Home and Away

I’ve been extremely slack on the blogging front lately. No excuses, just slack.

Last month I  had a super holiday in Banks peninsula with my sister at her new property at Port Levy. My daughter came along for the road trip, she is a recent gardener convert and always keen for a break from the eternal horses. She doesn’t do things by halves either and is busily producing a little Sissinghurst across the paddocks.

I digress…back to the road trip. So we spent the ten days doing nothing but looking at public and private gardens and going to garden centres! We visited gardens where you were welcome with a spade as well as secateurs!!! and needless to say, my ute was soon full to bursting point. By the homeward journey if you opened the back door to let the dogs out (they came on the ferry with us) heaps of stuff fell out everywhere! So I may have some interesting new roses available later in the year, depending on the mood of the Cutting Gods…

Speaking of which, it’s that time of year again, the secateurs are going flat out. The afore mentioned daughter and her also very keen boyfriend are going to have a go at budding in the summer. They have young eyes and nimble fingers and I’ve invested what seemed an exorbitant amount on a roll of “Buddy tape” , so I’ve put in cuttings of Indica Major and Multiflora for them to experiment with. Whilst I’m all for own root roses, there are times when it would be really useful to be able to bud some roses to keep them going long enough to get a cutting to grow… Making cuttings can be very hard on small or slow growing roses as it takes so much wood to fill a pot with cuttings which then repeatedly die…This is why the last few years I’ve not had many Tea roses available, as many of them are recovering slowly from the move and don’t have much wood to spare.

Unlike many modern roses, a lot of Teas resent pruning, so cutting them off short in winter is not going to invigorate them to double in size the next season.

Autumn is my favourite season, not so exciting as Spring, but the weather (when it’s co-operating) is perfect, the leaves are beautiful (till they fall off all over everything!) and there’s nothing like a good fire, inside or out, and it’s a great season for fires. We’ve lost so many trees in the last couple of years due to storms and disease, not to mention making light for new gardens, so we have many massive log piles around the farm. My garden dunnage (which can be pretty major!) is added to these piles, and when burnt, I grab the woodash to apply back to the soil to add the very important potash.

So the weather has been behaving of late, but the many storms and high winds we had in April made a fair mess of the roses, and rather spoilt the autumn blooms. Hopefully the Teas and Chinas will get in another flush before it gets really cold. In the meantime I’ll be off to take some more cuttings…

February/March, The Big Hot…..or not!!

OMG how can this happen 2 summers in a row?? Rain, rain and more rain. The garden definitely thinks it’s Spring again, I’ll be very surprised if a heap of the once flowerers don’t flower again like several did last season. I’ve already seen Albertine down on the front fence budding up for her next go.

The humidity is hard for many plants to cope with. Sadly my magnificent Chatham Island Forget me nots melted in the heat and damp, several other large heat loving perennials have also succumbed. But not the roses of course. Some have rampant disease again, not as bad as spring, but in general they’re taking it all in their large strides and starting to produce some nice autumn flowers. You gotta at least appreciate them, even if you don’t love them!

On the question of seedlings, which camp are you in? Do you welcome self seeded flowers and veges in your garden? They always seem gifts from God to me, but then sometimes one doesn’t really want a gift…

The cleomes in the picture above are in this category… a lovely show put on for free, but surrounded by yellow roses? I’m afraid they’ve had to go, but they’ve been immortalised here!

I often transplant or pot up unwanted strays, other people may want them, or I can poke them in somewhere else more suitable. Of course we get a lot of self seeded roses too, which are all treated as future champions until they prove otherwise!

The rose world never stops surprising…here is Potter and Moore , usually really good in the autumn when its not so wet. Spring flowers are usually mushy brown balls… so amidst the horrific humidity and rain, she has continued to produce perfect pickable flowers on her signature long thornless stems! Ours is not to wonder why…just to appreciate what comes.

Prayers galore being answered…

Well, my wet dreams came true!!! I collected 88 mils of rain in the gauge last weekend, the majority of it (70 mil) fell in peaceful bounty from the sky, gently at first, then with more intensity for a bit. We are protected from the nor east wind here, so it was just glorious soaking rain. Sadly the wind turned a bit at that point and became a raging blast which did knock down 2 large trees, part of 1 haybarn and countless arms off roses,trees and perennials, including the entirety of 1 large rose. Still, small price to pay for 88 mils of garden saving rain in a droughty January!

Grass now green again for the meantime and weeds going crazy!

Poor coastal Kaiaua didn’t fare so well, with a large “tidal wave” sweeping  thru the village, destroying many houses and inundating farmland with salt water. Thoughts are with them as they clean up the devastation.

In other prayers we appear to have a bout of Calicivirus happening amongst the burgeoning rabbit family in my garden as I have found 4 young dead rabbits  recently. Seems vicious to gloat, but I was at my wits end as to what I could do about them safely (without endangering dogs and poultry) and a recent visitor described my garden as “just like Watership Downs” Needless to say I didn’t take this as a compliment!

So January turned out to be a very good growing month on the farms and garden. Small quantities of rain topped up the original dump, and we’re currently bracing for the next storm which may or may not reward us with a drenching. It’s certainly windy enough to put off going out in the garden, and keeping me inside on the computer planning the “Sizzling Summer Sellout“…starting now!

I have been slack with the camera this month and have no recent pics, so you’ll have to make do with the front paddock and it’s latest resident, enjoying the unexpected January grass!

Hanging out with the newest Weiti prefix and the last for this season.. Weiti Harvest Moon or Harvey by Weiti Kingswood (Blue Indoctro/Corland mare) our of Weiti Wednesday (Dances with Fire) who is the dam of our other stallion Weiti Handy Andy, so Harvey is a special mix for us. He’s a bloody big boy and a fabulous type.

All appendages crossed…

The weather forecast is looking promising for the start of 2018, offering a week of Northerly rain and showers. Welcome would be the understatement of the season if it eventuates. Moisture levels in the garden and on the farm are more like February/March and it’s not January yet. We were grateful for 2 showers this week, it gave me a couple of days off watering the Nursery, but the sun and wind returned and quickly shrivelled up the hopeful shoots of green grass that emerged. Not sure in the long run if showers like that are worse than nothing, but it’s good for the soul !

The roses cope better than most of the perennials etc in the dry, but in an effort to keep them blooming and looking good, some daily hours are necessary holding a hose. The tea roses and their relatives flourish in the baking sun, so long as they are well established. The fungal diseases that were plaguing parts of the garden in lush (but dry) November have raised arms in defeat, and the badly affected roses we hacked back viciously are growing new healthy arms , leaves and flowers. The summer flowers are often fleeting, sometimes shrivelling before they’ve even opened properly, but a lot of the roses and indeed the garden in general seems to be moving into early Autumn mode and some blooms are getting that Autumn quality to them. So much better than the OTT Spring flowers…

As I wander around the garden trimming dead heads and tidying up some big arms, I’ve been putting in a few cuttings of the “impossible” roses, those which have never grown for me. There’s no rhyme nor reason that I have ascertained as to why and when roses will make roots from a cutting, so I like to try the tricky ones at a very unlikely time of the year, cos you never know, that might be “right” for someone!


I’m keeping a close eye on our seedlings planted about the place too, to gauge their performance in tougher conditions. One which I held great hopes for has been plagued by mildew, which is not a disease I usually have much trouble with, and not one I really want to acquire. That one may have to go…

Angela is a not very well known rose produced by Trevor Griffiths, a seedling from Graham Thomas. She was very lovely at Weiti for some years after I bought her, but had gradually faded to a shadow of her former self. She has regained her strength and some since her move to the Waikato and having a good dose of Tea Rose in her ancestry, is thriving in current conditions. Sadly I ‘m yet to succeed at growing one from a cutting, I also find her parent, Graham Thomas very recalcitrant in this department. But I’ll keep on trying and one day hopefully she’ll come to the party as she is a lovely rose and no longer available.

Queen Nefertiti – bud

Another interesting rose we grow that is no longer commercially available is Austin’s Queen Nefertiti. As a lover of Ancient Egyptian history, this rose gained points from me before I even met the plant! It is such a different flower, starting quite red in the bud , then going streaky and finally opening into a buff, yellow or apricot flower, depending on her mood! The flowering is prolific, and since she moved onto her own roots down here she is very generous with producing live cuttings!

Signing off on the last evening of 2017 and hoping madly my next blog will be about the summer rain and all the disease problems it’s causing!!!

Queen Nefertit – bloom

Playing in the garden…

In November it is a great time to “play” in the garden. Don’t get me wrong, there is so much to do there is definitely no time to play, but play I do…first there is the constant up close looking that needs to be done several times a day. There is so much to see and it would be a shame to miss something! For instance today I saw a small bloom amongst Mary Rose’s multitude of large pink blooms, that was pale pink with stripes of dark. She is a very sporty girl, Mary, having already produced a white (Winchester Cathedral) and a pale pink (Redoute) sport, so it’s always possible I could be the one to discover a new striped one! Unfortunately usually the sports I find in the garden don’t prevail and are just 1 season excitements. But you must always stay alert!!!

Another game I love to play is picking roses for the house. (They usually end up in someone else’s which is really nice as I have plenty of my own in the garden) I have decided to pick vases of families and photograph them for interest’s sake. I started this morning with the Gallicas. They had to be first as Anais Segales, who is always the first of the true old fashioneds to appear is nearing the end of her flush in my garden. It appears that Charles de Mills is the last of the ones I grow, as he hasn’t opened a flower yet, but I picked some plump buds which should open tomorrow. So the gallicas in the picture, including hybrid gallicas are …Anais Segales, The Bishop. Complicata, de la Grifferie, Rosa Mundi,  Dupontii, Charles de Mills, Cardinal Richilieu. James Mason, Antonia dÓrmois , Weiti Wild and Belle de CrecySo it appears my playing took up all my time in November and voila, it is now December. My rose family games went reasonably well, although I do still have a few families to present.

Novbember was not kind to us on the moisture front, we had a couple of lovely bursts early in the month, but it has been studiously avoiding our valley since and the sodden earth has changed to extra cracked and dry. Luckily the majority of my big beds are mulched, but with the sun beating down mercilessly everyday there is daily watering of the nursery, pots and newly planted seedlings. Flip side, there is always a silver lining….the weeds have slowed down their hatching, YAY!

This post is quite out of control and I need to head down to the potting shed and prepare some orders to post in the morning, so I’ll finish with a couple of November favourites

Eugenie de Guinnoisseau-moss. I chose this one some years ago as Eugenie was my mother’s middle name. It was always quite nice at Weiti, but here in Weiti Waikato it is absolutely stunning…colour, texture, perfume, great picking, floriferousness…what more could you ask for???I know what I could ask for….that she would grow from a cutting so I can sell her!!! Maybe next year…

And another November love…Hermosa, the little China rose has been so much more beautiful than ever before this season. And the interesting thing is, it appears the plants know in advance they’re going to have a happy year and the wood I take in autumn already has the happiness thing happening and offers more than usual strong growing cuttings. Sounds fanciful, but appears to me to be true!

Sensory overload…

I’m finding it hard to get much done in the garden this week…not because of the weather, which has been my idea of perfect (some sun, some light rain, some cloud, not too much wind), …but because every time I step out any of my 6 doors I have to stop and start looking , smelling or touching something. First week in November has to be the best around here I reckon. The cinerarias, aquilegias and early irises are still going for it, the other spring and summer perennials are starting their show and the roses, the roses, are really getting on with doing their thing.

Without a doubt the roses will be better next week, but a lot of my other faves will be getting tired by then. Of course there will be lots more to look forward to in the coming weeks, but never the less, for me, the best week of the garden year is this week. I’ve had to put many jobs on hold as I can’t bear to leave the garden for more than a few hours! 2 lovely new foals have been born up at Weiti, but a photo has to suffice till next week…

can you see the bee hiding under the petaloid?

As this is supposed to be a rose blog I’d better stop talking about flowers and foals and think of some rose news…

The first news is James Mason, gallica, is very popular with the bees. He has the most amazing stamens loaded with pollen and the bees are swarming all over his lustrous red blooms at the back of the newly completed “Hot Border”.

In other news a few booboos are appearing…don’t we all hate incorrect labelling!!! So why is the small plant in front of the Bishop with a rock proclaiming it to be Hippolyte looking quite identical to the large shrub behind…??? That’s bad labelling on our part. If anyone else has a plant of Hippolyte purchased from us a year or 2 ago? Beware you may have The Bishop (both are equally nice, but quite different)

Then there is the rose in the front of the White garden. It is a 2 yr old seedling that I call at this stage “Weiti Lemon Tree”(you guessed it, hatched under the giant lemon tree smothered in lemons and Souvenir de la Malmaison). First it was a tiny thing with a tiny white flower, last year it was a bit bigger with many white flowers all season. This year it is even bigger and has many PINK flowers… They’re pinker than they look in the picture, and way too pink for the white garden!The David Austin garden is particularly “Sensory Overload”as the flowers are so big and they are all squashed together, with nothing in between. The scent hits you as you approach and people that don’t believe “nothing clashes in nature” (one of my beloved and deceased mother’s favourite sayings) may need to keep their eyes closed when visiting, as the roses are organised chronologically and some just don’t match!

Visitors are welcome to visit the garden and nursery by arrangement.

The Season is upon us

Folks, it’s officially that time of year again…ROSE TIME!!!

The earliest species are finishing up, the Banksias and Laevigata have put on a great show, Ecae is still glorious. The David Austins have been producing a few “can’t wait for the season” flowers, but are now budding up in earnest amidst their oversized spring leaves. Since their late winter feed they have put on tremendous new growth and are going to make a pretty impressive picture in a couple of weeks.

The garden will be available for viewing by arrangement, so we’re desperately trying to get it looking vaguely respectable in time for the rose influx. Some winter jobs have been waiting for “the ground to dry up a bit” to get finished, and this only happened last week. It continuously amazes me how the roses coped being basically underwater for several months this year, many of the perennials didn’t fare so well and either died or just didn’t grow at all.

Another surprise is the Irises who appear to be having a bumper season despite the hideously wet winter and spring. Interestingly I presently have the Louisianas and the Bearded opening simultaneously. Usually the Louisianas are all but over before any but the earliest Bearded Irises open. Auckland and the upper Waikato are not ideal climates for the Bearded Irises to prosper, and many of them grow but rarely flower. I’m hoping to get some “never flowered before” ones this season as they seem to all be sending up spikes everywhere! 

Down at the shed…

Souvenir d’Alphonse is one hybrid perpetual who came to the “growing party “this season

The spring potting up is nearly done. We had a very good take on cuttings this season, but most of the tricky buggers, Noisettes, Bourbons and Hybrid Perpetuals were still stingy or absent in their offerings. So the plants potted up during the winter months are starting to boogy and many now ready to post.

I guess it must be Spring ?

spring bulbs everywhere


Warm sun, hail, gale force wind ,torrential rain ,bright sun…. the current weather patterns currently in vogue on any single day. It must be Spring I guess! There is lushness starting to happen both wanted and unwanted…a mountain of mulch waits patiently to start suppressing that unwanted lushness, just as soon as some younger body parts come to set the wheelbarrow rolling , so to speak.

I get the feeling the roses are going to peak early this season, maybe very early November, or even late October there might be some rose wonder worth photographing…

my piscine pets finally in residence

The big news in the garden this month is the arrival of the goldfish ! Most of them were born in my pool at Weiti, so I consider them my children! There were a few hiccups in the pond liner plan…ie soon after being filled and settling the first time it sprang a leak! which involved unsettling and unfilling and much search and heartache till we finally found the leak. Graham fixed it with a tyre patch and we refilled and resettled before sending the kids up to Weiti to catch the fish.

Now it’s a waiting game for the revamped water lilies to get away and to get the edges planted up quick smart. I have many pieces of water lily to grow on and sell at a reasonable price.

I feel a new “completeness”in the garden has been reached with the arrival of the fish, and I think the Hybrid Musks are going to provide a lovely backdrop.

I think I mentioned hares/rabbits last month and described them as “not so bad”…eat those words ! Keep seeing them lolloping majestically past my window this morning and the damage they do when they choose is so much more destructive than the incessant nibbling of rabbits as they bite straight through their target, even quite thick, woody rose stems amongst the suckering plants.

Pests aside, the garden is looking good and poised to spring into magnificence. Roll on the good times!

another telltale sign of spring at our place is foals appearing in the paddock

The sting in the tail…

Winter is drawing to a close, sighs of relief all round. We’ve had some lovely and some mean weather this last week, but it’s all felt like Spring rather than winter. Everything in the garden thinks so too, the roses are all budding up big time, so a few quick moves in the last few days will have to be the last in the meantime. Whilst roses will survive being moved anytime, once they start making their fresh spring leaves, moving will diss their imminent display.

My son did some good work with the rifle a few nights ago and shot 3 possums in the garden. They had been feasting nightly on all the early shoots on the roses, including some new ones making their first shoots. This can actually kill a rose that doesn’t have a good root system yet to sustain it. So till the next wave arrive from across the paddocks/road (giant Hunua forest only a stone’s throw away) the roses only have the rabbits and hares to contend with. These characters are a lot harder to shoot, but tend to only browse on, rather than devour roses as they also eat the grass and weeds.

We managed to get some of the must do winter jobs done in the last few weeks. We seem to be a bit like school kids with exams and deadlines, only getting things done at the last possible minute! Oh to be organised and self disciplined! Anyway, we made the deadline by 4 whole days and got a winter spray of copper and conqueror oil right around the gardens, followed by the mammoth task of some fertilising. We first cleaned out the chicken house, then mixed that with trailer loads of woodash and charcoal, then ramped it up with some nitrophoska blue. Once well mingled by hand, we bucketed it around those parts of the garden and orchard we felt needed a spring boost. Some parts of the garden have only been planted a year or less into lovely farm topsoil, so these will have to hang in there till next time. Roses are such very greedy creatures, and we have them planted pretty close together in places, so they’re going to need constant feeding. (By constant I mean more than once a year if they’re lucky!) We are very lucky to have a never ending supply of organic fertiliser close to hand, ie massive woolshed across the road, uncontrollable amounts of mature stable manure, plenty of cow pats in the paddocks, nice dry chicken house and a beach close by for sea weed. Of course all of these things involve hard work…so sometimes they just get a handful of the synthetic stuff.

The 3rd winter job didn’t happen…but I consider pruning mainly cosmetic, so therefore unnecessary. As the garden here is very new, the roses are still building up and as we are constantly stealing arms for making cuttings of most of them, that can be their pruning for this season. A summer prune is always good anyway to tidy things up for the autumn display.

The perennial thorny problem of thorns…

Thornless roses?

The thing roses are possibly the most famous for, other than their beauty and perfume, is their evil thorns. They are often the first thought amongst non rose lovers and put a lot of people off growing them altogether. And there’s no doubt, they are a proverbial pain in the ……

However, all things are not made equal in the rose world, being such a huge and widespread genus, they come in all shapes and sizes. There is at least one genus, rosa banksia, that is 100% thornless, and others i.e. the multifloras and gallicas which are generally not very vicious. Because most of the roses we grow today are complex mixtures of many different genus, the thorniness levels vary drastically, even within types.

Therefore we have bourbons well armed with large, apparently evil thorns, like Souvenir de la Malmaison and Mme Lauriol de Barney and on the other hand the virtually thornless Zepherine Drouhin and her sport Kathleen Harrop.

one of ken nobbs multiflora x ramblers which has bristles not thorns

The multifloras are a gentle family, usually only sporting bristles and maybe some small thorns under the leaves, and these have produced families of very low thorn roses, the polyanthas and the multiflora ramblers. (Our own Ken Nobbs specialised in hybridising these) and also the modern thornless series of floribundas, which I don’t know much about, but know they exist.(Smooth Prince etc)

However, despite these gentle souls amongst the roses, in general it’s all about how bad the thorns/prickles are, and not about whether they have them or not.

Francine in flower hiding her armoury
Francine’s evil downcurved thorns

I often consider the less thorny models which just have a few recurved thorns the most dangerous, as you get tricked into a false sense of security when they’re not so obvious. Now you couldn’t fail to notice the thorns on a rugosa or pimpinellifolia cos they’re absolutely covered in them, and some of the centifolias aren’t far behind. The ramblers are often pretty evil, especially if they’re in the evergreen wichuriana family. These roses like most climbers, are designed to scramble through undergrowth and up into trees to find the sun, so thorns are obviously a necessity here.

cuttings of topaz jewel
many fingers were pricked in the making of this movie

All in all, if your life involves roses, it involves getting scratched/pierced. Especially so if you happen to base your business on growing roses from cuttings! This involves extreme amounts of scratching/piercing on a daily basis ! And I can tell you, trying to push thin sticks covered wall to wall with long sharp prickles into pots of sand is a difficult and usually slightly painful procedure! To date, Topaz Jewel (yellow rugosa) wins the competition for most difficult rose to make cuttings of (and I bet they all die anyway…)

So, out of interest, we are compiling a list of less vicious roses for those of you who care more about their skin and clothing…

Thornless roses

Comptesse du Cayla which like some of the china x es has mostly thornless stems

Here’s the start, chosen from roses we grow and endeavour to sell.

  • Rosa banksia normalis-very vigorous climber,masses of white scented flowers in Spring. 0 thorns
  • Rosa banksia lutea-yellow relly of above but in yellow.0 thorns
  • Banksia Purezza-white hybrid from above that repeats throughout spring/summer.0 thorns
  • Rosa multiflora– wild rose with bunches of tiny white flowers followed by tiny red hips. 0 thorns to speak of
  • Zepherine Drouhin and Kathleen Harrop-dark and light pink climbing bourbons 0 thorns
  • Mme Sancy de Parabere – pink boursault climber 0 thorns
  • Ausonius – pink and white hybrid musk, just a few bristles
  • Reine des Violettes – purple hybrid perpetual, 0 thorns
  • Comptesse du Cayla- orange/pink china x. very few thorns
  • Vielchenblau – purple multiflora rambler, very few thorns
  • Pinkie-bright pink climber, only a few small thorns under leaves
  • de la Grifferie – hybrid gallica, mauve pink-only occasional straight thorns
  • Ispahan – pretty pink damask-has lots of thornless arms and a few thorny ones!
  • Sylvan Beauty- china red climber, ditto of above

Cornelia-apricot pink hybrid musk, the least thorny of Pemberton’s roses, only afew harmless ones