been a good year for the roses


Last Christmas my mother in law gave me three David Austin roses as a present-Woollerton Old Hall, The Crocus Rose and Munstead Wood. Part of the fun of buying David Austin roses is choosing from the perfume descriptions, as well as knowing the reasons behind the name.  I love Austin’s English roses for their form and perfume. I know there are beautiful, scentless roses, but I feel a good rose should smell like a rose  and I will happily give garden space to a whiffer over an odourless specimen. As long as I like the whiff!
The three I received are in the whiffer category. Munstead Wood has the rich perfume you would expect of a deep crimson rose, all Renaissance velvets and ladies in turrets like. I love a strong but sweet fragrance on an opulent coloured rose such as this, named after Gertude Jekyll’s own garden. I wondered how the colour would sit in a border, but it works well, surrounded by thrift, thyme and pale flowered dwarf lavender, picking up the colour of a nearby honeysuckle. Our front door border is becoming a fragrant pool of welcome.
Nearby I have planted Woollerton Old Hall, with new flowers like porcelain in a soft apricot/parchment shade. The scent description in the catalogue lured me in, but so far the first flower has only a ghost of the hoped for perfume-pleasant but not especially strong. I can imagine the climbing form looking superb against old stone houses and I still hope the perfume will develop.
The last of the new ones is The Crocus Rose, named after  ‘The Crocus Trust’, which has been set up to help sufferers affected by colorectal cancer. I fear I have given it a hard start, as the Astrantia border it is planted in has grown vigorously this summer and rather overwhelmed it, but extra feeding and watering have resulted in the first gorgeous pale lemon cream flower with a delicious fresh scent. It is an easy rose to situate and I feel ashamed of giving it a less than perfect start. In my defence I could see no sign of the hostas, astrantias and Sibeian irises when I planted it! And it was such a cold spring.
The other roses in the gallery were already here in the garden, all of them pink and all perfumed. Gertrude Jekyll has the very best scent and is flowering prolifically in competition with a beech hedge and huge silver birch, all by itself in an unseen corner of the garden. It deserves a star position, especially if you like pink roses.
This summer I am missing my old favourite, Abraham Darby and have yet to plant Sweet Juliet, bought after a visit to an open garden where it was stunning. You have probably guessed that I may be planning a rose garden, or at least a rose border. If I do, have you a recommendation for a favourite rose? Only whiffers need apply.

the bug



I am a collector. It’s a failing, but there you have it. Always collected things, but not always the same things and periodically I purge, travel light for a time, enjoy not collecting. But gradually the collecting bug sneaks up again.

pink-hellebore spotted-hellebore-2As a child it was Britain’s farm animals, Observer’s Books and stamps, all enabled by my dad who regularly added to all of my collections. I still have most of them.  I’m keeping the animals for the next generation and the books are too precious to part with. Several were childhood birthday presents, inscribed to me in dad’s roundhand writing.

When I started earning there were records, and old plates. I was fond of old Spode and Worcester  plates picked up for a song in junk shops in Devon.

And when there were gardens, plant collections began. Fuchsias, campanulas, violas, mostly now left in gardens around England where I have stayed for a time. That was Dad’s influence again. He liked Chrysanthemums, although I have never been bitten by that particular bug.

A few years passed when I worked long hours and all I collected were school books and stationery and I still have more pens and pencils from that time than I will use in a lifetime, but now I think I can feel the plant collecting bug again. After all, if one is good then more is probably better. Right?

Remember the lovely hellebore that appeared? It has been joined in flower by three others and last week, whilst shopping for bread flour, bdouble-hellebore-2y this glorious double from Credale nurseries that just happened to be on sale at the shop where we buy the flour. Food for the stomach and food for the soul too. I could hear its siren song calling as we paid for the flour. Such a sweet song. I couldn’t leave it behind……

Walking around the garden I recorded 7 varieties of named David Austin roses and may be more, as not all the plants are labelled. That’s a collection. There are several different heucheras and for the first time in my gardening life I have been looking at them in garden catalogues, thinking about adding to them, because they seem to do well, and if one is good….

So, tell me. What is your guilty collecting passion? Or what would it be if you had the time/space/money?