November in the garden

BLOOMER: ‘Pat Austin’ flowers all summer in our front garden. Picture: Kim Woods Rabbidge

Everything’s coming up roses! No other flower has been responsible for so many quotes, so much admiration or such interesting history. This year we are seeing our roses perform at their best, thanks to bountiful winter and spring rain.

BY ANY OTHER NAME: ‘Frulingsgold’ is the first rose to flower in our garden. Picture: Elton Squires

Most of my roses are a little later flowering than usual, following a series of frosts through until the night after Melbourne Cup. First to bloom were the simple, old fashioned roses, bred in the northern hemisphere and adapted to cold conditions.

‘Frulingsgold’ and ‘Stanwell Perpetual’ began the display in mid October, closely followed by the climbing Noisettes, ‘Desperez de Fleur Jaune’ and ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’.

Modern roses like the popular ‘Iceberg’ and the many deliciously scented David Austin roses flower later but reward us with almost continual blooms all summer.

To understand more about different rose varieties and see how they perform in our climate, I’d recommend a visit to the Heritage Rose Garden at Saumarez Homestead in Armidale. It is open every day with a self-guided brochure available from the ticket office. All roses are catalogued and identified.

I gave up spraying my roses a few years ago. They seem to be just as healthy and I’m willing to turn a blind eye to a few aphid chewed buds or black spotted leaves rather than spend a couple of hours every week or so togged up in a mask and goggles waging chemical warfare in the garden. I do spray with Lime Sulphur after pruning and then rely on keeping the roses as healthy and robust as possible to ward of disease.

Potassium (chemical symbol K) is one ingredient that really helps roses, and all flowering plants, keep up their strength. It is available either as a soluble feed or in combination specialist rose fertilisers or added to commercial pelletised poultry manure. I apply this when flowering begins and again in mid-summer when I do a prune and tidy up.

Roses that only flower once a year, like the popular climber ‘Albertine” or many of the old-fashioned roses are best pruned now rather than in winter.

Roses may be the stars of the show, but many other flowers make a splendid chorus line. Aquilegias provided the overture here.

I’ve resisted buying many of the interesting hybrid cultivars in varied colours for fear they disappear through cross breeding with the old standard pink and purple ones that have colonised my garden.

These were given to me by a gardening friend who is sadly no longer with us and remind me of her every spring.

Thriving equally well this year are the Lunaria which turn a luminous white and continue to decorate thegarden right through winter.

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