The Gods were definitely smiling on us on Friday for the paddock pruning session; the days before and after would have been horrendous even for the keenest of pruners but as it was, the sun shone down on the intrepid enthusiasts who had made their various ways from all over the South of England and all for the love of a rose. Let loose with a pair of secateurs and the promise of breathtaking blooms it is amazing how bold and brave people can be. I have to say they did a fantastic job and I only wish we could have persuaded them to do the rest of the 30,000 roses!
Blue sky or no blue sky things do not stand still in the rose paddock. Be they guinea fowl, always on manoeuvres darting through the polytunnel frames, or the roses which despite the cold nights are bursting into leaf. Little do they know that in a couple of weeks they will be pruned hard, leaving but a few sticks poking above the soil. It’s tough being a rose! We are warming up for the rose pruning course on the 27th where the art of being cruel to be kind will be taught. Fast forward to flaming June and you will be amazed at how healthy and floriferous your beloved roses will look, weighed down by hundreds of heavily scented blooms as a result of their spring treatment. Be daring!
Whilst anticipating the arrival of a beautiful bouquet of exquisitely scented garden roses, (obviously from The Real Flower Company) spare a thought for poor old St Valentine who was was imprisoned and executed for performing marriage ceremonies. The Roman emperor Claudius believed that unmarried soldiers fought better than married ones and so prohibited the marriage of young people. Legend has it that Valentine, through prayer, cured the blindness of the daughter of a Roman Judge and that the last words he wrote from prison were in a note to the girl, signing it, ‘From your Valentine’.
It’s the week of maximum flower hype which I find infuriating – every week of the year should be a flower week not just Valentine’s. It may well be the only week that a man ventures into the world of flowers and he stands a good chance of having to spend well over the odds for a bunch of roses which have probably had a fairly long life before they even reach his valentine. Provenance is key when it comes to Valentine’s and whatever the conditions, I actually enjoy picking all the foliage this week for the Real Flower Company knowing that it doesn’t come much fresher and nor do the roses which will have only been picked a day or two earlier from our sister farm Tambuzi and then arranged into beautiful hand tied bouquets ready to be delivered all round the country, smelling as true scented roses should and putting a large smile on every Valentine’s face.
The wind here today at Sheep Dip is horrendous. Having just returned from a trip to The Real Flower Company in a rather unsteady van full of foliage, I am watching a *parliament of rooks being buffeted around the sheep field opposite and I have to remind myself that this is the weather you get if you want a house with a view. It’s a major reason for cutting one’s roses down in early winter; if I left them unpruned in this wind they would suffer badly from rocking which would result in roots being undermined and the rose really suffering.
Pruned hard there is no risk of wind bother unless you are a rook.
*Parliament being the collective name for a large flock of rooks, reminding me of a verse of a 19th Century poem, which finishes, ‘Good children always speak by turns but rooks all talk together.’
Nothing better to lift the spirits on a short, icy January day than the sight of a line of vibrant Dogwood shining brightly in the low sun. Their stems glisten jewel-like, proudly showing off, ‘Stop.. look at me, look at me’, taking advantage of centre stage before they are hidden from view by a shroud of leaves in a few months time.
Enough tarrying and onward to pick foliage which is what I was meant to be doing in the first place!
At this time of the year it’s all about the weather. Just as one is thinking, ‘we’re all doomed!’, the sun comes out and venturing outside one catches the exquisite perfume of Chimonanthus Praecox (Wintersweet), a shrub which comes into its own at this time of year with a double row of petals which merit a really close look. It’s very good under planted with Narcissi and Tulips and also acts as a good support for an early or late flowering Clematis.
Blue skies and a hard frost result in a frozen but stunning copper tree fountain, to say nothing of a quintessential English winter scene of sheep sucking on turnips whilst avoiding the Hampshire diamonds (flints) and just when one is thinking of pruning a wall grown rose, the skies open and a deluge arrives to send one scuttling back to the office and the light simulator lamp, ever hopeful that it will make one think that spring is just around the corner.
We have just said goodbye to our two lovely Latvians, Andreas and Rita, who, after tucking everything up in the Rose Paddock ready for the cold snap when it comes, have gone home for Christmas. We very much hope that they will return to us in time for pruning at the end of February!
Lots of bare rooted roses are heading out of the door ready for Christmas presents. The staff and customers at Meonstoke Post Office are particularly long suffering as we hold up the Christmas queue with armfuls of brown paper packages. Just Joey and Big Purple are proving very popular as they are wonderfully sturdy bushes and should create a wow factor in anyone’s garden.
Orders are pouring in at The Real Flower Company with customers buying door wreaths to herald the festive season. The company’s red berry and herb wreath is proving really popular which means that Rob and his team are hard at it picking rose hips, Senecio and Rosemary in the rose paddock. The birds have not yet got stuck in to our paddock berries and with luck they will leave them in peace until after Christmas but the pigeons are already tucking into wild Ivy so it won’t be long. After this incredible summer hopefully there is sufficient food to keep birds and customers’ doors happy!
The sight of several thousand bare rooted roses looking very brown and showing little promise is not going to excite everybody but I love it! Its the thought of getting them in the ground and watching them slowly come back to life which excites me. Rob, Rita and Andreas have been heads down all week planting into well prepared ground. Anyone who has been on one of my Rose days would have heard me saying, ‘It’s like a house’s foundations, don’t take short cuts!’ Dig a big hole and incorporate a good spadeful of well rotted manure and a handful of slow release fertiliser mixed with the soil. Don’t forget to have soaked the chosen rose for an hour or so beforehand and plant with its bud union (lumpy bit!) at least 4 to 5 cms below the ground and firm it in, followed by a good layer of mulch around the base, avoiding the actual stem of the rose. Then and only then, can you put your feet up and wait until February to get those sharpened secateurs at the ready.