By the pricking of my thumbs…

…rose season this way comes. As August draws to a close , we’ve been rushing around trying to sign winter in the garden off with a bit of a spray and general tidy up among the rose beds. I’m not obsessed with pruning as many rose gardeners are. For a start we grow mostly shrub roses, (which are happy to grow unpruned thru the seasons) and they do tend to get regular trims as we “milk them ” for cuttings during the late summer thru to winter.. Pruning roses is one of those subjects that get a lot of press and probably one that puts many people off growing them , as they gather it is a science that the common man couldn’t cope with unless he had attended seminars and read books.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Roses have got to be one of the toughest species of garden plants there are, and will survive whatever nature throws at them and humans inflict on them…so if you haven’t got round to pruning your roses this season, don’t worry about it. Anytime will do for a tidy up, you can do it while you’re picking blooms for the house in November if you want…or just give it a miss till next year.

Sometimes an old rose becomes very unsightly if it hasn’t been pruned for some years and may be an eyesore in a garden you have inherited…no problem…stump it! If you just saw all its arms off near the base, and give it a good feed, you can be 99% sure it’ll send out new healthy shoots from the base and be beautiful again!

Our perennial business is now a happening thing, we have sent a few orders successfully and they travel well with their rose friends from the garden.

This summer we are hosting some open days in the garden, starting in late October. You are welcome to come along without appointment and view the 2 gardens. There will be roses and perennials at our very reasonable prices available, also some other garden related stuff for sale.

The first weekend will be 27/28 October. Admission free, refreshments available for a gold coin donation.

Our aged dachshund is always keen for a photo shoot! Looking handsome amidst the mini daffodils!

In the meantime the garden is continuing in it’s late winter glory. Plenty to catch the eye/nose and pick for nanas…the “spring bulbs”are probably at their best in our garden in late August. Some of course are done and dusted, but the daffodils are wonderful, and the dutch irises. The blue bells are sending up their magnificent blue heads and the friesias and spraxias are all getting their acts together.  Then their are the magnolias, rhodos and  camellias making a real impact around the edges.The Tea roses continue to manage some late winter blooms and all the repeat flowering roses are starting to dress themselves, ready to produce spring abundance. Always such an exciting time, especially if you have new roses in the garden. We have several we have never had before this season…quite a big several really as we bought a fair few while they were still available and procured cuttings of many more. With kind assistance from some heritage rose members we have been able to welcome some old David Austins back to the collection, and even a couple of “new-old”ones that have never been commercially available…very exciting season ahead….

We’re hitting the social media!

Call me old fashioned…or heritage if you prefer? but I’ve never taken to the social media craze…I’ve never had a facebook page, or twittered or anything cool like that. My daughter, Alice, who runs our Weiti Stables business these days, harassed me for years to put Weiti Stables on facebook, and eventually I crumbled a few years ago and let her go for it. She has a very successful “page” I think, with thousands of followers who she amuses most days with fun posts about the horses and animals in the yard. She sells a heap of horses through it, without having to spend any money on advertising. I can keep up with what’s happening over at the stables without having to mount my trusty quad. So all in all you could say I’m a convert to facebook as a business tool.

So, Alice is now joining me in the plant business and we have set up the perennial section in a small way to start. As of today she has started a facebook page called Grassroots Roses and Perennials which hopefully will bring in some customers to this new side of our small family business. We are planning to have some open days in the Spring, when you can come along and look at our respective gardens (a couple of smallish paddocks separate them) and peruse the roses and perennials on offer at bargain prices. Alice is heavily into succulents and cacti as well, which have never been my speciality and she is also very artistic (which she certainly didn’t inherit from me) so her garden is a lot more interesting than mine!

If you’re into this sort of thing please check out our new page (and “like” it of course)

In other news…

I guess you’ve noticed that Spring has sprung a bit ahead of schedule this year…although they’re advertising a bit of a barometer drop again this weekend, on the whole August has been unexpectedly wonderful so far, with balmy temperatures and lots of sunny days to make up for the windy wet ones.

I feel even more behind than last year with my winter jobs like spraying, trimming and fertilising. not to mention weeding…the bloody things have never really slowed down this winter. Spring could be quite scary…anyways, what will be will be. We’ve stayed very busy on the rose selling front and are really low on decent sized plants available, but that’s what’s supposed to happen I guess and there’s plenty of babies coming on in the nursery now.

My major gripe for the month is rabbits. I used to think possums were worse, silly me. Possums are easy to shoot at night if you have a son and a gun. And they even put their heads willingly in those silly plastic traps. Rabbits on the other hand are the root of all evil. Very hard to shoot and they don’t seem very scared of me and my team of hunting dogs. My daughter, who has a much bigger team of equally useless dogs, has a very new garden and is also being driven mad by the rodent depredation. She’s rather more pro active than me and checked it out on social media ! Her answer seems to be helping…It scares the rabbits and some of the horses, but not this one! She moves it around every night and he has definitely reduced carnage. Not a particularly attractive garden ornament though! and I’d need many as my garden is a lot less compact than hers…

That’ll do for tonight, I promise next time I’ll say something interesting about roses…

A new side to the business is looming…

I have spent my life self employed in various “homemade”businesses. The first I started at 14, a pony ride business with a sign painted on an old bed head proclaiming “PONY RIDES 30c”. I made over $100 that summer traipsing around a small paddock in the suburbs of East Coast Bays with 2 ponies and crowds of local children aboard.

Later my older sister and I started up a pet shop which we ran for nearly ten years, interspersed with other horse businesses, buying and selling, giving lessons, even selling bags of their manure to local gardeners kept me solvent one year.

When my children arrived, I was slightly (not much) more tied to the house and the gardening genes inherited from both my parents came into play and I started getting into gardens as well as horses and farming.

As I also appear to have inherited their ‘waste not, want not”philosophy in life, I soon

humble beginnings

found myself potting up excess plants when clearing up the garden. Then what to do with them? and my natural business acumen came to the fore and I set up a little stall at the end of the driveway. More hand painted signs and soon I had a booming little side line selling free range eggs, various animal manures and plants. I made cuttings of various things to see what happened and somewhere along the line as I had become somewhat obsessed with roses I started trying cuttings of some of these, and voila “Grass Roots Roses”was born.

5 years ago when we bought our present property in the North Waikato and I began the job of building my ‘forever’garden. I had to give up the side of the road business as I was too busy darting from farm to farm. I did however keep on with making the rose cuttings and selling the plants on Trademe and to established customers.

Then old friend Malcolm came along with our excellent new website and things started moving. Now 90% or more of the

old prices!

orders are posted (though we’re perfectly handy to Auckland for   pick up)


When you are building a relatively big garden, it takes many plants to fill it, so for the first few years all extras were transplanted into the many gaps, but now things are getting established here, the current winter clean up produces many surplus. Perennials which have gone rampant often need digging up to clear out the ubiquitous buttercup intertwined with the roots etc and many of the irises etc will benefit from being broken up and replanted.

As time has gone on, I have considered adding perennials to our rose plants for sale, and now, I am actively potting up those special perennials and garden plants to share with the world.

As it takes some time for the plants to be ready for sale, I have also been working on the web site to add a perennial section. We will sell the perennials, Irises, shrubs etc alongside the roses so they can be ordered and sent together. For the cooler months we will post the perennials in the same way we do the roses, partially bare rooted and wrapped in damp newspaper. this keeps postage costs down.

It is now almost ready to go live.  Watch this space!


Some observations about making roses cuttings

At this time of year (well the last couple of months really) there are so many columns in papers and magazines about making cuttings of things, especially it appears, of roses. I sometimes wonder if these various authors have ever tried any number of cuttings themselves to prove their wise theories, or whether they read it from a book. The same book as everyone else… The thing is, I’ve “planted” a lot of cuttings over the last 20 years, tens of thousands I guess, and I find much of the advice rather tiresome and unhelpful.      

From the beginning, the “golden rule” appears to be that your cutting must be the length and diameter of a pencil. This must  be true, because every one says the exact same thing. That same old pencil. Well good luck to you finding a pencil on any miniature, china or polyantha rose,  can cuttings not be made from them??? Turns out they’re 3 of the most readily rooting rose families, despite being devoid of pencils ! And cut a suitable branch from a big grower and you’ll have to discard 90% of it and just keep the tip, all the rest of the wood will be way wider than a pencil…

Then of course the cutting must be straight, have no branches, at least 4 leaf nodes bla bla bla. Well it’s all rubbish. (in my humble opinion) The likes  of Mme Alfred Carriere or Variegata de Bologna will provide pot after pot of these text book cuttings each season. They’ll tick every box …until some weeks pass and they all go brown, with not a root in sight. Maybe the very odd success to keep you trying. On the other hand a pot of Old Blush with bent and twiggy pieces, varying in size from tiny twigs to stumpy branches, all shorter than pencils and with multiple side branches to cut off each messy cutting…you might expect a 90 to 100% success with those! Cos Chinas love to make roots , and quickly, as do Wichurianas and Multifloras. Gallicas prefer to sucker and are usually painstakingly slow to make roots, ditto pimpinellifolias and rugosas, in general. So when it comes to attempting cuttings of modern roses, they are so hybridised, having been crossed species to species for literally centuries, you won’t know ,until you try, to which side of their complex families they have thrown.

And so the instructions continue…always use a pencil with at least 4 leaf nodes. Another reason to not even try a variety of roses. A Tea rose for example, often is quite sparsely clothed (not many leaves) , therefore if you’re sticking with your pencil length cuttings you may be lucky to include 4 nodes in the required stem…what to do ? throw the wood away? I say not. I say take all instructions with a hefty handful of salt and give it a go…stick them in and see what happens…you may be pleasantly surprised.

The most unlikely cuttings can often take and as a rule I find the thinnest twigs usually make roots a lot faster than the bigger pieces of wood.

So that’s my rave over for the year, and onto some other observations I find interesting…

Growth habit in roses varies immensely and is obviously genetic. A rose for sale is most often bought for the flower, when you buy a young bush you will know little of what’s going to happen to the bush in the future, unless you know the genetics.

Nowadays, modern hybridisers tend to spend more time producing the complete picture, rather than just a pretty face. Therefore experienced rose breeders will pass over many beautiful bushes they have bred due to “bad “habits, like disease,blooms dying badly, unsightly die back on the bush after flowering etc etc The David Austin company has recently copyrighted the majority of their roses to protect the name from usurpers after the PVR is expired. The growth habit and die back is obviously one of the standards in choosing which to copyright. Interestingly many of the true old roses sport many of these ” genetic faults” but that doesn’t stop people wanting to grow them!

Souvenir de la Malmaison with its bad habits of mildew, mean thorns and balling is still possibly the world’s favourite old fashioned rose. Certainly it’s one of my favourites!

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.