Thursday 24 October 2013

Indecision rules ... maybe !

It sounds very simple really !  I am currently mid- Autumn garden re-shuffle, and I have found 3 rose-sized gaps in the borders. The logical - and wonderful- thing to do is to hotfoot it down to my nearest David Austin nursery and buy 3 roses to fill those gaps, pretty damn quick ! Simple ? 'Fraid not !

Some people do this with boxes of chocolates, others with shoes, but I do it with plants. I am unable to make a decision . Ever. At all. Because I want them all...

Choosing is a delicious mix of pleasure and pain. I am so excited at being able to choose brand new roses to add to my collection, but unable to choose ones I really, really want because I don't know which ones I really, really want.

Believe it or not, this is genuinely my THIRD attempt to do this. The first time my partner was patiently standing waiting, and he put me off.  I couldn't concentrate even though he wasn't even sighing or looking at his watch. he was just watching me, and apparently that was enough to destroy my concentration, so we had to come home.

The second time (different nursery) I was with my daughter and grand daughter. Now, my daughter said I could be as long as I wanted, but after only ten minutes, she started saying things like "that red one over there looks good, why not buy that". Oh dear, seems that put me off as well, so we had to come home.

So today I went by myself and allowed endless time to perfect and hone my skills of indecision.

Unbelievably, I had two roses in the trolley after only about  fifteen minutes - two unplanned Floribundas, for the price of one David Austin. I do love a bargain. One was 'Joi de Vivre', voted 'Rose of the Year 2011' (see header photo). It grows to about 50cm high x 40 cms wide. It is a repeat flowerer and the foliage was positively crackling with health. Not a sign of black spot even at this point of the season.

My other purchase is 'The Attenborough rose' which looks like a shrub rose, big, vigorous and healthy, with very pale pink flowers. It will grow to about 1.25 metres and is a repeat flowerer. It is covered in flowers even now. It is not a rose I know, so hope it lives up to its promise.

So ... that just leaves the DA contenders...

It took me 45 minutes to draw up this shortlist:

Boscobel - new introduction 2012, salmon pink, 1m height, repeat
The Countryman - strongish pink, height approx 1 m, repeat
Wildeve - pale pink, repeat, height approx 1m
Claire Austin - white, repeat, height approx 1m
Lichfield Angel - white, 4 feet high, don't think it repeats
Sister Elizabeth - small , only about 60x60cm. Didn't say it was a repeater.

I had my David Austin catalogue to refer to, so that I had all the info on them, plus scribbled notes of mine, and I also went through the whole catalogue yesterday, marking the frontrunners. Should have been easy ...

I finally whittled it down to my top three,  Wildeve, Claire and from there got my winner ... ta dah ... 'The Countryman'.

So how did I finally decide ? I applied the following critera - it had to be a repeat flowerer, and it had to still look good, even in mid-October. Lots of the roses on display  at the nursery (not just DA) had blackspot, yellowing leaves, or were de-foliated. The ones in my final three were all clearly disease-resistant and had good healthy foliage. The plants themselves, had to be a good size and shape, with leaves to soil level. Flowers or buds were a bonus, and I tried not to be influenced by those.

So, they were finally in the trolley ... and it only took an hour and a half ! 

Sunday 20 October 2013

The mysterious case of the disappearing plants...

There is a lovely portion of the gardening year, when the end of the growing season is just a cat's whisker away, and for a short while there is really nothing to do but enjoy the last of the flowers. The garden is suspended in time, for a short while, before the great clear-up and move-around  starts. I always put off this next flurry of activity as I don't like to disturb and spoil the late summer garden, and be the one to start the process of dismantling it all.

Hardy fuschia Lady Boothby

This year the colour has continued very strongly and I just didn't want to break up the party. For a couple of weeks I have just relaxed and enjoyed watching the season change... but now is the time for action.

Trouble is, I've left it a wee bit too late, so I am now playing a  mad game of Plant-Cluedo, trying to find clues to determine the name of the remaining slimy stems, or dried brown stems ! I am to be found on my hands and knees, hysterically searching for clues in the soil - the remains of a hosta leaf, the seed pod of a sweetpea, as proof that it's owner lies beneath the soil. A few brown, slimy leaves are often all that is left ... of what ?  Lysimachia? Lupins? Who knows ! I probably cut them back much earlier in the year, so there is very little evidence left for Inspector Clouseau to find ! I am having to rely on memory, as well as  foraging for clues . I am trying to dig up and move plants which have all but disappeared as they settle down for their long winter sleep. Seemingly overnight plants have vanished, often without trace !

Hmm ! Slimy stems ... who knows what they are!

My 'window of opportunity' for all this moving and dividing is, sadly, just the tiniest bathroom window, through which I am trying to squeeze. From surveying the garden over a lazy cup of tea, thinking how lovely the dahlias are, I am now outside all day long, desperately moving plants before all trace of them disappears.

All season I have been making notes of what needs splitting or moving. There is the salmon pink phlox next to the golden yellow Hemerocallis which , unless you have taken mind-altering drugs,  is not a colour combo which gives pleasure ! There is the naughty Rogersia which usually goes in front of the hosta but this year has taken upon itself to grow ridiculously tall, and needs to be moved to the back row! There is the disaster of the Alchemilla Mollis edging ( July onwards - nil points!) which needs replacing with geranium. There is the David Austin 'Winchester cathedral' which has been manfully engaged in a battle for survival with Miscanthus. Need I go on ...

I have also got trays of foxgloves and Violas to plant out, but now when I look at the growing tracts of bare soil, I can't recall what was growing there a few weeks before. Where was that little space I was going to pop a few violas in ? There is now a vast expanse of bare soil as foliage dies off and vanishes. What is lurking under the soil ready to spring into action next year?


Yes, I know I should put labels in, to mark what is planted where, but if you have a read of this post, you will see why I don't bother!   'A rose by any name at all...'

But, despite my poor sleuthing, there are still many reasons to be cheerful ... the sun is still as warm as summer at the moment, and there has been no frost to kill the colour.

Plant of the Year 2012, Foxglove 'Illumination' did not win my heart initially, as I felt it didn't live up to expectations, but as the season has progressed it has just kept on flowering and flowering. It is beginning to bulk up and become multi stemmed. It is becoming one of the stalwarts of the garden now.

I just don't don't understand cameras - that Aconitum is a deep amethyst blue in reality, and not the washed out  shade in the photo !

This is a cutting of 'Graham Thomas' which I took last year, and it is flowering for the very first time.

Lots of the English roses are still flowering sporadically, and 'Sceptr'd Isle' is a bit rain battered around the edges, but still a lovely sight on an Autumn morning.

Maybe I'll  stop playing Plant - Cluedo now, and start again in the Spring, when the new shoots come through and it will be so much easier to see where all those gaps are.

Friday 4 October 2013

A rose by any name at all ...

Labelling - it should be part of every greenhouse gardener's routine. All plants should have their own label which is clear, correct and dated.

In my head, I do all that. In reality, it is very different, and my greenhouse can be a bizarre place as far as labels are concerned. For instance, there are lots of labels like this ;

Now, I don't have any problem reading that at all, in fact it is one of my better labels. It may look as if says 'shoe' or even 'Shop fiz', but I know it says 'Jude 5.13'!  It is a cutting of the English Rose 'Jude the obscure', and is a rooted cutting taken in May 2013.

I am either mean, or thrifty, depending on your point of view, and for some reason, I am extremely parsimonious with my labels, and use them as many times as is humanly possible. This can lead to confusion such as this :

A totally useless label, as the writing on the other side is unreadable, and the plant is clearly not a tree peony. I know it is a rose, but haven't a clue which one until it flowers !

 'Love in a mist '?? I can't ever remember growing 'Love in a mist' ! Why is that label in that pot ? Totally bizarre - and I swear nothing in these photos has been moved or changed in any way ! Again, the plants are clearly rose cuttings, and again, they will have to remain anonymous until they flower.

The label situation is made even worse by my handwriting, which is bad at best,  and at worse , atrocious, especially when written with gardening gloves on.

Ignore the fact that the cutting hasn't rooted and is dying a slow and lingering death, and try to read the label. 'Paul's Scarlet 8.13' is what that shorthand reads! Honest...

It isn't that I have no new labels, I have a drawer full of them, and lots in my handy tin, ready to use.

I have big ones, small ones, ones that tie on, ones that stick in the ground, different coloured ones, even , somewhere, some lovely (unused) copper ones. Yet still I feel compelled to get all the use I can from existing ones, before I reach for a brand new virgin label. If you look closely you can make out  cobwebs on those labels. 

I keep some of them for a LONG time ...

This one is 15 years old and it was my mum's, and it was for a geranium. It is now in a rose cutting pot, with something indecipherable on the other side! Why do I bother ?

Another problem I have is the fading pen. The label is crisp and clear when written, but fades to  infuriating squiggles as soon as your back is turned.

For those unfamiliar with fading-pen syndrome, it is 'Buff Beauty' - yet another rose.

I also seem to just throw random labels around, especially in the greenhouse...

A label reading 'Atomic snowflake 'is currently lying next to the remains of a courgette plant. It is not in my handwriting, and I would bet it is not a variety of courgette either. My money is on a geranium, circa 1996 ! By the way, the other side is totally blank.

The label above hardly inspires confidence, as I seem to have had a crisis of indecision when I was writing it.

I also get a bit over-descriptive about some plants, especially if I am unsure of the name or variety.

If plants are given to you by friends, often there is no variety known, and you need to invent your own name for them.

Oh dear ! I wasn't even sure about this one at the time I took the cutting.

There is NO label next to my tomato plants, so I have no idea what variety they are, but I did find the 2 labels in the photo above, lying next to them. Needless to say there was no coriander or Californian Wonder peppers anywhere in sight.

The tomatoes themselves are lookin' good, but will have to remain nameless. I tried 3 new varieties this season and I have a list of them - just haven't a clue which one is which.

Occasionally, I get it right ! St Swithins has a label which is easily readable, dated and correct ! 

Better make the most of it ... a rose by any other name and all that !