A love-hate affair with rose bushes continues

Is there anything lovelier than beautiful, soft, fragrant rose blooms? Not for me the stiff, hybrid tea types. I will leave those for others. But the David Austins are so deliciously voluptuous that I just want to bury my nose in all those scented petals. In a vase. And therein lies the rub.

The rose garden here is on borrowed time. It dates back to Mark’s mother who had a love affair with old fashioned roses and it has undergone several makeovers in the decades since. But it just doesn’t work aesthetically. We are not a good rose climate here – humid and high  rainfall without enough winter chill to kill off the greeblies, fungi and diseases that afflict roses. Our rose garden is too sheltered which restricts air movement. One of the beds is now too dry and the competition from the roots of our massive rimu trees nearby are an issue. Mark has always refused point blank to spray roses, being of the opinion that they must thrive on their own merits.

I have tried. Oh I have tried. I was recommended varieties by experienced rose producers and growers and I have crowd sourced others. Alas I have pulled out and burned more roses for poor performance than any other plant I have had to buy. After 20 years, I am going to cut my losses this winter and pull out the central beds that surround our sunken garden.

Not all will be burned. Fortunately we have large vegetable gardens, but not a picking garden as such. A couple of years ago when I was getting discouraged at  the underperforming, defoliated, ugly rose bushes, I dug some out and Mark planted them in a row in one of his veg gardens. He has several. Veg gardens, that is. The rose bushes with the most gorgeous blooms can be added to that row. It does not matter there if they have black spot and are defoliated and ugly. I can go and pick the blooms when I wish. But only those with gorgeous blooms will be relocated to this position.

It is very, very pink is Rose Flower Carpet Pink but just look at that foliage. Superb.

Rose Flower Carpet Appleblossom – a prettier pink, still with good foliage though it does not flower as long through for us. The white version flowers all year round, however.

Not all the roses are a dead loss. What the Rose Flower Carpet series lacks in individual flower form and scent is more than made up for in fantastic performance throughout the season and brilliantly healthy foliage. They are what we call *good garden plants*. Not blooms for cutting, but all-round garden performers.

Mme Plantier, I believe?

Madame Plantier is only once flowering but I can forgive that for her month or so of glory, her gorgeous scent and healthy foliage. There is one super healthy rose that I think is a David Austen but I have lost its name – again lush, strong growth and very good blooms in apricot pink. That one is to be relocated and trained as a climber up a pergola pole. Though as the pergola is not yet built, it may have to go to temporary quarters. The white rugosa, Rosa Blanc Double de Coubert, stays a healthy bush for us though there are more prolific bloomers in the rose world.

The central borders in the grass are to go. This may take a year or so.

The sunken garden, seen here at its tidiest, is to be the feature without the distraction of the borders

The so-called rose garden here is the area of the garden where I have put in the greatest effort  over the last 20 years. And while it has times when it looks pretty enough, I have come to realise that it is also the one area of the garden that I really do not enjoy maintaining at all. In fact, I avoid it as much as I can which is an indicator that all is not well. A landscaper friend looked at it recently and immediately suggested that we pull out all of the central borders that edge the deep, marble and granite sunken garden. “Feature the sunken garden,” he said. “The borders just detract.” I had to think about it for a while. But he is right. It was just a bit of a shock after all my efforts down the years. More on that in the future. We can’t do much going into summer but mentally I am relocating the plants that are worth saving and discarding the rest.

And I am mentally remaking the one border that we will save but renovate which runs along to the left. It is the garden we look out to from a favoured late afternoon seating position. Not a lot has changed in the nine years since the photo above was taken. We are still often to be found in the same seats in the same location. But it is a good reminder of why we want that one border looking good with a high level of plant interest, because we see it often.

“Doing the flowers” in the laundry. I only show this for overseas readers because I love my laundry room, a space much favoured in NZ and Australian houses that does not seem to be adopted as widely in other parts of the world. I can’t imagine living without a separate laundry room.

12 thoughts on “A love-hate affair with rose bushes continues

  1. Tony Murrell

    Interesting comments Abbey and like you, with some plants we just push the boundaries to the point of termination. I am a newly converted rose lover and will only use them where the conditions suit the characteristic and DNA of the plant. Carpet roses and especially the apple blossom you mentioned are dependable and my opinion great value for money.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I have found with the carpet roses that VERY light pruning is the best approach and the larger I allow them to grow, the better they are. Which is actually true of all roses, when I come to think of it. The hard pruning of old only works if you follow a regime when you feed them excessive amounts of added fertiliser – which we are have never done to any plants and are actively trying to reduce usage of (except for compost which I know we agree on).

  2. Dale Lethbridge

    I remember envying once a young woman not for her beautiful new house as much as for her flower /wet room.
    Cupboards for vases and drawers with neatly stored secateurs etc all in their own place. Divine design.

  3. Philippa Foes-Lamb

    Loved this post honey.. I too have a love/hate relationship with roses. I have to confess the only ones I have in my garden are Rugosas (several different varieties that are so hardy and smell DIVINE!), Pierre de Ronsard, a gorgeous pillar rose with very little scent but gorgeous form & flowers 3x a season with healthy foliage, Jacqueline du Pre (I hope I spelt her correctly) and Lavendar Lassie. I adore David Austins too but don’t have the patience to mollycoddle them. I don’t spray anything on our property so Rugosas are just perfect because they don’t get disease.

    Right now my rugosas are SMOTHERED in aphids because it is getting horrendously dry here. The waxeyes and greenfinches that normally help control them are nowhere to be seen either!

    I think your sunken garden will look magnificent as a feature on its own.. just gorgeous! That is what is so wonderful about creating and loving a garden – it is always evolving. Smiles..

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I managed to KILL Roseraie de l’Hay. Well, not so much kill it as it up and died when it was a well established plant and we had no idea why. I am not so keen on their thorny ways but they are lovely blooms like tissue paper. And yes to a garden that is forever evolving. Conditions change and so must the way we garden in response to that. Too many NZ gardeners get hooked on trying to preserve forever that fresh juvenility of a newly planted garden which seems a bit of a short sighted approach to me.

  4. tonytomeo

    There certainly are not many fans for the hybrid teas, yet they still sell in bare root season. They are still my favorites because I grew up with them.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Florists’ flowers, hybrid teas. Says she, a little disdainfully. But many of us have flowers from our childhood that we treasure for the memories. I had several attempts at growing dicentra spectabilis before accepting that it just would not grow in our climate.

      1. tonytomeo

        You know, that is why I like blue gum, even though I know it is a horrid tree! It gets too big too fast and drops limbs from half a mile up! ICK! But I really like it nonetheless. I grew up with it.

  5. André Johnke

    Dear Abbie,
    I really understand your decision. Roses hated me for my whole gardening life. I always tried everything to make them happy, but they didn’t like me (or was it my garden?) So eventually I got fed up with their straggly and leggy growth, whether pruned or not they always looked hideous, and particularly with their disappointing performance: A single flush of flowers every season, even on those that were said to flower continously. They were rarely troubled by disease, it was their overall appearance that I couldn’t stand anymore. So one day they had to go. The borders look much better now, having more structure and substance, and there are so many other plants that are far more rewarding. Although sometimes there are moments where I miss them it was the right decision.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I can relate to this. If these were any other shrub other than roses, they would have been hiffed out years ago. There is no way most of them can justify a place in the garden beyond a flush of lovely flowers. The rest of the year, they just look awful. Oddly, we seem to have this feeling that a garden is not complete with roses but that is just historical sentimentality!

  6. Tim Dutton

    We struggle with some roses, but the Flower Carpets have almost always been successful. We have a Flower Carpet Pink that is 2 metres tall now and one Flower Carpet Apple Blossom that has half reverted to the original Pink, so the one bush has both flowers on it mixed together. We like the effect and are careful never to prune more of one away than the other so it stays around 50-50. We seems to do better here with climbers and ramblers than bushes for some reason. Our Rose Garden now has few of its original plants apart from the climbers and looks better for it.

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