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Andrew from Dolton
 
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14 JAN
Public
In My Garden, January.

...We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of the year.
ELLA WHEELER WILCOX.

'Alexandre Girault' is a vigorous cerise-pink rambler rose with a perfume of overly sweet ripe red apples. In three years a cutting has quickly outgrown the position in my rose garden where initially planted, it is too feral looking to be grown so formally, it really needs to be growing up into a tree.
Four years ago I first saw a bright pink rose growing in a semi-derelict garden in Barnstaple. It sprawled neither bush nor climber, lax growth, glossy rounded leaves, charming flowers hanging along the stems, some in clusters and some singley. Fascinated I thought it unusual and very attractive too, I knew it was far from being a regular climbing rose. Whatever the rose was it was highly desirable...
At the time I was having great difficulties slowly recovering from a serious mental breakdown. Early one dark November morning switching on the radio in the kitchen there were such horrors, a terrorist attack, gruesome details, I couldn't listen anymore as I was in danger of plunging back into my darkest pit. Try to do something positive and uplifting to change your thought patterns, I told myself. Reclaim the day.
So I marched straight up the road, boarded the 5b bus and within the hour was walking past the house where the rose grew. How it poured with rain that day. Conveniently there were stems hanging out from trees dangling down into the street. Lightning quick as a gun slinger I drew the pair of secateurs my hand already grasped from my pocket; snip, snip, snip. Hand back in pocket, cuttings tucked inside my coat. At a safe distance from the crime scene I covered the stems with a previously dampened kitchen towel, wrapping them in a plastic bag I caught the next bus home. You can tell I had done this before!
I planted the cuttings, four in total, pencil thickness and 20cm long into very gritty compost into one of those deep long pots roses or Clematis are often sold growing in. The following spring three cuttings failed, however one rooted and grew splendidly. Burgeoning so spectacularly that by that June I was able to plant it into the previous position in the rose garden where it steadily outgrew its allocated space.
So, how to grow it more appropriately? A number of years ago a very kind lady in the village donated me a plant of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' from her garden. The purple leaved smokebush enjoys my growing conditions, planted near the top of my garden it has reached a height of 4 metres and the same in width.
New year's day was moving day. I dug a decent sized hole as close as possible to the Cotinus being mindful not to damage any major roots. The rose came out with a goodly amount of soil adhering to it, in fact so little did I disturb the root system that I decided none of the top growth needed pruning. After planting and watering-in sufficiently I spread the stems tying them into the branches of the Cotinus, fanning them out equally to cover as much of the bush as possible.
In due course I read and heard about the hideous killings in Paris. Nowadays with my head and mind in a much better place I can process such events like these with a proper sense of proportion, they don't instantly force me down into a deep dark depression anymore.
As for the rose, its cheerful bright pink flowers will contrast perfectly against the purplish maroons of the smokebush and when the rose is not blooming it will be hidden amongst its leaves. I can not wait to see them growing together and putting on their displays, I'm very excited and positive about the year ahead.

© AndrewtheGardener 14/1/19.
6 OCT
Public
Finding Roses.

Two recently found roses are a climber and a Scotch rose. My neighbours told me of this rose that had flowered for the first time this summer. Originally the lower part of their garden had been a kitchen garden with vegetables and fruit trees and a few flowering shrubs, some of which survive. Over the years it slowly reverted back to woodland until the current owners bought the house three years ago. The rose is prickleless with stems a greenish yellow colour almost like Cornus stolonifera 'Flaviramea'. It suckers madly, every root that sees the light near the soil surface sends up a shoot. The neighbours described the flowers as being somewhat like a camomile or feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) plant. The house is quite old potentially the rose could have been there for twenty or anything up to three hundred and fifty years. I have helped myself to a nice big clump.
The autumn colour is beginning in earnest now this year. Last week we had frosts and since then the weather has been calm with no gales. Like finding your first gray hairs as you turn thirty the leaves start slowly changing then suddenly their colour becomes apparent everywhere. Driving into town along the A386 this morning I suddenly noticed leaves that were an unusual reddish russet brown. My foot stabbed on the brake pedal and I quickly swung the car onto the verge, the passenger, my partner, is well used to this behaviour and barely flinched. It appears to be a Scotch rose that was just growing in the hedge. The soil is still a little dry and the weather a little warm for moving plants but needless to say I will be rustling a sucker from this rose in a few weeks time.
17 SEP
Public
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.
28 AUG
Public
"What's in a name?
That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet;..."
Shakespeare.


That which we call a rose by any other word would look as pretty? No, not every rose is 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 outrageous tropical beauties. But it in itself certainly isn't beautiful. Green flowers always grab my attention, at the time I was fascinated by 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 indulge 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 posses to hide amongst, in my garden it just looks plain odd and occupies a space and my time that could be filled by something far more aesthetically pleasing. It needs pointing out to visitors too whose quest for colour and scent ignore it and even then needs explaining to bemused expressions as to why I spend any resources to accommodate 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 this Japanese rose it is covered with the thickest moss overwhelming any attractiveness it 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 are 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 little pointy 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 wichuraiana 'Variegata'?...

© AndrewtheGardener 28/8/18.
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