Andrew from Dolton
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On the western side of my garden the hedge has become over grown. I'm gradually cutting it back and tying down the living hazel poles so they sprout along their entire length. Each one I cut yields one or two stakes for pegging down roses. Like the hazel, many roses benefit from having their longest shoots pegged down and having flowers all along the length of the rose stem rather than far fewer right at the top.
"What's in a name?
That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet;..."
That we call a rose by any other word would look as pretty, not all roses are beautiful, some are just hideous.
Rosa chinensis 'Viridiflora' is a curio without any petals at all. Its sepals have multiplied, increasing to form rosettes but without nectaries or sexual parts it will forever be scentless and barren. I first saw this plant grown in the long thin beds adjacent to the glasshouses many years ago when I was a student along with half-hardies like Amicia, Erythrina and Musa 'Dwarf Cavendish'. Grown with these awkward exotics it blended in, not looking out of place among this unusual otherworldliness and just a pane of glass away from all kinds of outragious tropical beauties. But it in itself certainly isn't beautiful. Green flowers always grab my attention, at the time I was fascinated my the phyllodic forms of Anemone nemorosa and Primula vulgaris 'Viridiflora'. As I qualified and moved on from the R.H.S. I kept the memory of the green China rose mulling around inside my head but I never worked anywhere where I had an excuse to plant it. The gardens of my employers always had beauty over curiosity policies and I was unable to endulge any fantasies. Now with my own garden and interest in China roses, 'Viridiflora' was one of the first I grew. Here in North Devon with a far colder climate, especially in summer, it lacks its exotic posse to hide amongst, in my garden it just looks plain odd and occupies a space and my time that could be filled by someting far more asthetically pleasing. It needs pointing out to visitors too whose quest for colour and scent ignore it and even then needs explaining to bemused expresions as to why I spend any resources to accommadate this plant.
Never reaching swan status, another very ugly duckling is 'Mousseux du Japon'. I adore the resinous scent from moss roses and their bristly buds and stems. But with the Japanese moss it is covered with the thickest moss overwhelming any attractiveness this rose might poses and the moss isn't even very scented. If you want a dark moss rose then grow 'William Lobb' or 'Nuits de Young' which I suspect might share some breeding. Too much of a good thing.
Another horror is Rosa multiflora var. watsoniana. Lured by a description in a book and an interest in dwarf sports I acquired this rose before I had heard of HMF and ordered it without seeing a picture first. Probably caused by a virus most of its leaves are reduced to thread-like ribbons, it looks like a careless gardener has wafted glyphosate over it, the flowers too deformed and almost colourless. Again I resent my time and money spent on giving this rose a place in my garden. Rather a weakling it needs growing in a pot and cosseting with some protection in winter as it is also a martyr to die-back. Rosa multiflora has a myriad of forms and varieties, some very pretty dwarf perpetual sports all far superior to watsoniana.
Even being a selected form of Rosa sericea f. pteracantha, 'Redwings' does not improve the qualities of this rose. Some or most of the prickles are an exaggerated elongated and flattened shape. There are descriptions waxing lyrical about the translucent mid-summer light refracting through the raspberry coloured prickles. But all too soon these dry out becoming pale brownish-grey and giving the bush an appearance of an aggressive stegosaurus. Far too unpretty and weird to be grown in the vicinity of other roses and in my garden very prone to die back too. Rosa sericea has another oddity making it different and alternative, it only has four petals in some of its forms. Unfortunately 'Redwings' isn't one of them allowing it even less endearment and interest. Two years ago I was given a Rosa sericea seedling grown from seed collected in the Himalayas which has elegant ferny leaves, dainty twigs and tiny dainty prickles. It makes a pleasing aesthetically acceptable shrub and hopefully when it flowers for the first time this spring will only have four petals.
In a tribe of plants that have such beauty why do I choose such deformed freakish misfits? What could be next, Rosa wichuriana 'Variegata'?...
© AndrewtheGardener 28/8/18.
After the Deluge...
The day that the rains came down
Mother earth smiled again
Now the lilacs could bloom
Now the fields could grow greener....
What a difference a few weeks makes. Greeness is back in fashion. The freshly nourished countryside basks in the moisture. There have been recent heavy showers of steady warm rain. The top few centimetres of soil is now wonderfully damp and warm but scratch below the surface and it is dry as dust. It was a mixed year for roses. Usually after first flush of bloom I give the roses a scat of fish blood and bone to help remontant ones re-flower and the once flowers put on good growth for next season. This has to be administered in mid July otherwise if done later it encourages too much sappy growth that can be damaged during winter. I normally feed FB&B in summer then bone meal, lime and a tiny pinch of borax in autumn then in spring more FB&B and my homemade compost mixed with manure as a mulch. My own compost is made in dustbins with holes in their sides to let air in. It is mostly kitchen waste and comfrey, fire ash and sweepings from my paths and steps. Once the bin is a quarter full I start adding almost all the urine I produce each day (I like to encourage my partner and any house guests to do likewise). After a few weeks a black liquid starts oozing out of a hole specially put in so I can tap off this precious elixir. It does not have an unpleasant smell, it smells like a farm yard, but not offensive. I use about 400ML in a 10 litre watering can and there is enough collected so I can feed all my China roses growing in pots, any newly planted roses and anything that needs a little boost. Because of all the nitrogen in the urine the food waste rots down really quickly. I make about five dustbins full each year and they are ready to use on the garden in about three months.
The rain brings a resurgence of dreaded blackspot. The older leaves of 'Variegata di Bologna' turned completely black by the end of June despite hot dry weather but its putting up plenty of new growth with the help of this liquid feed. I grow it like a climber, trained on wires this way I hope the growths are further away from the soil and get better air movement and maybe a touch less blackspot. It is such a leper spreading its disease to nearby 'William Lobb', 'Bleu Magenta', 'Débutante' and 'Gertrude Jekyll' which otherwise would be clean and healthy but only the parts of these roses that are nearest to 'Variegata di Bologna' have the disease. 'Duchess of Portland' is quite bad too and since we had some rain 'Rose de Resht' is suddenly speckled with black spots although it's re-flowering quite well. Otherwise due to the warm dry weather everything else is fine and healthy. I'm off out now to pick black berries.
I've just come in from the garden at almost 9 o'clock it is still just dusk or dimpsey as they say here in Devon. It has been a perfect clear blue sky day and the warmest since 1949 with temperatures up to 29.1C recorded in London. Here we still managed a respectable 23C and tomorrow is set to be just as fair. Spring so far had been very tardy trundling along in a minor key and the warmth makes miracles in the garden with every day bringing something new. 'Old Blush' is protected under a sheet of glass against a south facing wall of the house and has had flowers or buds showing colour ever since it started flowering last year. The panes were only just put in place to protect from the worst winter weather. 'Viridiflora' is also just starting and I'm excitedly waiting for whatever rose Beales is selling as 'Parks' Yellow Tea Scented China' to bloom, maybe it will 'Fée Opale'? I will take the glass away tomorrow they have enough protection against the house and over hanging eaves. It is building up to an exciting time with many roses flowering and other ones planted for the first time. Erinnerung an Brod', 'Duchesse d'Angoulême', Variegata di Bologna', 'Mousseux du Japon', 'Dupontii', 'Richardii', 'Wolley-Dod's Rose' and a nice form of Rosa sericea with dainty fern-like leaves collected in the Himalayas are all waited for with eager anticipation as well as a couple of foundlings one of which is already showing tiny buds in the centre of the shoots. New roses planted this year include 'Micrugosa Alba', 'Salet', 'Zigeunerknabe' but my most thought-over has to be Rosa foetida 'Bicolour'. For a long time I have been fascinated by this rose, the contrasting orange and yellow flowers and the fact that almost every yellow and every orange rose owe their colours to this one. But I have been put-off by the fact it gets terrible blackspot and how a rose from Persia would possible grow in cool North Devon where it is possible to have a light frost in July! However I have been persuaded that it will tolerate a climate with low summer temperatures and that the blackspot does not really seem to affect its vigor all that much. Its half-neice 'Agnes' has made a bush 1.5M high and almost the same across. It is healthy and flowers well so I will plant foetida 'Bicolor' near-by.
"we'll pay for it later", scorching as this is it is no time for complacency; keep your geraniums and runner beans inside, last year at the end of April we were hit by two very hard frosts. The oaks had 10CM or so of new growth and below a certain elevation, or down here in the valley this was all burnt off by the frost. More devastating was the damage to grape vines and other orchard trees, I did not get a single apple or gooseberry. 'Pompom de Paris, Cl.' lost most of its first and main flush of flower and 'Roxburgii normalis failed to flower at all.
What is rather worrying is the absence of butterflies. They had a dreadful year in 2017, from the middle of July until October we had rain in some form or other almost every single day. Apart from a few Brimstones and couple of Tortoise Shells, and single Red Admirals, Peacocks, a Meadow Brown, an Orange Tip; I'm used to seeing half a dozen at once. There does seem an abundance of bumble bees, big fat queens at this time of year, sometimes they are the loudest noise to be heard. The sunshine has suddenly bought all the primroses and celandines out and all along the lanes are shades of yellow, so at least there is plenty of nectar for them to feed upon.
Other plants that are coming out are the beautiful Prunus 'Ukon', double flowers hanging like over weight ballet dancers and the same green/pink/white effect as the rose 'Greensleeves'. A very good year for Camellias too with exhibition quality blooms on all the plants. For a few weeks there has been no frost at night so plants in flower have not browned off. Rhododendron 'Lutescens' has never flowered so well, neither has Magnolia stellata 'Rubra'. And in the evening air, a balsam poplar and Osmanthus decorus fill the night with a mixture of sandlewood and cinnamon and the sweetest jasmine. Now we must hope for no more hard frosts, the beautiful scarlet-orange new shoots festooning the Peris are so defenceless. The swallows are here I've heard a cuckoo.