Less than four weeks to go before a dozen local properties in the Kandos Rylstone region open their gates to garden enthusiasts. The Convent will again participate which means lots of preparations are afoot.
I can’t remember the last time it rained – it’s been so hot and dry. Which is of particular concern for my garden given most of the plants are only a few years old. They’re not yet established and without deep root system, so at the moment there is lots of mulching and watering going on. I know our theme is “Gardening in a harsh environment” but this is a little harsher than necessary!
This week, the new trees were all heavily mulched and roses trimmed, fed and watered. I’m usually a little less structured with my approach, but this time I’ve been noting what roses I have and relabelling them for easy identification. I’ll probably do this as well with some of the more prominent plants to help visitors and any of the garden guides.
Veg beds are also planted out and hopefully will look interesting and productive. Given most of my plants are young, I’m not sure exactly what will be flowering or still out by early April, but there should still be lots to see.
Lots more to do, including cleaning up and painting some outdoor furniture, more feeding and mulching, sweeping, raking, whippersnippering and endless mowing… Hopefully we get some rain before the Garden Fair, but if not, at least we’ll have some good advice on managing in our challenging local garden conditions.
The Convent was always known for its roses. I’ve never had a property before with a suitable environment for roses, although I have always loved the sense of history and romance that comes with them, so this is a perfect setting for me to let loose.
To be honest, I can’t remember how many I’ve now planted. I suspect well over 120 but there have been (and will continue to be) some failures along the way. Some of the roses are now hitting the two year mark whilst others are still in their infancy. However, I’m beginning to get a better sense of how they will grow and, of course, starting to have favourites.
Whilst I have made some endeavours to select colours in spaces, the ‘Original Seven’ that were here were pretty random, with yellows, apricots, pinks and reds mixed, so I’m going with the flow. For other beds, I’ve been more selective – pinks, reds and whites along the front ash fence, soft pinks and whites on the Grotto and whites, yellows and apricots in the back gate bed. A few of the learnings – never get bare rooted stock. However much I promise myself I’ll plant them immediately, I don’t and I lose some. Another learning is the difference between climbers and ramblers. I have a few climbers, such as Mr Lincoln, that really need some sort of climbing frame – their strong arching branches don’t ramble softly over the wall like the other roses.
Overall, though, I’m pretty happy with my choices and locations and think, given time, the Convent garden will have a wonderful rose display. At present, I’m just enjoying wandering through the garden to look at them and, of course, have lots of roses in vases inside to enjoy as well.
Particularly exciting this Spring is watching the roses bloom. I know I can’t take the credit as roses do very well in Kandos. When first buying my property the agent told me that the only roses that won’t grow here are ones that aren’t in the ground. That being said, I’ve been responsible for a few rose tragedies. However I’ve also added over 100 roses to the garden, mainly heritage varieties.
Anyway, all of my roses other than ‘The Original Seven’, are very new – less than two years old – and it’s exciting to see them begin to establish and flourish. Also to see what type of flowers they have rather than just being a picture on a label (or not!). The old roses appear to enjoy the attention, with a hard pruning and good feeding. The new roses are just beginning to show their growth patterns. It’s such a luxury to be able to select roses to pick each day for indoors, but I also just love seeing them on their bushes.
The original plan was to have climbers and ramblers tumbling themselves over the ash brick wall to what is quite a plain footpath. This is now just starting to succeed and should look a picture in years to come.
Over the last year I’ve planted – well I was going to say 30 or 40 roses, but after looking on my blog, where I endeavour to keep a record, it’s well over 50.
I’ve had little experience with roses in the past so this has been a steep learning curve and one that I’m sure has caused distress to some of the new roses. First lesson was to keep clear of bare root stock. I nearly killed half a dozen that are now recovering in my rose nursery/graveyard. Some won’t make it back. A few have struggled, probably due to a combination of position, soil and lack of water. But I’m learning and things are on the improve.
Mostly the roses have been a big success and I’m just starting to see their potential. The rear of the front wall bed has been filled with old fashioned climbers and ramblers, with the plan that they will tumble over the ash brick fence onto the footpath side. Whilst I love my old ash brick wall, it does look a little bleak and plain from the footpath side. This should make a stunning show for much of the year for passersby. The roses planted over the last six months are now just beginning to peek over the wall. Whilst it is very hot and dry here, the roses seem to be enjoying the weather and are having a flush of flowers.
The Grotto roses are not disappointing and are growing strongly with the Cecile Brunner and Pinkie winding their way up the Grotto at an impressive rate.
The original old roses have enjoyed the attention and some are showing good signs of new growth. The Fairy roses continue to be stellar little performers and are rarely out of bloom. The Good Samaritan signature roses I have planted have also taken well to their positions and regularly flower.
I didn’t really know much about the different rose breeders but David Austin roses have quickly become a favourite with their beautiful old fashioned petalled blooms, delicate colours and reliability.
I’m probably getting near the end of putting in new roses (until/unless I build new garden beds) but am keen to include some Rugosa or rosehip roses for added interest.
The Kandos Gardens Fair is now rapidly approaching, meaning that most of my time is spent in the garden. The other gardens on show are well-established, but given the Convent garden only really started this year, I’m eager to have something to show visitors.
There have been a few disasters. The bare root roses I planted in a prominent position in front of the established roses at the front of the Convent, did nothing – I mean nothing, other than perhaps die. I’m not sure if they are still alive or not but looked very sad, bare little sticks. I’ve now taken the step of replanting them together in a more protected area which I am hoping is a plant hospital rather than a rose graveyard.
Also taking advice to spray for lawn weeds wasn’t the smartest move. I did it well in advance – maybe around three weeks ago. What I didn’t bargain on was my lawn being all weeds, which means I have large expanses of brown. Or more accurately, very little green areas. It’s also been very dry so I’m now watering like crazy to get some green back.
Otherwise, there are areas I’m really happy with and the garden is positioned as “in progress” which cuts me some slack. I think the roses peaked too early and the lovely original old rose bushes have already finished their main flush of flowers, although I’m deadheading them and feeding, hoping to get some more flowers for the viewing.
In the meantime, the roses that were planted throughout the year are now coming into their own and look like they will be winners. It’s exciting to see plants grow and flower for the first time. Hopefully they will be doing their thing for the visitors we are anticipating.
In the meantime, my days are filled with digging, mulching, weeding, pruning, planting, watering and feeding!
The bulbs have been great value. At a time when so little else flowers, the bulbs are not just cheery, but always a surprise and at times spectacular. I look forward to adding more (why didn’t I plant any Bluebells?) and seeing my foundation bulbs naturalise and multiply over the years. I’m also starting to see the importance of colour placement. No mistakes so far, but it is rewarding when colour schemes work in practice.
This week the Hyacinths flowered. Last weekend there was just a hint of colour in tight tucked-up buds. This weekend was a spectacular show. They must have popped up so quickly. I bought these from Tesselaars and deliberately chose blue but had no idea how deep and vibrant they would be.
The Daffodils are growing and many are flowering. I chose a few different varieties which all seem to be thriving. The Snowflakes are always a delight and have been the first up and are still going strong. The Freesias all have lots of buds but are not quite there yet. I’m looking forward to them as they are spread under the Catoneaster.
As for the roses, well after pruning all the old ones back hard last weekend and planting six standard Icebergs, this weekend I planted eight new roses, mainly from bare root stock (yes, I’m learning terms and actually doing this stuff). Most are classics and I try to keep the list updated on an earlier Rose Blog. I’ll slow down on the roses soon, but still need to get a few more “Saint” ones to finish off the collection (at least for this year). I can’t imagine i won’t always have new ones I want to add as I learn more (two serious Rose books are on their way from Amazon).
I’m also ready to commence planting the long awaited ‘taties. This weekend I only started with Desiree in a potato bag, but also have Pontiac ready to go. You need to have some growth from the ‘eyes’ and I’ve left Nicola, Kipfler and King Edward potatoes in a nice protected sunny spot in the kitchen so hopefully can get some more bags started.
The other notable editions were two Asparagus crowns and two Rhubarbs in the side ‘Pumpkin Patch’, which is now a healthy mulching zone.
I’d like to think I will slow down soon, but know that I really want to get the front wall garden bed more established … and the weather is so good, it’s easy to spend time out in the garden. The dogs also spent all weekend outside with me, although I tend to think that Tango was more interested in the Dynamic Lifter. I know the roses will be rewarding just like the bulbs in that the new growth and flowers are so obvious to watch develop. I keep being told you can’t kill a rose. Fingers crossed I won’t be the exception to the rule. I look forward to the time when I post the blooms from each of these.
As we head towards rose time, I’m getting my roses in shape (and ‘in’). This weekend I took the major step in pruning the original Convent roses. These roses seem to be pretty old bushes and aren’t in the best condition. Playing it safe (in case I do damage with a hard prune), I’ve taken cuttings.
Not being very experienced with roses, I’ve been watching and getting advice from neighbours. In Sydney most of the roses would have been pruned at least a month ago, but I’ve been wary of the heavy frosts. Anyway, after being given the go-ahead from one of the Kandos rose experts, I took to them with gusto. I’ve also given them a good feed. My neighbour, D, who has in the past stepped in to look after them in periods of neglect, gave me the thumbs up.
I gave some of the roses I planted last year a light trim but left the climbers as I was under strict instruction not to prune these for the first two years as it would inhibit growth.
I also added substantially to the rose collection by planting six white standard Icebergs along the front entry path, which I must say I am delighted with and think will set the front off really well. I’m trying to find a balance with not cluttering the front yard yet softening it as it was quite harsh and bare initially (and moreso since I pulled out the scruffy shrubs).
Focussing on the garden is a good distraction whilst all the tradesmen work on the Convent and I’m keen for the Convent to see lots of garden life come Spring.
The garden bed at the front wall is gradually filling in and taking shape, although I’m only putting in the bigger plants like Camellias and Azaleas and avoiding smaller ones given some of the fatalities I’ve had with frosts.
In the meantime, the bulbs are starring and doing exactly what I had hoped. The Grotto garden is starting to fill out and is framed with flowering bulbs. It now has four climbing roses in pinks and whites that should look stunning when (if) they take off. My favourite Heartsease have also come to the party and are flowering their hearts out in a rewarding corner near the Chapel.
I’m hoping in around two months I’ll be up here most of the time as I put my Sydney home on the market, in which case I will be able to enjoy the rewards of my labours rather than just labouring for the few days each week I’m here.