Recent Gardening Journal Entries
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Today, I have been "sowing" Lava-grains and Lava-meal.
See, if I can cause with that a "volcanic eruption of flowers" the oncoming season.
The birds sing, that Spring is coming soon, or at hand.
Very high temps in January and already had some records broken.
I'm still expecting some frost-days or a -period in February-March.
Apricot Queen from Interplant is flowering, just like Nahéma, Sutter's Gold Cl. and one of my Westerland OP seedlings.
From other roses the buds are sprouting already.
My hands are "itching", to start pruning the roses. But at first it's the fruit-trees' turn.
Some Scribblings on a Wet and Windy Day.
"The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size."
Gertrude S. Wister
It is now over a month since the shortest day, as the earth begins tilting forwards already the season starts to change. By this time there is almost an hours extra light in the evening than there was at Christmas and in the mornings it's lighter too; you can really notice that the birds are singing audibly louder with a sense of purpose. All along the stream in front of my cottage on the rich silty banks snowdrops are blooming with their icy whiteness and hazel catkins start concertinaing into golden lamb's tails. In the hedgerows honeysuckle shoots are beginning to sprout as are Rosa canina and Rosa dumalis whilst on Rosa arvensis they are still shut quite tight. Hellebores are stretching up but the only one fully out has the rather clumsy name of Helleborus orientalis Lam. subsp. abchasicus Early Purple Group; it has dusky light purple flowers and has been flowering since new year's day. Some roses still hold on to their hips. 'Scharlachglut' makes a big shrub, 2 metres high and wide; the hips are fat and round, the same colour as a pomegranate. Dwarf Rosa multiflora 'Nana' retains its orange/red pip like hips very prettily, nearby 'Mr Bluebird' also does so like wise. The shiny rounded fruits of Rosa virginiana are wider than they are long, bullet hard they hold on until well into the spring. Witch Hazels open now, they are cast iron hardy, what ever winter throws at them their spidery crepe paper flowers unravel with delightful scent. 'Pallida' is bright yellow illuminating the most drear and pinched winter day with bright cheerfulness. It has made a substantial plant now, repaying what was quite an expensive purchase (€40) for a smallish plant, but, after 11 years its has steadily grown into a significant shrub, 2m x 3m, repaying me back a hundred fold and now looks spectacular! I also grow plain mollis too with yolk yellow flowers and the superb red 'Diane'. In recent years many more varieties have come on the market but these three still hold their own and are difficult to surpass. There are also types with purplish flowers, but these in my opinion are just a little bit too much on the brown colour spectrum to be really effective winter flowering plants.
Certain roses are stirring. In a little border along the back of the house the miniature rose chinensis 'Minima' is sprouting as is it's neighbour 'Baby Faurax'. China roses in pots against a sunny wall already have growths 10cm long but they are protected under big sheets of glass, (old conservatory windows), that help keep the worst of the weather off them and some protection form late spring frosts, 'Old Blush' still carries a half opened bud.
The weather still has plenty of scope to deteriorate, heavy snow and hard frost are still easily possible but with every day that passes the likelihood grows slimmer and the duration shorter, after the next four weeks the worst will be behind us and a spring time of colour awaits.
A new start from scratch.
Maybe the old-one will survive and send some canes upwards. A 2.5 inch cane of 60 cm still present, but completely pressed (in)to the soil.
In My Garden, January.
"Nature has undoubtedly mastered the art of winter gardening and even the most experienced gardener can learn from the unrestrained beauty around them."
Vincent A. Simeone
As I lie back in the bath, my skin becoming soft enough to pull the thorns out of my hands; very easily done with nail clippers. I have been training rambler roses. The pruning and cutting of these climbers can easily be done wearing gloves but tying-in the canes can only be done with the extra dexterity of naked hands. If you hold out your left hand side ways on (left handers do the opposite), hold down a piece of string on to the top of this hand using your thumb. Always use natural jute string, with three strand thickness, never nylon or cable ties. Wrap the string around your hand many times. Cut the piece of string on its final return to the thumb. Then, also at this point, cut right through all the whole bundle of string. You will be left with thirty or so 15cm long lengths of twine, the perfect length for trying in most plants. You can vary the length of each batch of pieces by opening or squashing together the fingers of your hand. It is a hack I learnt as a student in the rose garden at Wisley, many years ago, I've constantly used it almost every working day ever since. I always cross over both ends of the string behind each shoot before I tie-in anything, that way you have a little buffer between the stem and the surface of the wire or cane.
By-the-way, roses don't have thorns, they have prickles. A thorn is a modified stem and usually is still a living part of the plant, just look at the younger branches of a blackthorn or a hawthorn tree. A prickle has evolved from hairs on the stem and they gradually dry out and harden as the shoot matures and ripens. The prickles are to help roses climb, or rather hook on to other plants and heave themselves up higher and enjoy more sun. They offer very little protection from browsing animals, anyone who has ever had deer in their garden will know that roses are the first plants they'll strip bare of any new shoots.
One of the roses I was tying-up was a member of a group known as the "mauve ramblers", Rosa multiflora hybrids that were mostly raised in the first part of last century. The colour of the flowers ranges from mauve to almost indigo, at times they can show the truest tints of blue as any rose flower. Dark purple and violet 'Bleu Magenta' thornily embraces the shell pink 'Debutante', an inspiration from the National Trust's garden, Mottisfont, in Somerset. Please consider 'Debutante' instead of 'Dorothy Perkins', it has flowers scented like primroses and are presented in a far more elegant way than the brash blousiness of Perkins. Another combination I find most satisfactory is 'Aschermittwoch', ('Ash Wednesday'), a hybrid between a wild sweet briar rose and a deep pink hybrid-tea. It is not everyone's favourite as the flowers are a pale greyish pink, described by some as looking like "poorly nourished flesh". Its companion is called 'William Lobb', not strictly a climber but it makes a rather lax bush that works well with some support. The flowers are deepest magenta-purple and lavishly scented. It is also a moss rose which means its stems are covered in masses of hairs and fine prickles which when rubbed leave behind the most delicious resin scent on your fingers. The two flowers, dark and pale compliment each other, highlighting the contrasts of both the different colours.
Outside the warm secureness of my bathroom it is bitterly cold, the rain lashes and the wind howls. To most rose growers scratches and prickles are not an issue, all we see are the flowers to come in summer time. I feed the birds with leftover Christmas biscuits, at the windows my cats stare owlishly out.
© AndrewtheGardener 15/1/18