Pre-Winter Wild Weather Woes

They call the beginning of June Winter, but that’s just to round up the calendar numbers. Actually it starts with the shortest day, which is fast approaching. I say this to make myself feel better about how behind I am with my rose cuttings! It’s true of course, so I still have a week to catch up! Winter is OK too, but things slow down a lot in Winter, and my best successes are usually made in Autumn.

Unfortunately deciding to have Open Days over Queen’s Birthday weekend slowed down the process somewhat, as I concentrated on getting the nursery in order. As my daughter is still busy with new baby Cora, I was pretty much on my own… The results were very pleasing, with a lovely succession of visitors throughout the 3 days. The nursery is pleasingly depleted, making way for a torrent of winter amendment in the garden filling the empty spaces ready for a Spring Open day in September.

It is hard to believe a matter of weeks ago I was bemoaning the dry state of the garden, despite several nice bits of rain…Since then it has pretty much rained non-stop. Day after day of high winds and squally showers interspersed with some thunderstorms. hail and torrential rain. The water tables are way up!!! The ground is very soggy and mowing the lawns has not been a happening thing. Lucky for us it has been necessary as the temperatures have stayed warm, so the grass is growing like stink, which is very lucky as we used the last of the Winter feed in May. Forecast is promising a break next week so I should be able to get some sort of control of the lawns…

Grass growing for the cows and horses of course also equals weeds growing very quickly in the garden. The mulch in my garden is all nearing the end of it’s useful life as far as weed control is concerned and we’re going to need to get in a couple of big truck loads to redo most of the gardens before the Spring. In the meantime I yank out the biggest ones as I potter around taking cutting wood and tidying up dead branches on the roses. One of the most commonly asked questions from garden visitors is “when do I prune?” What a big job is must be! The fact is, I don’t really prune as such at all, 90+% of my roses are Old Fashioned or Shrub roses which don’t particularly need pruning, especially as I rob wood from them continuously for cuttings. I also have a very large quantity of Tea and China roses, which much prefer to be left to their own devices and resent hard pruning. So I trim constantly as I take wood and at the same time try to tidy up the bushes a bit.

Dianthus Rainbow loveliness flowers on into Winter too

Whoops, as usual this blog is sitting around unfinished and fast becoming out of date as it is now the 20th, and Winter is definitely here…sudden drop in temperature in the night and I sit at the computer with a jacket and wooly hat on, nearly 7.30 am, and still barely light outside. My first pullet gave in and produced an egg 2 days early yesterday. As soon as the shortest day passes all the hens and pullets who have been ready to lay again or for the first time, will start laying and the Winter egg surplus will begin. I was very lucky this season with 3 hens which had moulted early in the season, coming on to lay in early May, thus keeping my production creeping along during what is always the off season (not counting commercial breeds like Shavers that is…they just don’t know when to stop! For me this signals the time for baking Lemon Pound cake and Lemon Meringue pie, both of which require a lot of eggs and lemons…the things I have in surplus at this time.

Papa Gontier, really appreciated in Winter

The other surplus, if you played your Autumn seed raising right, is Brassicas. The Tender stem broccoli and small type caulis are starting to roll in, cabbages and kohlrabi not far behind. In the floral department, the first of the Erlicheer are opening, the Camellias and Gordonias are going for it, and the ever present Salvias which do a winter thing add some colour to the gardens. Polyanthus and pansies are the front of the border stars. Polyanthus and their cousins always surprise me with their return.  They seem so dead in the Summer, but grow back so quickly and cheerfully as soon as the Autumn rains finally arrive.

In the Rose department, the majority are looking pretty sad, some flowers still appearing on mostly bare branches, but in general they are done till they go for it in September. Except of course for the indomitable Chinas and Teas! They are in full leaf and flower and will continue to delight through to August. The Teas are certainly a marvelous class of rose for those of us living in a temperate climate such as most of NZ. Some , which thru the Spring and Summer seem plain or dowdy, suddenly become gorgeous and glowing, with no flashier specimens on offer. The likes of Old Blush, Papa Gontier, Mme Leonie Viennot or Safrano which can seem so plain at other times of year, are treasured for their Winter blooms.

The sun is up (though not shining yet…too cloudy still) so the potting shed calls. I left branches from precious roses in there yesterday that still need putting in pots. The show must go on…