Two new gardens are busy happening, in adjoining spaces. The first is the Mothers’ Garden, commemorating my partner, Louis, and my mothers. I first conceived the idea when my father built the retaining walls and steps at the Rosemary Terrace, quite coincidentally aligning the sole surviving yew, the staircase and the big gum tree, which my mother claimed as her own on their honeymoon. I wrote about it at Mooseys back in 2006, on 30 July if you care to wade through the post. When two years ago I saw the pic below, taken at Churchill’s country home, Chartwell, I immediately had my inspiration: treat the garden as no more than a symmetrical enclosed path.
Besides focusing on the tree, the garden also serves as a squared off edge to the big lawn. Now only the garden along the top edge needs remodelling to create a rectangular lawn. Beyond the Mothers’ Garden is a large space that was never more than a grow-on area. As one of the first parts of the garden one sees on approaching from the new visitors entrance, it is seriously in need of attention.
And then there is the Rondel Garden. In its heyday it looked like this:
Now it looks like this:
In a way it never really worked: the roses were too big for the beds and had to be trussed up instead of flopping in a carefree way. Then towards the end of old Frans Seale’s time, when he spent most of his days sleeping somewhere under a tree, the irrigation packed up in a hot, dry summer and half my roses were dead before I even realised it. After all he had done for me, I could not be angry, but I sped up his retirement; he lived for less than a year after that. I can only think that cancer hastened his end, for he was not much over sixty, and he aged quickly.
Part of the problem with the Rondel is that as the other gardens developed, the Rondel, highly seasonal at the best of times, was forgotten for long stretches. Only the toughest survived, although many of the roses now gone survive elsewhere, grown from cuttings. At the height of the (supposed) old rose season last summer I made the decision: the remaining roses were to be moved out of the Rondel – and into the space near the new entrance. That is what we are now working at, and they will be transplanted whilst dormant. All in all there are some forty roses left, plus some suckers which I will encourage to establish and replace my once glorious Gallicas. On my shopping list of 42 new roses there is only one replacement: the highly scented stunner that grew across the entrance, Madame Isaac Pereire. For the rest we shall see how things go: I might add replacements and even some more new old roses I’ve not grown before. But whereas the Rondel was ordered and precise, the new Old Rose Garden will be the most organic of all my garden spaces. Here is a plan:
Bottom left is the Upper Rosemary Border with the staircase going up. On that axis, the Mothers’ Garden with the yew clipped into a cube in the centre and box edged beds on either side of the path. I am proud to say that we have grown over one hundred perfect young box plants from cuttings! At the top there is a semi-circle which will contain a bench. Below the bench the axis cuts through on the horizontal from the Japanese Walk above the Anniversary Garden. The oval bed, empty on the plan, will contain the seventeen surviving single HT roses which once formed the hedge around the Rondel: they are: ‘Dainty Bess’, ‘Irish Elegance’, ‘Golden Wings’ and my favourite ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’. I hope all four are represented, as only ‘Dainty Bess’ is still available in the market… It will also contain some fifty unidentified roses languishing in black bags. Some were grown from cuttings and some from seed. This is the best way I can think of to make sense of them.
Existing plants being retained are labelled on the plan. Others I identified on a grid key. On Monday we will be transplanting several large azaleas that have been moved. On Tuesday the digging of holes can start. The paths will be marked for now with lime or pale sand. We will put down landscaping fabric and a bark mulch for the paths.
Here is the colour key to the planting of the roses in the Mother’s Garden. Two copper planters that have been in the Rondel from the beginning, originally planted with Rosa chinensis viridiflora, the Green Rose, will now get an updated look with the rose ‘Green Ice’; the second rose will grow across the arches over the two entrances below the semi-circle. Then follow the roses in the four beds:
Notice the ladybird in every pic? That is to show that each is an eco-friendly rose, needing no – or very little – spraying. I only look at eco-friendly roses these days, and my second criteria is scent. As you can see, colours range through various shades of peachy-pink and apricot. Once the roses are established, I will interplant them with apricot snapdragons and foxgloves, and pale blue irises, geraniums and aquilegias and for later in the season, pale lilies and pale blue delphiniums. and possibly some achillea…
On this morning’s walk we looked down past the big gum – on the right – towards where the Mothers’ Garden will be. The clearing for the new Old Rose Garden can be seen to the right, with the leafless beech tree at the top end of the garden against the sequoias of the avenue, and the Japanese maple that will flank the seat below the garages. And here it all is from a little closer! (Use your imagination to see the string marking the left hand hedge.)
Here it is again, looking down the axis. Oh, the hedges on the outside: they will be small-leaved myrtle, which I have used successfully before for hedging. To my annoyance I discovered I have only sixteen potbound cuttings. So we shall take fresh ones and put up temporary fences. It will be eighteen months at least before they can be planted.
Meanwhile I might just do what I did with the rosemary hedge along the Rosemary Terrace – above, on the very left – and plant some cuttings in situ… If it worked with rosemary, it might just work with myrtle. Oh yes, there are other projects hanging. That pot is yet to become a fountain – I’ve decided the plinth must be three bricks lower – and at the furthest point the hedge is yet to be levelled and the Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe off to the left of it is awaiting the Big Bang…