May 2016: Long time, no post.

It’s been a while. Having embarked on a degree, I thought the garden might become fully neglected. Instead, it has only become partially neglected… June/July 2015 saw the ‘hot’ border grow to this epic magnitude.

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Impressive? I felt it was worth the hard work to get it to that point. It had grown incredibly full (this was late summer, when all of the ‘jewel’ colours in the garden are at their peak). In the foreground, the heuchera and sedum compete for darkest leaf award, the sedum winning out with its nicely contrasted dark pink flower. Behind it are a dark pink monarda, Burgundy Ice rose, cannas, dark leafed dahlias and a stunning pink salvia. Behind them are the yellows and some oranges. Scorching.

Below is an image of (mostly) both sides of the first section of the garden after one full year’s growth. It is clear from this image how one side has been planted with cool colours and the other with hot colours, and how well it works. Flame the German Shepherd is enjoying the garden too (she likes to chase the buzzy things). You can also see pink sedums, pink Japanese anemones and some antique pink sweet peas in this image.

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You can see that the newly laid brick path we put in last year has wintered, weathered, cracked in places, become overgrown with moss and a few weeds, and generally looks like it has been there for years. That was the idea!

After overwintering and dying back – as herbaceous borders do – I spent a bit of time on it in February, pulling out weeds and throwing on a thick layer of bark mulch to try to control them this year. I’m going fully ‘no dig’ in 2016 so it is all hand pulling of weeds and keeping on top of them, whilst spending as little time as possible doing it as I simply don’t have a lot of time to devote to this section for the next couple of years while I complete my degree.

Here is the border newly mulched and cleared, ready for all new growth. Since this image was taken (below) the hot border has really grown thanks to the lovely warm weather we’ve had in early May in the UK, coupled with the odd torrential downpour!

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All cut back and looking bare! This was taken at the end of February 2016. What a difference a few months of cold weather makes. Hopefully, it will be back to lush, vibrancy in no time. I will update.

Ashamedly In The Pink

It’s mid-July, and the rate of growth in the garden is quite astounding. The left-hand border, which was only created in April, has gone berserk. And contrary to my previous assertions on this blog that I don’t like pink, in any way at all, a disturbing development has occurred – there is a lot of pink in my garden. This is not the cutesy, pretty, delicate kind of pink, either. We’re talking shocking, in-your-face, you-can’t-pretend-this-isn’t-pink pink. I’m mildly ashamed, and slightly confused. Just take a look at the disturbing evidence of my garden’s overt fall into pink disgrace, as shown below.

Lewisia
Lewisia bringing a shocking splash of colour to the front of the border.
Monarda
Monarda ‘Mowhawk’ (Bergamot)
Monarda
Close up of the stunning hot pink Monarda ‘Mowhawk’ (Bergamot)
Salvia
Salvia x sylvestris ‘Rose Queen’
Pittosporum
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’
Rose
David Austin Rose ‘Princess Anne’
Rose
David Austin rose ‘Darcey Bussell’

 

The best rose?

This is, without a doubt, the best rose in my garden.

Rose 'The Lady of Shallot' (David Austin Roses)
Rose ‘The Lady of Shallot’ (David Austin Roses)

It’s vigorous, resistant to everything, blooms constantly, the blooms last for quite a few days, and it smells gorgeous.

Um. This is also the best rose in my garden.

Rose 'Boscobel' (David Austin Roses)
Rose ‘Boscobel’ (David Austin Roses)

Likewise, it’s vigorous, resistant, covered in blooms and buds, and smells delicious.

I thought ‘The Lady of Shallot’ was unbeatable, but clearly not so. These two are the stalwarts in my rose bed. However…

This rose is almost the best rose in my garden.

Rose 'Princess Anne' (David Austin Roses)
Rose ‘Princess Anne’ (David Austin Roses)

She flowers constantly, and her flowers change colour, which leads to an amazing grouping of perfectly matched colouring. The older roses fade to a lilac colour, while the new buds open as a deep pink colour. The effect is impressive. Put Rose ‘Princess Anne’ with Rose ‘Munstead Wood’, Rose ‘Darcey Bussell’, Rose ‘Sexy Rexy’ and Rose ‘Boscobel’ (as I have), and you have an impressive grouping of perfectly matched colours (see below).

Raised rose bed - June
Raised rose bed – June

Rose ‘The Lady of Shallot’ looks nice planted behind Rose ‘Indian Summer’ and Rose ‘Shine On’, all David Austin Roses (I really should get paid for all this good publicity). Always plant ‘The Lady of Shallot’ behind others – it’s vigorous and will grow high and wide. Ideal for the back of a border, not the front. Can also be grown as a climber.

All the yellows
All the yellows

Speaking of climbing roses, I have a new best rose in my garden. Hopefully, she will prove just as strong and resistant as all my other best roses!

Rose 'Teasing Georgia' (David Austin Roses)
Rose ‘Teasing Georgia’ (David Austin Roses)

Sadly, this rose (below) has so far proved not to be the best rose in my garden.

Rose 'Boule de Neige' (David Austin Roses)
Disastrous Rose ‘Boule de Neige’ (David Austin Roses)

Rose ‘Boule de Neige’ has suffered from either the early cold snap, thrips or aphid damage. The buds have turned yellow before fully formed, in some cases, and dropped off. The rest have remained on the plant and tried to develop, but have produced stunted, tiny flowers. I have sprayed twice with Rose Clear Ultra (active ingredients triticonazole and acetamiprid – acetamiprid is considered to be one of the neonicotinoids to blame for Colony Collapse Disorder in bees), and I’m reluctant to do so again. May try a washing up liquid mix and see if that helps. I suspect it’s too late for this particular rose to benefit from much help now. Hopefully, next year it won’t suffer the same fate. It’s obviously not particularly resistant. In the same bed, behind Boule de Neige, is Rose ‘Wollerton Old Hall’, and that seems to be thriving and starting to produce plenty of flowers.

Rose 'Wollerton Old Hall' (David Austin Roses)
Rose ‘Wollerton Old Hall’ (David Austin Roses)

Roses in May

The first David Austin roses are budding and flowering. The first variety of the year to flower, three days ago, was Princess Anne (why I bought this rose I don’t know, as I don’t love pink and I certainly have no affinity with Princess Anne!). Here she is:

Rose 'Princess Anne' (David Austin Roses)
Rose ‘Princess Anne’ (David Austin Roses)

As it has consistently shown for the last two years, David Austin’s The Lady of Shallot is enthusiastically lush and full of buds in early May. It is the tallest plant in the rose bed, by about a foot, and full of stems, leaf and buds. She has flowered very closely on the heels of Princess Anne.

David Austin 'The Lady of Shallot' rose
David Austin ‘The Lady of Shallot’ rose

Despite feeding the roses, and giving them all a light prune in March, they haven’t looked especially healthy so far this year (excluding ‘Lady of Shallot’, which always looks healthy, regardless). I will need to keep up the feeding, and mulch the whole raised bed soon with rotted manure. Rose ‘Blue Moon’ is looking especially ill, and I don’t know why. The roses are all now affected by greenfly, some worse than others, and a third have black spot. They were sprayed once with Rose Clear in April, but now need a repeat spraying. I’ll keep up the spraying of Rose Clear every two weeks from now on. I’m picking off the leaves affected by black spot and putting them in the brown bin (I should burn them – I have no incinerator).

I’ve decided that – in the spirit of the Chelsea Flower Show – the ‘Lady of Shallot’ rose will be my rose of the decade! I am so impressed with its vigour and repeat flowering, it’s almost evergreen nature and strong, climber-like habit. Everyone should grow one of these roses. I recommend it all the time to our customers at work, as you can be a complete beginner or a rose aficionado, and you’ll still find this rose has endless merits and is unbelievably trouble-free to grow. It’s a rose to restore your faith in roses (we all know how frustrating and disheartening they can be to grow).

Phase 3: Raised beds

Time to have a quick breather, and enjoy the fruits of our labour. After mowing the lawns, the garden is looking good and starting to come together. Here is a view from not-quite-the-top of the garden, looking down towards the house. Ornamental and fruit trees can be seen, with a cut away section after this where the raised beds are being constructed. Beyond that is Flame’s lawn, and beyond the lawn is the rose arch and planted herbaceous beds. It’s looking good.

Garden view from the top
The long view of the garden.

Here’s a closer view of the raised beds area. (Yes, that is an unusually large Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ tree in the foreground.)

Raised beds.
Current view of the raised beds section.
Rose beds under construction.
Rose bed under construction – 2013.

With the first section almost complete – aside from the planned reclaimed brick path – it’s necessary to focus on the raised vegetable beds. It’s now May, and I need to start growing vegetables and salads, before it’s too late! As can be seen, there are three raised beds already constructed. A fourth is planned for the central area, but hasn’t been built yet. To the left of the picture, a raised bed can be seen planted with roses. This is the rose bed, and it was filled and planted towards the end of 2013, soon after I moved into the house.  The roses suffered a little over winter, and seemed to be plagued with black spot and die-back earlier in the year. I pruned them mid-March, and they have definitely benefited from this, and a liberal spray of Rose Clear. They’re now showing plenty of healthy new leaf, and most have flower buds forming. I’m really, really, REALLY (can’t stress enough) looking forward to seeing these roses flower.

A note about roses

I find roses a little fussy for my liking, as they’re often randomly developing fungal infections and diseases that seem beyond my control. They need regular spraying with anti-fungal and insecticide treatments, and they like a lot of water. They’re high maintenance, which is not my preference in a plant at all. Contrary to popular opinion (maybe), I have found that roses do best in a hot spot, South facing, with oodles of water to keep the soil moisture levels high. In this environment, they seem to really flourish. I have grown them like this in terracotta pots, and they thrived.

David Austin roses can be very temperamental; the first year or two of growth can be incredibly soft and leggy. Persevere, and the more resilient cultivars can be the most amazingly rewarding roses. I highly recommend  The Lady of Shallot, for incredible resistance to disease and black spot, very vigorous growth, and extended growing throughout the year (they are pretty much evergreen in the UK). The Lady of Shallot can be grown as a climber or shrub rose. Another vigorous David Austin rose is Wollerton Old Hall, and I recommend it.

I have visited David Austin roses on a number of occasions, initially as part of my job as a horticulturist at a large and well known garden centre in Derby. We were able to visit and observe the inner workings of the rose factory that is David Austin roses. There are now countless varieties of David Austin roses, two or three new cultivars appearing every year. Many of these won’t stand the test of time, for varying reasons. Despite coming through annual rose trials to be selected for colour, vigour, resistance, scent, and popularity, a cultivar may prove to be less vigorous or less scented, and won’t sell well. There are many David Austin groupies, and we see them a lot in garden centres. Many people will want to try to grow every new variety.

The grounds of David Austin Roses is well worth a visit, and anyone can do so. Best time to visit being June to August, for maximum appreciation of the summer flowering roses, and the formal herbaceous gardens. David Austin roses spray all of the roses grown on their grounds fortnightly, which is worth noting (if they do it, it might be a consideration to spray our roses more often at home?). Many of the David Austin roses are grown on site in large pots, including climbers and standards. Again, worth noting.

Roses can be grown in containers very successfully. However, a deep, well-drained raised bed is a better option, and I’m lucky enough to have the option to build a raised bed purely for roses. Heaven! Here are some of my current rose cultivars growing in the raised bed:

  • David Austin – ‘Munstead Wood’
  • David Austin – ‘Darcey Bussell’
  • Rose – ‘Sexy Rexy’
  • David Austin – ‘Princess Anne’
  • David Austin – ‘Boscobel’
  • David Austin – ‘Boule de Neige’
  • David Austin – ‘Wollerton Old Hall’
  • Rose – ‘Blue Moon’
  • David Austin – ‘The Lady of Shallot’
  • David Austin – ‘Indian Summer’
  • David Austin – ‘Shine On’