Akaroa

The weather may still have a sting in its tail but Septem­ber 1 is of­fi­cially the first day of spring and I couldn't be hap­pier.

NZ Gardener - - CONTENTS -

Bar­bara Lea Taylor’s fam­ily of flow­ers

It’s the day my daugh­ter was born many years ago, so I have a very good rea­son to re­mem­ber it. Af­ter two boys, it was nice to wel­come a girl and I called her Marigold which I thought was a per­fectly beau­ti­ful name. She dis­agreed, and by the time she started school, she was Margo ever af­ter– but here’s the odd thing: My ma­ter­nal grand­mother, whom I rarely met be­cause she lived in another coun­try, had four daugh­ters and she called them all af­ter flow­ers. In the fash­ion of the day, they were Ivy, Holly, Daphne, Myr­tle – which they all promptly changed. Never for a mo­ment did it oc­cur to me that in giv­ing my daugh­ter a flower name, I was copy­ing my grand­mother. My own mother never men­tioned it and it was only re­cently when go­ing through some old pho­to­graphs that the penny dropped. The fam­ily bonds that bind us are tighter than we know.

But enough of such flow­ery fri­vol­ity – we have work to do.

Our roses need their big spring feed right now.

Late prun­ing gar­den­ers many have fed their plants im­me­di­ately af­ter prun­ing, but for many of us, it still needs to be done.

If the feed is aged, or­ganic and smells foul, the roses will prob­a­bly love it. An­i­mal ma­nures – not fresh – are good but are of­ten full of weeds. The an­i­mals them­selves are prefer­able. If pos­sums need to be culled, bury them be­side your rose. Once I had seven in quick suc­ces­sion and the roses were spec­tac­u­lar that year.

If you’re near a beach, there is noth­ing bet­ter than sea­weed or sea­grass, but spread it out, hose it down to get some of the salt out and leave it for a few days be­fore you chop it up and put it on the rose beds.

Sheep ma­nure is su­perb. If you don’t have a wool­shed handy, buy bagged sheep pel­lets. Mush­room com­post is good too. I or­gan­ise a trailer load of it ev­ery sec­ond or third year.

It de­pends on what is eas­ily avail­able in your area. Good old blood and bone forked in around the dripline will make any rose happy but dogs love it too, so be­ware.

Home­made com­post is al­ways the star. In an ideal world we would all have our com­post bins brim­ming over with beau­ti­ful fri­able stuff just when we needed it. But if it doesn’t hap­pen all that of­ten and we haven’t time to fuss, we can buy a big bag of fer­tiliser es­pe­cially for roses, and if it says ni­tro­gen, potas­sium and phos­pho­rus some­where on the out­side, the roses will be happy.

If you still have the re­mains of a win­ter mulch of pea straw, push it away from the base of the roses so that you can fork in food around the dripline. How­ever, this doesn’t ap­ply to huge bushes where you need to use your dis­cre­tion and make sure the food isn’t gob­bled up by neigh­bour­ing plants.

Plant pretty spring and sum­mer ground­cov­ers in the rose beds and they will act as liv­ing mulch. The vi­ola ‘Mag­gie Mott’ flow­ers for­ever and has the happy knack of form­ing clumps and spread­ing.

Scrunch early aphids or wash them off with a blast from the hose. Don’t give them time to mul­ti­ply as they do it so well.

A nurs­ery phoned to let me know they had ‘Madame Hardy’ which I had or­dered last sea­son.

I was a bit gob­s­macked be­cause I couldn’t re­mem­ber or­der­ing it, and I re­ally didn’t want another white rose. But then I re­mem­bered it had been or­dered as a present for a friend who has since left Akaroa for a land far away.

‘Madame Hardy’ is a Da­mask, a per­fect-petalled, flat and quar­tered rose with a lit­tle ring of petals fold­ing in­wards around a jade green eye, and a heav­enly Da­mask per­fume. She was in­tro­duced in 1832 by Mon­sieur Hardy who was direc­tor of the Lux­em­burg Gar­dens in Paris. He named the rose for his wife, and it is said to be his loveli­est cre­ation. Good fo­liage and strong growth are promised. So who could re­sist? I will plant her near ‘Jac­que­line du Pre’ and hope she in­spires that over-rated rose to live up to the name she was given.

The Da­mask roses have been with us for a very long time. Dried gar­lands of Da­mask roses have been found in Egyp­tian tombs. Some say the name refers to the an­cient Mediter­ranean city of Da­m­as­cus where the rose was well known while oth­ers be­lieve it refers to the fine tex­ture of the petals. The rose is thought to have been taken to Europe by re­turn­ing Cru­saders.

My favourite Da­mask is ‘Is­pa­han’, big, frilly, pink and per­fumed.

'Is­pa­han' is trou­ble free and ex­cep­tion­ally gen­er­ous with its blooms.

Al­though it is once-flow­er­ing like most of the re­ally an­cient roses, you can ex­pect the clus­ters of big blooms to be­gin in early sum­mer and con­tinue till au­tumn. ‘Is­pa­han‘ is one of those ac­com­mo­dat­ing roses which grow rapidly to a big, tall and spread­ing bush, full of flow­ers, and free of dis­eases.

‘Leda’ is some­times called the Painted Da­mask.

I grew it in another gar­den many years ago and it is truly a most in­ter­est­ing rose. From blunt, fat buds that look as if they have been chewed, there bursts a frilly white skirt of a flower, each lay­ered petal brushed with carmine on the edge as if it had been touched with paint­brush.

My ‘Leda’ pro­duced fra­grant flow­ers in spring and again in au­tumn, and re­mained a com­pact bush.

There are more de­li­cious Da­masks avail­able from spe­cial­ist rose nurs­eries, and they are well worth grow­ing.

‘Is­pa­han’.

‘Madame Hardy’.

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