I’ve been thinking about gardening a lot lately. I’ve been actually gardening a lot too. This is our fourth summer here and the garden is really only just starting to take shape, and I’m only just starting to take shape as a gardener, albeit a very, very amateur one.
So, all that gardening leads to thinking about gardening. And one of the fun little games (well, fun for me) while sat on a train or waiting for the kettle to boil is to imagine designing a garden from scratch. I’ve realised I never start with roses.
Roses are a pain. Literally, with all those thorns. More than that, there is the upkeep – the pruning, the deadheading, the battles with blackspot and other problems. Upkeep is the lot of the gardener, but with roses there is that much more pressure as roses are beautiful and expensive and not the sort of plant you can just muck around with and buy a new one when you kill it.
However, I think roses are teaching me that upkeep isn’t just the lot of the gardener, it is the fun too. Perhaps even the essence of day-to-day gardening. Pottering around this evening I deadheaded the roses. It was therapeutic, a means to shake off the day, to get some proper fresh air, some thinking time, or time to not think but to just be.
As we inherited the roses with this garden, with this house, I’m a little more gung-ho. I cut them back particularly hard this Spring, and they have really come on for it, although I suspect the mix of sun and rain these past few months has helped somewhat too.
This evening’s deadheading became a little more than that. I cut off a lot of leaves with blackspot and cut away some of the stems that had already flowered and were beginning to interfere with other buds about to bloom. This felt like the right thing to do, and I thought I’d just give it a go rather than go indoors and read up about it. I’m probably too instinctive a gardener at times, but then that seems like more fun, to learn by my mistakes and have some happy accidents, rather than rely strictly on the book.
I’ll have all winter to catch up on my reading, and all those times on the train too, when I’m not planning my next garden.
Always happy to admire roses – had a lovely run through the rose garden in Greenwich Park yesterday, daren’t stop as could lose an hour there. But I have always got the growing bit wrong.
Greenwich Park is lovely, and I think what I love best is that the best bits are often the quietest – the gardens at the top, One Tree Hill and so on. The tourist magnets do a real service in making the rest of the park better!
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We have one rose plant in our garden: a gift from an old neighbour when we moved house (also 4 years ago!). I’ve pretty much neglected it, and it’s not looking great – the soil in the pot has acquired a layer of moss, and the leaves don’t look at all healthy; but every year it produces 4 or 5 stunningly beautiful yellow-orange flowers. Maybe I should pay it more attention, or maybe I’ve found just the right level of benign neglect.
I think “benign neglect” is a great phrase, and probably not the worst way of gardening. It is amazing what plants will put up with, and it seems leaving them alone can work just as well (or better) than constant fiddling, especially once they are established.
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