Sunday, 24 July 2016

rose, thou art old and too fat

The lawn edges have assumed a Forth Bridge quality, before the switched to epoxy coating put an end to the endless repainting.  I hadn't got all the way round when it was time to start again at the beginning.  Obviously I should have put cutting the lawn edges further up my list of things to do, only it is not as entertaining as fussing around with flowers, or as conspicuously urgent as potting things on from their tiny pots before they are ruined by drought and starvation.  Fortunately we do not open to the public and the Systems Administrator has no strong view on lawn edges.

I pondered the question of the roses as I worked my way around the edge of the rose bed below the veranda.  Edging provides good thinking time in a garden.  You look at each part of the bed in turn, and the whole view unfolds from a gradually shifting angle.  As I clipped, slowly and methodically while keeping an eye out for approaching kittens or any toads that might be sheltering under the whiskery edges, I saw how the overgrown, massed effect of the roses was exacerbated by the eager young rose stems shooting up all around them.  These were not suckers of the root stock, but the actual old roses.  Several of them, having been quite demure in their early years, now run not quite like the devil, but pretty vigorously.  I chopped the unwanted shoots down to ground level last winter, but they have sprung back.

I noticed too how the Viburnum x juddii I'd tucked into the rose bed to provide some spring interest was being overwhelmed by roses, and how well the pink flowered herbaceous Clematis 'Aljonushka' was doing up its narrow rusted iron column, new this year.  Last year it burrowed off into the undergrowth and I virtually didn't see it.  I reflected on what space was available for adding plants to flower at this time of year, and had to admit that there wasn't very much, except to try and grow even more clematis.  Cutting the edges took longer than it would have otherwise because great lumps of rose had fallen out over the lawn, and I was having to cut up to a yard's width of grass in from the edge in the places where the SA hadn't been able to get in with the lawnmower.

The black spot was terrible.  Whole branches had defoliated, and the repeat flowering on the modern shrub and David Austin varieties that ought to be capable of producing successive flushes wasn't anything like as good as it should have been.  My conviction grew that I needed to reduce the roses a lot, take out the thick old stems at ground level, shorten the others, and generally try and get some light and air back into the bed.  The Systems Administrator appeared to check that I was keeping tabs on the time, since I was going out to lunch, and listened while I held forth on the rose problem.  Maybe you should prune them hard, said the SA when I paused for breath.  The SA believes in pruning roses hard since the SA's father went on a Wisley pruning course and practised what he had learned on his return home, scandalising the neighbours.  The roses responded magnificently.

That's it.  The roses are getting a big, rejuvenating chop this winter, and if any of them die then it will make room for something else.  Once I'd decided about the roses, my eye fell on the Baptisia australis which is presenting a wall of greenery over four feet high for the second year running, with about three flowers on it in total.  Maybe I should dig out the Baptisia and use the large space it is currently occupying to grow something else.  I quite like Baptisia when it is doing what it's supposed to.  It has blue flowers like a cross between a lupin and an outsized sweet pea.  But mine has virtually stopped bothering to produce any flowers at all, and has not been persuaded by this spring's application of fish, blood and bone.  I think that maybe after fifteen years I'm getting fed up with it.

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