Roses: success in sandy soil

JOSH BYRNE vis­its the Perth gar­den of an English-born jour­nal­ist who has found a way to make her beloved roses and cot­tage gar­den plants thrive in the city’s hot, dry cli­mate

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS - Photography ROBERT FRITH/ACORN PHOTO

Perth is a beau­ti­ful place to live. Its great weather, fab­u­lous beaches and wealth of open space all con­trib­ute to a ter­rific life­style. Un­for­tu­nately, th­ese at­tributes also present ma­jor gar­den­ing chal­lenges, in­clud­ing sandy soil, hot weather and months of sum­mer heat with no rain.

An ever drier cli­mate has meant that Perth now has per­ma­nent wa­ter-sav­ing mea­sures in place, which limit gar­den ir­ri­ga­tion. It’s not sur­pris­ing that, over the years, Perth gar­den­ers have re­sponded by cre­at­ing drought-hardy gar­dens suited to the lo­cal con­di­tions. The in­clu­sion of na­tive plants and other species with low wa­ter needs has be­come the norm, and the tra­di­tional cot­tage gar­den filled with ro­man­tic and of­ten ten­der ex­otic species is be­com­ing some­what of a rar­ity. Deryn Thorpe is buck­ing this trend.

Deryn is a print and ra­dio jour­nal­ist, and an avid gardener. She writes for ABC Gar­den­ing Aus­tralia mag­a­zine (see her story on plec­tran­thus, on page 12 of this issue), co-hosts a gar­den­ing pod­cast with

Steve Wood called All the Dirt, and leads gar­den­ing tours around the world. On top of this, she finds time to tend a thriv­ing gar­den on a 1200m2 prop­erty in the leafy in­ner Perth sub­urb of Mount Law­ley.

Born in the UK, Deryn says she owes much of her gar­den­ing style to her English roots. She spent her early child­hood in Kent, of­ten re­ferred to as ‘the gar­den of Eng­land’, be­fore ar­riv­ing in Aus­tralia at the age of six. De­spite gar­den­ing on some of the world’s poor­est soils, she was de­ter­mined to grow the plants she loves, and has proved this is pos­si­ble if you put in the ef­fort.

in the gar­den

Deryn de­scribes her gar­den as some­thing of a fu­sion, “a cot­tage gar­den with a bit of plant col­lec­tion wrapped around a Fed­er­a­tion-pe­riod house”. The front gar­den is a spec­ta­cle of colour and tex­ture. Gar­den beds are brim­ming with roses, veg­eta­bles, flow­er­ing peren­ni­als and massed bor­der plant­ings. Hanging bas­kets and pots fur­nish the sweep­ing ve­ran­dah. Two neatly man­i­cured squares of lawn ei­ther side of the main ar­rival path­way qui­eten ev­ery­thing down. Es­tab­lished trees give dap­pled shade and a sense of scale to the high-set house.

The back gar­den is more struc­tured, com­plete with arbor, parterre and sculp­tural fo­cal points. Hedges and brick-edged lime­stone paving add to the for­mal­ity. Plants are still the he­roes, with great care taken in the species se­lec­tion. Roses dom­i­nate and are grown in var­i­ous ways to be func­tional as well as beau­ti­ful. Climb­ing types are par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive in pro­vid­ing screen­ing along the bound­ary fence. An oc­ca­sional cut­back is all they need to keep them un­der con­trol. Grow­ing an as­sort­ment of va­ri­eties means there are flow­ers through­out the year.

Deryn ad­mits cot­tage gar­dens are time-con­sum­ing, but they are fan­tas­tic for plant col­lec­tors and those who like to trial new plants. “It’s a fab­u­lous style if you like flow­ers, and ob­vi­ously I do!” she says. “They can

“If you have a struc­tured design to the gar­den, the in­for­mal ram­ble of cot­tage plants does not look so un­tidy”

look messy, es­pe­cially in a small space, but if you have a struc­tured design to the gar­den, the in­for­mal ram­ble of cot­tage plants does not look so un­tidy.”

Deryn also ad­vo­cates ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. “I’m still sur­prised where plants thrive. For ex­am­ple, in the front gar­den, my ‘Ann Till­ing’ pelargo­nium, which has lu­mi­nous golden fo­liage, likes dap­pled shade, too. It romps through the hy­drangeas and plec­tran­thus, and makes the area look bright and ca­sual.

“Out the back I’m rather pleased with the way the dry, rooty area be­neath a big co­ral tree (Ery­th­rina in­dica) tree looks. I have planted it up with tough plants, such as rus­cus, di­anella, lo­man­dra, Philo­den­dron ‘Xanadu’ and an­gel’s trum­pets (Brug­man­sia spp.), which are all thriv­ing in the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions.”

My visit to Deryn’s house in­cluded home­made cake and tea taken on the back ve­ran­dah. I left with a bunch of plant cut­tings and a great deal of re­spect for the work that she and hus­band Bill have put into cre­at­ing such a beau­ti­ful gar­den, de­spite the con­di­tions.

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