What a cathartic experience to be out in the good, cold air, digging, planting and planning. Although festering by the fire is a joy, it felt good to venture out and start the new growing season with a vengeance.
The sun was shining, and, yes, the birds were singing - there was a robin very close to me, in an elder tree, and it hardly stopped the whole time I was out. The rooks were flying overhead, cawing as they flew, and although it is a melancholy sound, it is a something I love to hear. The local sparrowhawk must have been high in the sky because all the birds suddenly took flight at one point, including my fantail doves. I couldn't see it, but they clearly could. Later, I did find a sad little mound of white feathers, and part of a wing, down the garden, so one of my fantails had not been quick enough to escape.
Over the past year, I have become increasingly obsessed with roses, and as I said in my last post ( 'New years Resolutions - grow more roses. And repeat' ), this started with David Austin English roses and is now extending to Old roses. I received a couple of books for Christmas, so have spent time going through and choosing 3 Old roses to start me off. I chose 'Comte de Chambord', 'Mme Alfred Carriere' and 'Mme Isaac Periere' and I ordered bare roots about ten days ago. When they arrived, I was unable to plant them immediately, so I pierced the plastic covering the roots, and put them in a bucket of water for a couple of days.
I knew exactly where I wanted to plant them, so I had to move some less exciting plants to make room, just some elderly Michaelmas daisies and some grasses, which would benefit from splitting/ moving anyway.
This hole was still not big enough - those roots need room to spread out ! I also dug the surrounding area so that the roots could grow easily into nice loose soil. The roses were planted generously, in compost, mixed with a specific rose fertiliser. This specified 29 grams per rose, but as I hadn't taken my digital scales out with me (!) I'm afraid I just mixed in about three slack handfuls, and hoped for the best. I will also top dress with well-rotted horse manure in March.
Now, I hope this isn't just me, but sometimes, when I've forgotten the right tool for the job, I just can't be bothered to go back and get it, so I grab the nearest thing to hand, and it takes me five times as long to complete ! Because I forgot my little knife, I grabbed these topiary shears, then had to cut open the rose packaging with them. Believe me, it would have been a whole lot quicker and simpler to make that trip to the greenhouse for my forgotten knife !
This is 'Comte de Chambord' ready to plant, and it had a good soaking beforehand. It was well packaged with spaghnum moss around its roots to protect, and to maintain moisture. The plants were good, strong and healthy looking, with good root systems.
'Comte de Chambord' is a pink, repeat flowering Portland rose, bred by Moreau - Robert in 1863. It is recommended by David Austin, and is said to be tough, reliable and trouble free. Its size is given as 4' x 3' but I believe that it can grow much larger than this, in the right conditions. It has a strong Damask fragrance. It has been used in various breeding programmes over the years, and is a parent of the well known 'Gertrude Jekyll'.
This is 'Mme Alfred Carriere', planted to exactly the same level as she was planted at before. I decided not to water afterwards, as all the plants had soaked for 48 hours, and the soil was very moist anyway. She will soon outgrow the obelisk she is planted next to, and when this happens, she can romp through a nearby Aucuba.
'Mme Alfred Carriere' was bred in 1879 by Joseph Schwartz, and is a white Noisette rose, with hints of pink. It is a repeat flowerer, with a large first flush, and sporadic smaller flushes throughout the rest of the summer. Again, it is said to be hardy and disease-resistant. It is a strong climber, reaching about 20' and can take a degree of shade, so can be grown on a north wall.
The third of my old roses is 'Mme Isaac Periere', a large flowered, deep pink Bourbon rose, bred by Garcon, in 1881. It produces masses of well scented flowers in June and again in Autumn. It grows to be a large shrub or short climber.
Just to lift the spirits, I saw and photographed this brave bud of 'Joi de Vivre' battling the January cold, near to where my new girls are planted.