It started with a diseased tree and a David Austin catalog…Last summer we had to bring down a rather large, diseased tree. Although it likely had a few more years in it, it was dropping some significantly sized branches every winter onto our patio area, dangerously close to the gazebo. For safety reasons, we decided to make a preemptive strike – as painful as the decision was — and have the tree removed before it caused some serious damage. The removal left an alarmingly bare, very sun-filled spot in our yard next to the patio.
My brother, Jim, had constructed a large arbor next to the patio the year before. I planted a climbing rose (David Austin’s ‘Snow Goose’), 3 or 4 varieties of clematis, and a climbing hydrangea next to the arbor. I envisioned an arbor encased is delightfully scented and colorful vines to provide some added shade to the patio area, as well as to provide additional shelter for the birds. Unfortunately, growth was a little slow going the first year; the ground was super saturated in the early spring neat the arbor and the shade thrown by the tree was too great. Now that this arbor is fully exposed to the sun, I expect all of the climbers to be a little happier this year (except, perhaps, the climbing hydrangea which reputedly prefers some shade. I’m going to leave it where it is for this season and see how it does.)
That benefit aside, with the tree gone, the space looked barren and needed a lift. So, Jim and I relocated 4 fairly young lilac shrubs from the front yard to borders along the fence. I had already planted a ‘Blizzard’ Pearl Bush in the corner, and have a venerable viburnum near the gazebo. I also have several lavender colored roses, as well as several fuchsia colored roses growing along the fence line. The area still looked a bit bare without the tree, but I decided in the fall that I wouldn’t purchase any additional plants for the coming season. I wanted to grow some perennials in the house over the winter, but otherwise was hoping to stem my somewhat profligate spending on the garden.
January arrives, along with all of the plant catalogs. Generally Nora shows little to no interest in the catalogs. But for whatever reason, this year, she decided to peruse the David Austin catalog. And then she decided she wanted to select some new roses for the garden. So she did. She didn’t really care where in the garden they resided, or if I even had a place for them. So, there I was, with 2 new climbers to place…
And so I pondered, and I also began to look through the David Austin catalog. At some point, it occurred to me that I could close off the lawn to the left of the patio leaving the arbor as the sole entrance to new garden space. This would become the new “rose garden.” Despite its name, it’s not intended to mirror the formal roses-only rose garden. The borders of the enclosed, slightly oval space will be comprised largely of a variety of roses — shrub, hedge and climbing varieties — but also have lilac and viburnum in the mix. All will be under-planted with a mix of perennials. The predominant colors in the rose garden will be purples, blues, pinks and whites.
So I ordered 10 Alnwick hedge roses from David Austin to create a border on the northern side of the space. The Alnwick is an old English shrub rose with rich pink, double blooms. The shrubs will reach 3-4′ in height and 4′ in width. I’m also tucking a William Lobb rose(relocated from the circle garden) into the area and adding a white rambler, whose name I can’t recall. The William Lobb is a gorgeous moss rose with purple, double flowers. A truly spectacular specimen.
I also purchased two climbing roses from David Austin (Nora’s selections), a Gertrude Jekyll and a Generous Gardener. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going to put these two. Here’s my dilemma: there is an 8′ section of fence line that has been problematic for me since we moved here. An old milk house stood in this location back when the place was a working farm. The milk house rested on a 5-6′ deep concrete pad that had a series of holes or tubes in it, where they used to store the milk containers to keep them cool. The milk house is long gone, but the pad remains buried under a thin layer of sod. It is impossible to plant anything there, and would require considerable effort to remove. As a result, I have roses growing along the fence line on either side of this empty patch of grass. It drives me batty.
So while I was planning out this new space, it finally occurred to me that I could put a large planter on the pad along the fence line, put an 8′ trellis behind the fence, and plant the climbing roses in there. So that’s what I did. Or rather, I turned to my brother and asked “can you make an 8′ long planter and an 8′ x 8′ trellis, and oh by the way, do so using only materials you can find on the property – recycled or otherwise?” “Well of course I can,” he replied. And thus was born my beautiful planter, created solely out of unused stockade fencing, and the gorgeous trellis constructed from cedar and grapevine.
So back to the garden…as mentioned, all of the roses and lilacs will be underplanted with a mix of lavender, pinks, artemesia, catmint, and cranesbill. I’m also tucking some sweet rocket and clematis in next to the lilacs.
The final piece of the new rose garden will be a greatly expanded bed on the east side of the gazebo. A Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ will reside on either side of the gazebo. This shrub will grow roughly 6′ tall by 6-8′ wide. A type of elderberry, it will produce pink flowers in early summer, and blackish-red berries in late summer/fall; a favorite of songbirds. But it’s other striking quality is its almost black, lacy foliage. Lastly, in the bed between these shrubs, I’m planting purple and white phlox (phlox paniculata ‘David’ and ‘Blue Paradise’), foxglove, hollyhocks, bleeding hearts, poppies and a mix of white, pink and purple lilies, all fronted by pinks and cranesbill.
As with any new garden, it will take a couple of years for the perennials to really come into their own and for the shrubs to settle in and grow. I’m putting a bench in front of the planter surrounded by containers of annuals, and will add a bird feeding and bathing area near the lilacs as well. My goal is to make the patio and gazebo appear as though they have been a part of this property for many years; I want them to blend into the gardens, and I want the scent and quiet colors of this new garden to call to you as you sit or dine on the patio.