MING UP ROSES
A beautifully restored walled kitchen garden is the beating heart of a great country house
why would you want to grow them? I asked Michael Marriot of David Austin Roses (who is involved or has been consulted in both sets of trials), to suggest his best roses for disease resistance combined with appeal. For an Iceberg substitute he recommends the white, excellent repeater Susan Williams-Ellis. A top yellow is Teasing Georgia, with Princess Alexandra of Kent (pink) and the most recent pink Olivia Rose Austin also high on his list. I would add Munstead Wood as I love the damson/purple colour and it does well on my light, dry soil. If you want great roses, you do need to tend them well in the first couple of years to get them established. In dry periods their roots will not be sufficiently developed to keep them in top form. Even in early October this year I was still watering roses I planted two autumns ago. When you plant a bare-root rose make sure that the graft is 2in (50mm) below the soil. This deeper planting will not encourage suckering as the current rootstock is usually R. laxa, which rarely suckers. Nowadays few of us grow roses as solid blocks together, which does help to prevent the spread of disease. But, if you are mixing roses with herbaceous plants, don’t let them get too close to the rose roots or they will out-compete them for moisture and feed. One highly respected elderly lady gardener told me that she adds three loads of manure to her roses a year, but Michael Marriot questions the value of doing this. When the plants at the David Austin rose garden were looking a little sad, they had the soil analysed by NRM Laboratories (tests for pH, potassium, phosphate and magnesium cost about £9.50; visit NRM.uk.com). A huge build-up of potassium and phosphate was found in the soil, which was locking up other nutrients. Sometimes people add so much fertiliser you get reverse osmosis, and the plant wilts as a result. A recommended fertiliser is Vitax Q4, which may be used alongside a slow-release nitrogen-based one to aid good growth during establishment. For improving soil structure I prefer localauthority green waste to manure as it is weed-free. Foliar feeds are good if you want to go to town and Michael recommends SB Plant Invigorator or Maxicrop (seaweed-based), both great on many garden plants. In the US, research suggests that scattering maize flour around your roses helps to prevent black spot. Apparently other fungi develop from it, which control the disease. Once your roses are settled in, how long should you expect them to last? One fabulous garden full of 30year-old roses had to replant them all (for other reasons) and they went on to give excellent value. Keep an eye on them – the lifespan of your roses will depend on how well you are tending them, and on your site and soil. Maybe after 15 years you hanker after a change of rose varieties. Should you worry about replant disease? This is a problem that affects new roses planted on soil where roses have been grown before. Michael and David Austin differ on this. David thinks replacement of soil is best, Michael thinks replacing a few spadefuls and adding mycorrhizal fungi can work. As with so many aspects of gardening, the choice is yours. Sarah Raven’s new favourite dahlias at
Flower beds may be the frilly petticoats around a country house but, to me, the heart is its kitchen garden – and a recent visit to Gravetye Manor, in West Sussex, produced a real plum. Designed by William Robinson at the turn of the last century, this is one of the last large-scale vegetable gardens to be built in this country. It’s a relic of a golden age when labour was cheap and space wasn’t at a premium. Legend has it that the soil for this 1½-acre elliptical plot was imported by the cartload. The south-facing hillside spot is at the perfect angle to catch the light and the sun’s warmth, so that bumper crops could be harvested from the two main beds that follow the shelter of the 12ft sandstone walls. Thanks to the passion of Gravetye owner Jeremy Hosking, a recent restoration has rescued this garden. Head gardener Tom Coward decided the only way to bring his plot back to life was to spray kill the weeds, leave the beds fallow for a while, and then start again with a blank canvas. This kitchen garden’s unique heritage dictated that history should be respected, and it’s there now in all its beauty, supplying the manor – an award-winning hotel – with vegetables, herbs and fruit. The diversity of produce encourages wildlife that helps with pollination. A run of bantam hens is moved around the beds, so its occupants can fertilise and scarify, as well as supplying the guests with tiny eggs. Tom experiments with old and new varieties of crops, but ultimately it’s flavour that determines his choice. What is popular in the restaurant and cooks well in the kitchen wins hands down, and chef George Blogg’s palate is the final arbiter. Tom and George get together with the seed catalogues over a pre- … cutting and rakingmy small meadowto remove the thatch. The haystack will rot down to clear a space next year where I can plant new wildflowers.