So I’m cruising a gardening site because I have no self-control and they’re having a HALF PRICE sale* and I come to the description of something under the ‘cottage garden plants’ category. The heading describes it as a ‘half hardy annual’. This means it’ll die if it freezes, but it’ll be toast next winter anyway so your job is only not to plant it out too early now. And then in the description below the heading you are informed that while it is hardy to 18° F—which is pretty seriously hardy—it would be grateful for a little winter protection which if such is provided it will go on rewarding you with a dazzling floral display for years to come. Oh? Yes? Um.
It’s no wonder people think gardening is complicated and confusing.
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* I didn’t tell you I ordered another eight roses, did I? Speaking of sales. Peter Frelling Beales http://www.classicroses.co.uk/ had a loooooong end-of-bareroot-season sale AND THEY KEPT FRELLING SENDING ME REMINDERS. I KNOW. I READ YOUR LAST EMAIL, THANKS. I WISH YOU’D GO AWAY. THE SALE WAS FOR FORTY PERCENT OFF. FORTY PERCENT OFF ROSE BUSHES???? YOU CAN’T EXPECT ME TO RESIST—TO GO ON RESISTING—THAT LEVEL OF TEMPTATION, CAN YOU? Well, I can’t, and it was my credit card. Besides, I have at least a half-packet of that help-the-roots-to-grow symbiotic fungus stuff left . . .
The thing is I got all those roses I bought from the (relatively) local rose nursery planted and then discovered . . . I still had perennial-shrub sized gaps left. ‘Perennial shrub’ is a slightly flexible concept in my garden, of course, as is ‘gap’: it’s surprising what (and how much) you can get to grow in a too-small pot if you keep it fed and watered. This—right now—is also the most dangerous time of year for me—I’ve probably (finally^) done a certain amount of clearing out of winter detritus: of last year’s annuals, last year’s failures, and the pruning you should maybe have done last autumn but I didn’t not only because I’m absent-minded and disorganised but because if you have a hard winter some things, including roses, will probably die back some, so if you have to take the last six inches off a three-foot stem that still leaves two and a half feet of live plant which you can prune later on if you want to for shape and so on. If you cut it down hard last autumn, six inches of dead wood may leave you come spring with three inches of live plant, which is risky. But I’m not a hard pruner anyway: I figure if a rose bush wants to be five foot—or fifteen—you’ll make it unhappy by trying to prune it to be three or six.^^
. . . Anyway.^^^ This time of year there is probably bare earth out there. Bare. Earth. In MY garden. Somewhere I could PLANT SOMETHING. Or wedge a pyramid of pots into/onto/around. This goes badly to my head. Despite the fact that by the end of March I’ve frelling DONE ALL MY SPRING ORDERING. I DON’T NEED TO DO ANY MORE. Except that what I’ve ordered is beginning to fade into the dank dark mists of the previous winter during which you wrote out copious lists of possible plant orders as a gesture of hope and belief in the future and a quelling or at least muffling of cabin fever#. And of course I never get around to printing out the invoices## of my final orders. . . . And then the frelling sale come-ons start appearing in your email. . . .
Coming up ten (gleeeeeeep) years ago, when I bought the cottage, I looked at the Way Too Gardenery a Garden that the previous owner### was leaving me and thought, I am not going to turn this into a Rose Garden. I am going to evolve it a little more toward Old Fashioned Messy Cottage Garden and away from Plantsperson’s Educational Display . . . but it’s NOT going to be a rose garden with a few pansies.
Well, it isn’t. It’s a rose garden with a few pansies, clematis, delphiniums, foxgloves, primroses, fuchsias, begonias, dahlias, hellebores, daffodils, hyacinths, a few tulips, one trillium, snowdrops, crocuses, lungwort, corydalis, epimedium, geraniums/pelargoniums/whatsit, two bleeding hearts, snapdragons, cosmos, one hydrangea, one gardenia, daylilies, irises, dianthus, dwarf Japanese maples, Japanese frelling anemones, camellias, dwarf rhododendrons, peonies . . . some other stuff, including several things I either don’t know the name of or have forgotten the name of . . . and a flowering currant, a corkscrew hazel and an apple tree.% It’s a rose garden with friends.
. . . It’s okay though. You can click on the Peter Beales link, the sale is over. I don’t recommend you sign up for their email list, however, unless you live somewhere Beales won’t ship to.
^ No, no! You’re supposed to leave your rubbish alone over the winter! It gives WILDLIFE SHELTER AND FOOD! ‘Wildlife’ includes the frelling mice I yesterday animadverted, as well as slugs, snails, vine weevils, lily beetles and black spot fungal spores. And my incredibly spoilt local bird populations don’t eat seed heads or berries or rose hips. And the bats are hibernating.
^^ There are fashions in pruning as in most things. Some years I’m in fashion. Some years I’m not in fashion. Feh.
^^^ Buckminster, our vicar, gets quite a lot of stick for being easily distracted. Church services when our vicar is preaching+ have been known to run on quite a while over time because Buck has been chasing hares (again). I was thinking this Sunday while everyone was giggling that it’s a good thing no one at St Margaret’s—so far as I know—reads Robin McKinley’s Days in the Life.++ Especially Buck himself. It might give him ideas.
+ You want to get home on time, pray Buck is not preaching.
++ With footnotes.
# Yes, you can get a cabin-fever equivalent even in the south of England, although in my case anyway the lack of daylight is almost as claustrophobi-fying as not being able to get out the door because of the snowdrifts.+ This winter, of course, the solid wall of falling water that went on for about three months accentuated that shut-in feeling.
+ Pay the guy with the bulldozer scoop on the front of his muscle pick-up who clears your driveway for you promptly. Never mess with a guy with a bulldozer scoop on the front of his muscle pick-up, especially not in a winter with a lot of snow.
## I’d only lose them. So why bother.
### Trained horticulturists. Double feh.
% And I’m TRYING AGAIN with the witchhazel and the magnolia stellata, drat them anyway. And does anyone know how to get a frelling foxtail lily to FLOWER? The beastly thing is coming up for the third year in a row but I’ve yet to get a flower out of it. But three of my meconopsis are alive. YAAAAAAAY.
I bought nine roses last week.* AND I PLANTED THE LAST TWO OF THEM TODAY. It’s only been a WEEK.** And I’ve already got ALL OF THEM them in the ground.*** Are you impressed? Trust me, you should be impressed.
So I thought I’d give myself a Slightly Short Blog Day to celebrate.† And maybe I’ll do a little work. Or go to bed early.†† Or something.
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* Hey. I need more roses.
** I can’t remember if I told you this story or not^. I’d ordered from a rose nursery that isn’t impossibly far from here and said I would pick them up. When they rang me that my roses were ready I suggested to Peter that he come too and we’d go on afterward to the big public garden nearby and have a wander. So that’s what we did. Except that by the time we got to the big public garden . . . we were too tired.^^ So we didn’t walk around it. Ho hum. Life in the Slow Lane. But I did get my roses.
^ And the Footnote Labyrinth makes trying to look back and check somewhat challenging.
^^ In my case all that frelling driving was aggravated by a long conversation I had with one of the rose-nursery proprietors about, how surprising, roses. She was full of embarrassing information I should have known.+ I have, for example, never had any luck with the symbiotic fungus stuff that you put in the hole when you plant your rose, and it colonises the roots which then develop like crazy in all directions and your rose is very, very happy. Except it didn’t and it wasn’t. I thought it was another fashionable scam. Nobody told me that root fungi don’t like blood-fish-and-bone which is the traditional rose and general perennial shrub food. You ALWAYS put BFB in the hole you’re planting a rose in. Not when you’re using mycorrhizal fungi. Oh. –So I bought some more of the frelling stuff and have used it. Except I’ve only used about half the packet and it only keeps for about a year and it’s stupidly expensive, you wouldn’t want to waste it nooooooooooo. . . . .
+ Although we did a little mutual howling about people who don’t get it that roses are, you know, living things. I told her a story I know I’ve told you, from when we were still at the old house and opened our garden on the National Gardens Scheme. I had someone at least once every open day saying, your roses are amazing, how do you get your roses to be so amazing? My roses are barely struggling along. And I would say, well, what do you feed them? And they would look at me blankly and say, Feed them? FOR PITY’S SAKE, GUYS. HOW DO YOU THINK ROSES PRODUCE ALL THOSE FLOWERS? MAGIC? How can anyone look at a modern, repeat-flowering rose, frelling bowed down by the weight of its flowers, not least because it’s been overbred for flower production at the expense of everything else like leaves and stems and good health, and not realise it’s going to need a little more help than scratching a hole in the ground and plonking it in?? That’s like buying a racehorse and feeding it straw. GOOD GRIEF.
*** Well. Mostly not in the ground. Not in the All the Plumbing in Hampshire cottage garden. Most of them are in pots. I suspect I have rather good drainage, between the builder’s rubble and all the plumbing in Hampshire, but most roses that aren’t major thugs, in this garden, do better in pots, possibly just because they don’t have to fight off the thugs. But I lost a few this wet winter that I don’t think I should have lost so . . . more pots. A few of the new intake are in pots smaller than they’ll stay in forever . . . but they’ll do for a year or two. Or three. Just keep feeding them.
† Also because I took Peter to the ex-library again today and we battered our way through all the other media and went and hung out in the small dark corner where the books now live. I found a little trove of knitting books . . . and then read one of Peter’s thrillers over tea. During which I absent-mindedly ate a Very Nasty gluten-free pistachio cookie. I think I object to a book so absorbing that you can eat nasty food without noticing till it’s too late. That’s the problem with thrillers: they make you forsake all rationality and keep turning pages.
And then I went bell ringing at Crabbiton for the second week in a row. I haven’t been ringing, I’m too tired, and the idea of facing eighty-six bells and a ringing chamber the size of a ballroom at Forza is too much for me. Crabbiton has six bells, and a pretty laid-back and low-level band, and I found out by accident that Wild Robert has started teaching there pretty regularly again. So I went along last week and made bob minor possible—they generally only have four inside ringers, and bob minor requires five—and so this week they were really glad to see me. It’s a hoot being one of the big kids. Although Felicity had to go and wreck my feeble glow of self-satisfaction by inquiring if I wouldn’t like to make up the number at Madhatterington on Mothering Sunday. Nooooooooooooo.
So . . . after all this febrile self indulgence . . . work would be good.
†† No! No! Not that!
I AM SO TIRED OF WATERING. TIRED. WATERING. OF. ARRRRRRRRGH. We were supposed to have thunderstorms over the weekend. We were supposed to have TORRENTIAL RAIN! We were supposed to have sporadic downpours, some of them heavy, today!
WE HAVE HAD NONE OF THESE THINGS. We had two minor bursts of real rain which according to my rain gauge total a little under a quarter inch. This is not entirely negligible . . . but NEARLY. I heard some distant thunder while I was at the monks’ Saturday evening. Nothing else happened. And we do really, really, really need rain—anything that isn’t a garden tended by a (possibly) obsessive and irascible gardener is brown. I HATE WATERING. WATERING ISN’T GARDENING. WATERING IS A BORING BORING BOOOOOOOORING TIME SUCK. And while you’re wasting all your gardening time lugging cans of water* around the jungle that you had so laboriously somewhat brought under control is rioting freely again.
Snarl. I took advantage of a rose sale last winter. I wrote all over my order NO SUBSTITUTIONS. They sent me a sub anyway**. This one. Grrrrrrr. So, okay, climbing pink rose. I’ll live.
I do splash some water around and there’s a little trash soil from crumbling mortar and what falls out of my pots, but they’re basically growing out of ROCK.
And they’re all frelling thriving, in their miniature way. Ordinary garden snapdragons, which are a lot bigger of course, are also thirsty. Geraniums will put up with a surprising amount of drought: snapdragons won’t. First they wilt and then they develop mildew. And this year’s astonishing crop of volunteers must be all garden offspring, and first generation so far as I know, unless snapdragon seed lies in the ground/mortar/flint shelf until suitable conditions occur, like decades-old poppies waiting for the plough.
It’s certainly enough to make you a really untidy gardener for the rest of your (gardening) life. Especially if you’re that way inclined anyway. But this one is clinging to the few grains of soil in the unswept-out whorl of the rubber stair treads.
But I’m not exactly wasting my time with all that dratblasted watering, am I?
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* The problems of Hosepipe Management in something the size and intensity of planting of the cottage garden are debatably worse than just gritting my teeth and bowing to the inevitability of can haulage.^ I do use a sprinkler occasionally but by the time I’m thinking about it we’re probably into drought conditions and it feels illegal even if it isn’t.
^ I can do a fair amount of damage with my big feet when I stagger in the wrong direction, but on the whole I leave fewer swathes of destruction carrying watering-cans than when I’m trying to cope with a frelling+ hose. Also with a dingleframping++ hellterror about the place you have to roll and/or hoick the thing out of reach every time you’re finished using it or at least before the hellterror is loose again.
+ Didn’t some polite newcomer on the forum recently ask where ‘frelling’ came from, that she’d used it in company and got stared at? RAISE YOUR CHIN AND TELL THEM IT’S A PERFECTLY LEGITIMATE COINAGE FROM FARSCAPE. You can google it. And I should pick up ‘dren’ while I’m at it.
++ And sometimes, when I’m feeling somewhat pent and fraught I just make something up. The presence of a hellterror can make one feel pent and fraught rather easily. Ask Darkness.
** When I protested they told me I could send it back. Uh huh. Sure. That’s totally practical.
Treasure Trove officially added to a (short, so far) list of house-eating roses I NEED.
Excellent choice. I would have had to have her if Peter didn’t. I’m presently trying to decide if I could figure out a flight path for Paul’s Himalayan Musk up at Third House. Rosa banksiae lutea is a house-eater, and, ironically, is getting going comparatively slowly. I hadn’t planned for either Mme Alfred or Mme Gregoire at the cottage to turn into house-eaters—or Ghislaine—they just did. I actually did know I was being silly about Souvenir de la Malmaison. She’s not a house-eater, she’s just PERVERSE AND DANGEROUS.* But the only house-eater at Third House at present is Bobbie James, who is cooperatively climbing the copper beech that hangs over from the cemetery. Hmmm.
I wonder how I would keep the deer from eating them until they were big enough not to mind?
Ahem. Have you read SUNSHINE? Yolande’s peanut-butter-baited electric deer-repelling fence is not only for a world with Others in it. Go google peanut butter deer fence. Nothing works perfectly—and it’s a huge faff to set up and maintain—but it is pretty much your best bet. The problem with all the repellents is that deer get used to them. Oh, yeah, lion dung, big deal, have you seen any lions? No, I haven’t either. –And they’re apparently capable of developing a taste for hot chillis. Electricity goes on working.
My Ghislaine de Feligonde is veryvery pale yellow, aging to white. Even though orange is my least favorite color, I think that Morris is beautiful–does it have a scent? I always try to have an Abraham Darby, even though here it is always a less-than-beautiful beige color because I think it has the most wonderful scent of any rose I have ever grown!
Proof of the whole variable thing. My Ghislaine comes out a deep orange gold and pales to primrose yellow—eventually, sometimes, almost white. William Morris isn’t really orange, more peach, but she looks ORANGE next to the vivid, very lavender-pink James Galway. Yes, she has a good scent. But if Abraham Darby is a dull beige in your area William Morris will probably be grey. One of the best rose photos I’ve ever taken was of my old Abraham Darby back at the old house. She’s another of these gold-peach roses, but with a lot of deep salmon-pink as well. And the flowers are HUGE. This photo of Morris is a particularly romantic one: if you like that style you should go cruise the ‘English roses’ aisles of whatever nursery you bought Abraham Darby from. There are other choices, most of them not orange.
Thanks for the lovely photos…they have me wondering if I couldn’t fit just a few more roses in my yard.
Mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Diane in MN
Deer, at least in my neighborhood, are quite used to dogs and not put off by them (or their scent) at all. Especially since they usually do their roaming and devouring when dogs are in the house and asleep.
Yes. Suburban deer get totally blasé about all the usual human things. It’s genuine countryside around here, but English villages are organised on a different pattern—houses tend to be squashed together in a relatively small area surrounded by swathes of farmland. ** There are lots of deer—Roe, around here, mostly—and don’t they just love people’s gardens. And they get so frelling tame you can’t trust them to run away even if they see you shouting and throwing things. Or to not panic and try to self-immolate under your car’s tyres.
Here are some suggestions: original scent Irish Spring soap, hung around the plants (temporary if you get much rain); blood meal-based commercial repellent (kept them out of my hostas for a long time); hot pepper spray (also temporary with rain). I’ve ordered a new repellent based on citrus that gets fairly good reviews; I figure if I put out a variety of stuff, they won’t get too accustomed to any of it.
No repellent ever worked for me or anyone I ever talked to for more than a year, and often less than that. Maybe your MN deer have enough more options to be more amenable to being repelled. One of the few clear benefits of a move into town is we no longer have a deer problem. I’m still kind of half-expecting them to figure out Third House. It’s only one block over from farmland and the fencing is inadequate even for keeping next door’s frelling terrier from crapping in the drive and the entire neighbourhood of cats from crapping everywhere. It wouldn’t slow a hungry deer down for a moment. Arrrrgh.
|If you’re not a rose person, what are you doing on this blog?|
I do wonder that sometimes, especially since I also dislike pink.
Snork. The funny thing to me is that while I like pink I’m not the pink obsessive that the blog persona is. It’s a handy hook to hang silliness on—and it’s true that if the colour choices are black, white and pink—I’ll take pink. This is a rant for some other evening, but I spent most of my life bucking against my inner girlie girl, because when I was a kid and a teenager forty and fifty-plus years ago being a girlie girl—especially with a girl-next-door face like mine—was death to any kind of being taken seriously. I professionally hated pink for decades—and burst out of my parents’ house into jeans, Frye boots and black leather. I revel in pink—and pearls—now partly as a nanny nanny boo boo to all those jerks who tried to make me believe that frilly and trad feminine equals stupid and wet doormat.
I do feel awfully ignorant sometimes when looking at the rose pictures. I’d never guess that some of those flowers were roses. If I were walking through a garden with a rose person, I’d embarrass myself saying, “Oh, look at those peony beds!” And, “Aren’t those great carnations!” I think I referred to the (hydrangeas? I forget) in my yard in front of an expert once as “snowballs”, but the expert never blinked an eye. Someone else later told me what they were, but I then later forgot again…
Well. There are roses bred to look like peonies and peonies bred to look like roses. Ditto carnations. There are begonias and geraniums that look enough like roses that if you aren’t paying attention to the leaves you’ll think they are roses. And there is a perfectly good category of hydrangea called snowball so the expert probably did blink, in appreciation of your terminology.
I know petunias, and crocuses, and daffodils, and tulips, and lilacs, and (my favorite) lilies of the valley, and daisies, and black-eyed susans, and poinsettias, and marigolds, and sunflowers, and forsythias…and that’s probably about it!
There are pink lilies of the valley you know . . . the cottage garden is OVERRUN with them. I like them, but I also rip them up by the bucketfuls. Not my fault, by the way: my predecessor put them in. I also suspect there are petunias, crocuses, daffs, tulips, lilacs, sunflowers and marigolds that you wouldn’t recognize as such, because that’s the way plant breeders are—oooh, they say, let’s see if we can breed something that doesn’t look like what it is. I personally think trailing snapdragons, which usually have weird little turned-up faces that look more like roses than like snapdragons, for example, are a mistake. And black-eyed susans . . . there are a million daisy-ish things that get called black-eyed susans: the rudbeckia family is GINORMOUS.
Oh, yeah, and another favorite: Morning Glories.
Ah yes, bindweed by any other name . . . bindweed has the prettiest little morning-glory flowers. It’s the same family. Here’s another rant for another night: how narrow the line is between fabulously desirable garden plant and migraine-inducing detestable weed.
Gardening. Eh. Another of those pursuits of the mad. . . .
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* It’s been drizzling just enough for frelling Souvenir to say YAAAAAAAAH!!!!! and ball like crazy. No proper RAIN just Souvenir dis-enhancing mist. Note that I am ALREADY sick to death of watering. It is my least favourite garden activity: I like weeding and pruning and tying up and tying down and swearing and all that: I HATE WATERING^. And apparently we’re about to have a hot dry stretch^^ like what the rest of the world calls summer, I can do without it. I like a little light complaining about not having the opportunity to wear my more amusing t shirts, since it kills the purpose if you cover them up with a sweater. And sunlight is nice. But we don’t need it all the time. Grey and miserable! YESSSSSS! That’s what I moved to England for!^^^
^ The woman whose garden is full of pots. Whose pots are full of pots. Whose pots’ pots occasionally have pots in them.
^^ The moment the last of Souvenir’s gigantic midsummer flush has gone GREY-BROWN AND MOULDY.
^^^ Oh, and Peter.
** Although this is changing. Not in a good way.
In this case, Peter’s.
That riot in the centre and left is all one rose, you know. The bigger, more intensely coloured but rather overshadowed roses on the right are James Galway and William Morris.
Some annual events are really eventful. Treasure Trove in bloom is one of them. Also, speaking of house-eaters.
We actually see her better here than we did at the old house. At the old house she was busy raging through the treetops, forty or fifty feet up. She did drop a few stems downward so we could appreciate what we were missing, but mostly you had to stand under the original tree where her trunk, which was a clump of stems easily as big around as my thigh and of a toughness that would not have disgraced teak or ironwood, soared out of the mere earth, and look up. She’s usually described as ‘thirty foot’. Sure. For the first year or two. Peter was afraid she’d take over the universe with only a small end-of-mews cottage and garden shed to overwhelm but I was all PUT HER IN! PUT HER IN!!! I bought her–I’m the rose buyer in this family–and THRUST her upon him. Well, it was his idea. I was only abetting.
I say all this every year, right? Eh. Some stories are worth retelling. If you’re not a rose person, what are you doing on this blog? –Fantasy novels? What?*
It was taken with the same camera on the same memory card as all the others. BUT NOOOOOOOOO. THIS ONE IS POSSESSED BY DEMONS. Okay, let’s see what fascinations await when I try to load the next one. The screen will go black except for a fiery ring and a mysterious voice that is not coming from the speakers will intone: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them . . . Or it will be a photo of the B&B from someone’s holiday in Blackpool. There will not be a neon campfire in the window.
I personally think Morris would be spinning in his grave if he knew that they named an orange ‘old fashioned’ rose after him. I like orange in begonias, dahlias, gazanias, osteospermums, cardigans and topaz rings. I find it varyingly problematical in roses. And a rose bred to look old and ORANGE is like Queen Victoria in Jimmy Choos. NOOOOOOOOO.**
This is Westerland. You get a burning intense ORANGE bud . . .
She also smells fabulous, repeats well and is spectacularly tough. I’m surprised she’s not more popular. Relatively trouble-free roses are not thick on the ground (ha ha ha ha ha). Maybe it’s something to do with the colour. . . . But I always loathed ‘Just Joey’ which for years kept being voted ‘Britain’s favourite rose’. Whyyyyyyy? The flowers are stupidly big–too big–and floppy and shapeless, and a creepy orangey-bilious-jaundiced-Caucasian-flesh colour on a revoltingly feeble bush that keeps falling over every time it produces one of its unpleasant blooms. UGGGH. Sue me, I’m American.
Love love love.
Although she is the pink end of orange.*** I’m going to make my usual caveat about colour varying with that year’s weather and what you’ve been feeding her and where you and she live. Westerland can be a lot more in your face OOOOOORANGE, and Rachel can be more orange than pink.
I’ll post photos of my (orange) Ghislaine de Feligonde as soon as she’s out a little more. . . .
* * *
* There’s a joke here somewhere about retelling fairy tales, but I haven’t got it quite worked out.
** I should explain that Galway and Morris are artefacts of Peter’s predecessor. Even if you like orange old-fashioned roses, the strong pink Galway is a perverse pairing. Maybe the photos looked different in the catalogue. As they so often do.
*** Did someone say PINK?