The November Garden – rose time

November is peak rose season for us

This is the first spring in twenty seven years that our garden has not been open to the public. It has been something of a revelation. We have so many friends and colleagues who open their private gardens for at least some of the year that it had become normal – an integral part of our lives and how we gardened. We wanted a break but the main driver for the decision to close has been the high impact of the petrochemical industry. From being a sleepy little rural enclave, in a few short years Tikorangi has become Petrochemical Central and this has sent scarily large amounts of heavy and often hazardous transport past our gate. It is not a good fit with an open garden. We take the long view here. Our garden is built around trees originally planted by Mark’s great grandfather from 1870 onwards. The house gardens have been intensively worked since they were first put in by Mark’s parents in 1950. It seems likely that the garden will still be here when the gas has been pumped out from the ground below us and the petrochemical companies have moved on from fossil fuels – to renewables, we hope. In the interim, I don my iPod because I would rather listen to music in the garden than heavy industry. Now we garden for our own pleasure and without having to titivate to open garden standards – or garden grooming we call it.

Cymbeline, on of the David Austen roses

Cymbeline, on of the David Austen roses

November is peak rose season for us. I have a love-hate affair with roses. I am forever debating with myself whether the beauty of the blooms outweighs the foliage and form which are often disappointing – even more so as the poor defoliated things battle through summer and autumn. But is a large, comprehensive garden ever complete without roses? The problem is that we don’t spray our roses. Ever. I never spray anything and Mark point blank refuses to do roses. If they don’t perform without spraying, rip them out and replace them is his view. We do a bit of that and we are trialling some almost thornless pillar roses for a new pergola we have planned.

Mme Plantier, I understand

Mme Plantier, I understand

Mme Plantier, I understand [/caption]Personally, I am not a fan of hybrid teas. They don’t even rank amongst desirable cut flowers for me. I much prefer the informal floribunda types. We have a wonderful white shrub rose which was finally identified for us as Mme Plantier. It keeps excellent foliage without intervention, flowers in abundance and is sweetly scented. But it is only once-flowering and so many gardeners now refuse to grow any rose that doesn’t repeat-flower through the season. We don’t expect other shrubs to flower continually but poor roses are now judged by a different standard. Is six weeks not enough?

Rose Flower Carpet Appleblossom

Rose Flower Carpet Appleblossom

While the Rose Flower Carpet series never attract descriptors such as delicious or exquisite, as high health backbone plants, we have yet to find anything to rival them. Year in and year out, they flourish despite our high humidity and high summer rainfall.  The somewhat vibrant pink form that was the first to be released and the white have particularly long flowering seasons. In fact the white is rarely without blooms. The bright pink looks great when surrounded by large amounts of background green. It took me a few attempts to find the right locations. I prefer the paler apple blossom pink but it doesn’t repeat as well and blooms can ball in heavy rain. While we don’t spray, I am old fashioned and prune by the manual, even though there is research which says that a pass over with hedge clippers is just as effective. We keep roses in open, sunny positions with good air movement. As a point of principle, we do not routinely add fertilisers to our ornamental gardens but we mulch often with homemade compost. That is their feed. If any roses can’t perform well enough with the same regime of care that the rest of the garden gets, then I am afraid they are not for us. But those that do well here are a November delight.

First published in the November issue of NZ Gardener and reprinted here with their permission. 

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