Archives for category: Roses

Sometimes I feel like I spend more of my weeding time on paths than I do on beds. But then again, sometimes you get the nicest of surprises that sprout up on paths, especially if you have gravel paths which seem to be the perfect seed incubation site. Here’s a nice little Sedum seedling. I have a few around the place. I’ll remove this one from the gravel and pot it up to be re-homed most likely next spring.

Sedum seedling

Sedum seedling

My best self-sower is Verbena bonariensis. It could almost be called a weed if it weren’t so nice and so share-able. Every year I give away pots of the stuff. It creates a veritable forest and is covered with butterflies on sunny days.

Verbena bonariensis forest

Verbena bonariensis forest

Another nice little surprise I often find is Knautia macedonica. It is the favourite colour of course and fills a space nicely. It can get a bit floppy but, then again, can’t we all?

Knautia macedonica seedling

Knautia macedonica seedling

I worked a bit at the Big Garden last weekend. The rose beds were edged (three and a half hours later and with a gimped back). They look ok. I had to prune out most of the colour as the petals were dropping, but happily the dahlias (which were planted in the red bed to make up for the fact that the red roses were so pathetic) look absolutely fabulous. I don’t know the variety but they are ace. See for yourself.

Dahlias

Dahlias in the red rose bed

The big flower border needs edging (again) and general weeding and cutting back needs to happen. Hopefully I will be able to do a couple of hours tomorrow. The Little Garden really needs my attention but I’ll have to try and spread the love.

Here’s a nice way to end. Finally, a summer that has allowed for a pumpkin to grow outside in the west of Ireland. Here’s the progress so far:

Pumpkin

Pumpkin at the Little Garden

Next time… a few new plants to show off, plus lots and lots of bees and flying varmints.

With the beginning of the traditional Irish spring on the 1st of February, I got back to work at the Big Garden after a very, very long winter.  Yesterday was a gorgeous Saturday morning.  It was the first really nice morning I’ve been able to get out and do something: it’s either been too cold, too wet or too dark to do much since November.  So I took myself to the Big Garden, had a look around and decided that it was time to prune the four standard roses in the big mixed border.  I may have mentioned these before.  They are a lovely pink… but a lovely pink that doesn’t really go with any other colour.  Still, they have to be cared for.

Standard roses in flower in the big border

Standard roses in flower in the big border

I always have a bit of fear before I start to prune something like standard roses because they really rely on their shape to make a statement.  Their shape is their reason for being afforded such a prominent place in the garden.  If they weren’t shaped like lollipops they’d just be bush roses and, believe me, there are enough of them in the Big Garden.  So it is up to the gardener to keep the shape while at the same time rejuvenate the plant and not let it become congested with older wood.  It can be a bit daunting, but once I got started it was fine.  If you just throw yourself into pruning and not worry about hurting the plant (the majority are tough and resilient), you’ll be fine and will become more confident with each pruning job you do.

One of the standard roses, July 2011

One of the standard roses, July 2011

So, it was time to take out a good bit of older wood; I had missed my opportunity last year as I only got back to work once the roses were about to flower.  I wasn’t going to miss my window of opportunity this year.  I stuck to the one-third rule, i.e., each year or every other year (depending on growth habit), take out a third of a plant’s older wood.  With the standard roses this meant taking out one big, old shoot down to the base (in this case, down to the graft untion).  Then I went through and took out all the dead material, including last year’s old hips.  Next, I took out crossing stems.  After that I made sure the overall height was down about 6 to 8 inches.  Finally, I went through the whole head of the plant and thinned out very spindly growth and congested areas.  It took me about two hours, so half an hour a rose.

Before pruning

Before pruning

I will let the pruning settle and in a week or so, depending on weather and growth, I will drag myself into the big muck heap and get a few bags of well-rotted manure.  Lord knows there is enough of it piled up in the walled garden.  The last year has not been kind in terms of weather so I will have to let someone know that I’m going onto the muck heap for fear that I may never come out of it.  But once I do manage to extricate myself from the mire, I will heap up a bit of the manure around the roses to encourage recovery and growth after the haircut.  It’s still a bit frosty so I’ll just keep an eye on the weather.

After pruning

After pruning

I noticed that there has been a bit of wind rock with the roses.  Last year I took out a lot of very old, overgrown shrubs that were providing a bit of shelter for the roses from the prevailing westerlies.  I was a bit concerned that if we had the normal winter gales we get here in the west of Ireland the roses might snap off because they are so top heavy (in the very top photo you can see what happens when they get too top heavy).  Thankfully this didn’t happen.  But they did rock quite a bit.  Taking a good bit of weight off the top will help as will re-staking.

Close-up of the standard rose

Close-up of the standard rose

Finally, once the roses start into growth I will have to start a spraying regime.  The roses are the only thing in the garden that get sprayed with chemicals.  They make up an important part of the garden and have to be sprayed to be kept looking well.  Unfortunately we live in the blackest spot for blackspot and I have to use every weapon I have to keep the fungal disease at bay.  I don’t like using rose spray but I’m afraid it is a necessary evil.  I do also use seaweed feed and other organic materials on the very, needy roses.  They are really gorgeous in the summer when they are in full swing, but by God are they high-maintenance!

Taking care of the prissy misses was a thoroughly satisfying job to do on a lovely, early spring morning.  I was delighted with myself.  I then went and had a look out the front at the 36 or so rose bushes I have to prune next and felt less delighted with myself.  But then I went into the woods and saw the snowdrops, my faith in the garden restored.

Snowdrops on the second of Feburary

Snowdrops on the second of Feburary

Next time… A Strawberry Dilemma

This is Raford House, home of the big garden part of my blog.

Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year to work in the garden.  I have been busy digging up perennials from my own place to divide and take over to the big house for the large border there.  I suppose there is some risk involved in moving plants this time of year, especially since the weather here in the west of Ireland is due to turn cold towards the end of the week (not to mention the fact that the ground is swamped from the summer that never showed up).  But I’m a bit of a gambler and am only moving things that you probably couldn’t kill if you tried (some dark Aquilegias and a clump of Geum rivale Leonard’s Variety).

My friends get the benefit of my division frenzy and are well used to having milk containers with the tops chopped off filled with bits and pieces of root and stem and leaf.  What’s this? they ask.  And I always say, just plonk it in the ground, give it a bit of space and trust me.  I’m trying to get as much lifted this year so that in the spring when I’m frantically sowing seeds and clearing the weeds (which continue to grow through the winter here), I won’t have to be so worried about dividing things.  And next year will be a big year for division as a lot of my stock is three or four years old now and well due hacking back and reviving.

We are slowly trying to make the big border less pink.  In the past someone who knew what they were doing planted loads of really nice shrubs and perennials.  Many are decidedly in need of serious haircuts and division.  I’m working through it as best I can, while simutaneously trying to eradicate scutch grass and a couple of horribly invasive weeds that have worked their way in from the river’s edge.  The problem with getting rid of the pink is that the main feature of the big border is four standard roses which are… you guessed it, PINK.  The pink itself is a lovely clear pink, but it is a pink that doesn’t want to go with any other colour.  As you can see, it demands attention and everything else pales beside it.  Worse still, it is swamped by Johnson’s Blue geranium run amok.  Pink and pale blue.  Yes, I know, it screams of the 1980s.  Dare I mention the pink astilbe which has made gargantuan clumps and totally clashes with the rose?  No, I dare not.

Close-up of the standard rose

I may be bold and introduce some dark foliage.  I have a happy accident in one of my own stock beds (at the little garden) involving Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and Gertrude Jekyll (the rose, that is).  So it’s possible that some lovely rich-coloured foliage might sophisticate the border a bit, or at least take the smug look off the standard roses’ faces (lovely though they are).

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and Gertrude Jekyll

Back to work now.  I must go check the pea and broad bean seeds I have sown for overwintering.  And the tomatoes are screaming for me to clear them out of the tunnel.  A gardener’s work is never done (whether it’s in a big garden or a little garden).