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.
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.
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 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.