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My husband and I retired 10 years ago to Vancouver Island and chose a two bedroom home a block away from the sea. The builder couldn't sell it as it was wall to wall massive broom plants. If I had looked around I would have seen that there were no gardens in sight anywhere. Only burnt lawns and lots of broom, plus weeds. This made my husband happy as he is horticulturally challenged and had no interested in making a garden.
With those facts ringing in my ears I decided to start a garden. I have grown roses for many years and knew that the old ones would survive in poor land. But what to do about the broom. Being retired the pennies had to be watched. I came across a person that told me they knew of a contractor that had bought the largest Hitachi excavator and wanted somewhere for his son to practice on free. He spent three days digging up the whole acre and we had bonfires that drew out the fire, police and neighbours . What we didn't know at the time was that when you burn broom you can activate seeds that have been dormant for 80 years. And activate them we did Next year the place looked like a field of tiny broom plants. We spent about an hour a day, for 3 years, delicately plucking out tiny broom seedlings as Roundup doesn't touch them.
In the spring I got a farmer in to plough the land. First he told me to go over the whole area and dig up every thistle, dandelion and plantain weed. That he said would save me years of weeding. Next he built a farm and field type fence all around the property .Plus he made "rooms" by enclosing areas with the fencing. I choose wire and wood because I wanted to have air circulation around the ramblers and climbers. I also wanted to make the different room walls using the ramblers woven through the fence .
Now the land was ready to plant. First I laid out the paths and filled them in with bark mulch. Then I planted the trees. I was fortunate as there was a small select nursery closing down and I bought most of his trees for less than ten dollars each. Of course I didn't know what I was buying but the man was knowledgeable and when he said that it was a rare or unusual one and that I must have it, I bought it.
Hired two young men who dug the holes for the trees. They had to use pick axes to make them three feet deep and wide. Then of course we had to wheelbarrow the stones away, so we started a stone pathway all along the outside of the property. The holes were then filled up with grass sods , bags of steer manure and soil from the hay field next door. The trees were planted with a ten foot wooden railing pole and lashed to it. The area is known for gale force winds which can get up to a 70 miles per hour in the winter.
The rose holes were laid out all around the outside fencing most measured 2 feet by 2 feet square. Ramblers or climbers every ten feet on the fence, then two old roses in front of them and finally a small landscape type roses in front of the two old roses. If there is still room for a peony then one is planted there. It was like container planting. The holes were filled with the steer manure, 1 cup of bone meal and the "good" soil from another area of the garden. Campanulas, small (harebells) were used to edge all along the bed edges. In the fall roses, peonies and lilies were ordered.
Went looking for reasonable priced trees for another area and because fruit trees were reasonable, decided to make an orchard using mainly cherry trees both ornamental and edible. It really wasn't for the fruit but to make a show in the springtime. We have never had a single cherry off the trees. When they are starting to ripen, we can hear the birds laughing and belching as they eat the cherries. The trees are growing well, especially the apples but not producing much fruit, however I only really wanted them for their flowers. One of the main problems with fruit trees is that bees are unionized and do not work in strong winds or inclement weather.
There were a couple of rooms left so I decided to make two large, round rose beds. In them I grow the colours that would clash with the old ones such as apricots, bright yellows, oranges and reds. Because they are circular, you can walk all the way around to view the roses.
The only area I didn't know what to do with was a very long, narrow area about 100 feet long and 8 feet wide right in front of the house. That is now the perennial bed and only those perennials that won't complain about the wind and poor soil are planted in there. So far peonies, lilies and day lilies are the least to complain. I left a narrow path with a fence on either side down the middle of the bed so I could tie the taller plants growing to the fence.
Everything was growing well but I found that when many of the climbers and the tall old roses reached their natural height, because of the wind they needed to be secured. So they had to be staked but not with ordinary stakes as they were strong enough to pull them out of the sandy soil. Off I went to get six foot pieces of half inch rebar which when driven in can't be seen and they keep the rose bush from thrashing around in the storms. I call these stakes," distressed iron rods".
The biggest challenged were the climbers, especially the hybrid tea sports. They were determined to grow very tall. I had to tie soft twine on the ends of the canes to keep the wind from breaking them. I would then bend them over and tie to the top of the fence. Every two weeks, gently bending them lower towards the top of the fence.
The last area was one in the center of one of the rooms. By then I never wanted to plant another rose, so I chose to make it an evergreen bed. It has many different colours of evergreens, starting with the dwarfs in front and the tall ones in the center.
Everything looked like it was going to work then we discovered there was underground water in the field next door and it was starting to wash the soil down from the beds as they were raised. How to solve this problem reasonable. I decided on using some cement blacks that were seconds. My husband edged all the beds with these blocks and then filled them up with poor soil so they wouldn't move.
We are in the country and so are on a well. Although the well is generous, it is not if you water the roses. So one makes a decision. Should we water the roses or should we take baths. Which is more important. The answer is obvious, one waters the roses.
I hadn't started out to make a large collection. But you know how it goes, if there is a space in the garden, then there is room for another rose. Of course when you discover that roses are an addition, then the collection is never complete. I give a rose three years and when it constantly dies back and is covered with black spot, then it is dropped kicked over the fence. If I like the rose I replace it because sometimes it is the plant that is poor and another one will do much better. The roses are doing well but most are not up to their designated height. When you see the roses in the sheltered area of the orchard, they are twice the size of the others in the winds. It is almost a relief to know that there are no more spaces as 800 of them should keep me busy for many years to come.
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