A rose is a rose, but what kind?

Janice Wells
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How many of you have been out and cleaned up your garden beds? Maybe you’re from the clean-everything-up-in-the-fall school, but I’m a leave-it-for-the-birds-and-spring type and now I’m itching to get out and make everything fresh looking.

But I am also an unapologetic fair weather gardener; not a hot weather gardener, and definitely not a cold weather gardener and so my little urban garden lies neglected, waiting for the first warm day that turns me into a raking/clipping/breaking-off-shoots-that-I-shouldn’t fiend.

In the meantime, I am gardening away in my mind and on paper. Many years ago I did some horticultural design courses from Guelph University and I am the first one to admit that my best gardens have been on paper.

It was a pivotal garden moment for me when I realized that the most important element in the garden was not the plant material or even the soil, but the gardener. Even an unenergetic, uninspired gardener with terrible soil can have something attractive by sensibly planting things that will thrive in spite of neglect and poor conditions.

Right now, I am quite inspired by the dreams of the Gin & Tonic garden I’m planning for Heart’s Content. Please don’t get bored with me if I start to repeat myself; I’m obsessed and I so enjoy reading about how other people plan their gardens that I hope you will too. At least my musings shouldn’t be too monotonous because I change my mind and alter my plans so frequently.

I’ve already shared my vision of a sunken rock garden in the stone 19th century house foundation, featuring low growing sun lovers made extra warm and private by a surrounding rose hedge.

The hedge was going to be of one type of rugosa (to be determined) but now I am thinking I want to keep the hedge to around three, certainly no more than four feet, and I'm thinking why not use hardy floribundas and why not have as many varieties as I can so I will really end up having the rose garden that nobody ever promised me. The rugosa hedge can be on the road boundary.

Why don’t I just admit to myself how much I love roses? Not the long stem hybrid tea roses that form florists’ bouquets and are a bit stuck-up in the garden, but shrub roses and bedding roses and climbing roses; easy-going roses that aren’t constantly reminding you that you really are a neglectful lay-about. Those are the ones I’m looking up this week; floribundas or low growing shrubs, Zone 4 or less, resistant to black spot and just generally known for not being too fussy.

I’ve been reading about Knock-Out roses, and would be very interested to hear if anyone around here has grown them.

I am determined to be sensible, but if I’m going to grow roses, I can’t be a fanatic about just working with the conditions I have; building the best soil you can in the beginning will pay off in spades over the years. There’s lots of kelp on my little beach, compost to be bought (I’ll never have enough of my own) and whatever else I can get my hands on to make rich soil.

I’m planning to make a very fertile trench for the rose hedge, and good beds for the roses growing over the front door, surrounded on each side by hollyhocks, delphiniums and foxglove. Oh my, if the result turns out to be half as tranquil and joyful as the one in my rose-coloured glasses, I will be a very happy woman.

If you’re in the mood for a special Mother’s Day weekend road trip, the Come Pick a Daffodil event at Abbie’s B&B in Grand Bank sounds lovely. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/abbiesgarden.


Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca. Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.

Organizations: Guelph University, Grand Bank, MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

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