It was forecast to rain heavily in the early afternoon, followed by showers and thunderstorms. Accordingly, as the morning greyed over and I felt the first drops of rain I packed up my kit and shut the garage, awaiting the deluge. I wasn't too fussed. The garden needs rain very badly, and I was all set to spend a happy afternoon working out my bare root rose order from Trevor White.
Except that it didn't rain properly at all. There was one fierce downpour just as the Systems Administrator returned from a model railway exhibition in Sudbury and remarked that there'd been some sharp showers on the way back, and that was pretty much it. It was grey, it spat a bit from time to time and I wasn't sure whether to go back into the garden, but there was nothing like the slab of rain I'd been looking forward to from the forecast.
I put the rose order together anyway. Trevor White's delivery charge is a very reasonable £6.90 per order, so I might put in a second order during the winter if I find I have space for any shrub roses, but I wanted to get the next lot of ramblers sorted out. Dispatch starts in November (the exact date presumably depending on how cold the autumn is) and I'd like to get my plants as soon as possible after that. Perversely, I am going to pot several of them, or maybe even all of them if I haven't cleared the undergrowth along the edge of the wood by then.
A couple are replacements for plants that only went in this February. The failures were not Trevor White's fault but mine, since the roses looked healthy when they arrived and the rest of them grew away perfectly well. 'Blushing Lucy' tucked away behind the oil tank made lots of growth for her first year, but two plants I tried to grow up into trees behind one of the decks were not so lucky. I am pretty sure the problem was that it was too dark for them. Chicken and egg, if they had reached up into the tree they'd have been in sun for most of the day and been fine, just as 'Paul's Himalayan Musk' in the next door tree is fine, but in order to see the sun they had to make five or six feet of growth first, and as newly planted specimens they weren't up to making that initial effort.
I have a plan, which is to pot them into deep pots with six foot canes, and next year feed them very well and tie the resulting growth into the canes instead of pruning it off for ease of handling like they did at the plant centre. Then when I plant them out they will already have some leaves in sight of the sun, and that should give them the strength to keep on growing into the light. That is the idea. For it to work I have to be able to persuade the roses to make that much extension growth in their pots. It has to be admitted that a rooted cutting of 'Albertine' given to me by a friend never did nearly as well as that all the time she was in a pot and even when I moved her into a bigger container, then promptly quadrupled in size the moment she was planted out in the open ground as if making up for lost time. I know that the former manager at the plant centre had experience of potting up Trevor White roses at the place he moved to when he left the plant centre, and was hoping he'd be at the Plant Heritage meeting so that I could pick his brains, but he wasn't there.
I have already cut down some of the wild holly that was shading the luckless ramblers from the side, in a belated attempt to rescue the original plants. It will grow back, though if only the roses can gain some height first that won't be a problem and the holly will actually provide rather a nice background. You can cut plain green Ilex aquifolium down hard if you need to, and it will shoot up again. A tall though still slender and youngish holly tree just inside the gate from the back lawn to the wood was toppled to a crazy angle by a freak wind a couple of years ago. Tutting to myself I sawed it off at ground level, since there was no way of righting it securely, and I noticed this morning how a dense cluster of new shoots was springing up around the stump of the original trunk. I was pleased to see them, since I'd spent several years painstakingly clipping the self sown hollies at the wood entrance into a sort of green tunnel which was just shaping up nicely when some kind of mini tornado blew half of it over.