baker
Updated and reposted from a page in 2022
All images are taken from the garden 2017 to 2022