…something wintry this way comes. Yes thumb pricking is the highlight of May as I rush to get cuttings in pots during this prime time. I always put off making the Rugosas and other super thorny specimens if I can avoid it, but inevitably it’s their turn! What makes it worse is I don’t have a good success rate with Rugosas and Pimpinellifolias, so the pricked fingers seem even more unfair!
I’m really not good at wearing gloves in the garden at anytime. I often start the session with them on, but take them off at some stage to answer the phone or handle something delicate and they never get put back on. It’s not that I like having disgusting black hands and nails, it’s just what I have…and sadly the task which seems to be the most glove needy, is making cuttings, and you just can’t do it with gloves on (well I can’t anyway). The work is way too fiddly (same goes for pricking out seedlings). As far as cutting the wood from the rose bush, gloves are fine, but as for cutting them all up and pressing them close together into small pots, no way. I actually hold its safer to prune the roses without gloves too, as I find they give you a feeling of false security and unless you’re wearing leather gloves with long sleeves the thorns are going to get thru. Bare hands and arms keep you on high alert! Inevitably I get constantly pricked and slashed. I am blessed (not) with my mother’s thin skin, so for at least 10 years already I’ve been amassing scars from minor rosarian altercations. What I am very lucky in is seeming to be immune to any long term symptoms from the daily massacres…ie I never seem to get infected. I think maybe it’s like how bee keepers can become immune to stings. If I get a deep thorn I apply betadine and a plaster and usually the next day it’s sorted, if necessary I resort to boiling salty water, but that is usually me treating a garden helper, not myself as I rarely have to resort to this.
A spate of hideous wild westerlies for days on end resulted in a small amount of rain, which never-the-less saved us from the latest drought, and a slightly bigger amount of trashed plants. I was particularly sad to see my magnificent Salvia Madrensis, just coming into full flower, lying about on the ground. Such is life, I made lots of cuttings from one prostrate arm, so hopefully will have available again in the Spring. It’s a tricky one to get to root.
Speaking of Salvias, the Winter flowering specimens are a bit enfeebled this year, having severely lacked water leading up to flowering. Iodantha, the magnificent magenta one, is a mere 1.5 m this year, instead of it’s usual 2-3m. The flowers are also smaller, but it is still making a lovely show and if you happen to brush past it has the most glorious perfume. ..Pineapple and mint mixed together.
Many of the deciduous trees are already bare, I rejoice to say including the 2 giant oaks that tower over my house, so I can get on with clearing the gutters and gardens free for another season. It’s not just trees of course that can have marvellous Autumn colour…a few roses do too. Most of the truly deciduous ones just go a bit yellow, which can look cheerful, esp
ecially the Rugosas if they still have big red hips on display, but I have to mention 1 in particular that is really colourful, and that is a species rose I grow. I call it “Not Euphrates” as it came from a plant labelled as Euphrates which it most certainly isn’t! It is however a very interesting species in that genre, with distinctive red stems and straight thorns, with ferny type foliage. It flowers as late as any rose I grow, usually not till well into December, with big soft pink single flowers. Red hips follow and then the leaves turn into a real rainbow job (photo does no justice)
The hips on roses can really add a lot of interest in the garden in Autumn and Winter (depending on how hungry your bird/rodent population is )
There are so many different colours, shapes and sizes…from the profusion of tiny bright red round ones on Multiflora or The Garland, to the truly black ones on the Pimpinellifolias or the urn shapes on Moysii or the crab apple sized mushy red ones of the Rugosas. Amongst the hybrid garden roses, the singles often have very big hips and also a lot of the Hybrid Teas and David Austins. Any of these can be used for boiling up for syrup or jelly. They all taste a bit different too, and have different textures.
The other thing you can do with hips of course is harvest the seeds! We get a lot of self seeded roses around the garden, but it’s always fun to select hips and plant the seeds and see what hatches. Of course doing it like this you have no idea who the pollen parent was, but it’s still fun to see what comes out. Most of the seedlings are duds, ie they never flower at all or are very weak or the flowers are too plain to bother with. Every now and again you get a seedling that seems very worthy of producing and growing on to see how it performs. Once we have made cuttings and grown them on in friends and family’s gardens we may decide to advertise it for sale on the website and nursery and become one of our “Weiti Collection”