Spring cleaning in the garden.

As one who failed abysmally on their winter clean-up, it has now become a frenetic Spring clean in time for the first open day. As my daughter said , the good thing about open days is it forces you to tidy the garden up…

As I mentioned in a former post, a bad mulching choice and an unnaturally mild winter turned the “quiet time” in the garden into a very noisy weed party. And since I suddenly realised Spring Open Days were not a thing of the distant future, but events looming, it has basically rained and winded A LOT making the Spring cleaning quite unpleasant!

Most of the gardens are now officially water logged, making me worry a bit about the bare root roses I planted in the border a month ago. I’m thinking I may have to go and scoop them out of the morass and put them in pots for the meantime. Whilst established roses amaze me with how they put up with being under water for a month or two , a bare root rose is a different matter and may expire.

So just days till the first Open Day…if you’re going to make it, please excuse the messy parts of the garden, I’m not going to make it around everywhere in the time left to me and prefer to do some parts well than it all haphazardly! Following September 15th, we will be having another a month later on October 13th and as “real rose time” hits there will be 3;  Sunday November 3rd, Saturday November 16th and Sunday December 1st.

The Tradescantias which weren’t cut back in the Autumn have continued to flower all winter

Obviously September is too early for full rose appreciation, however the early species roses are in full swing and there are lots of lovely flowering tree and shrubs as well as many spring bulbs to enjoy. The early perennials are starting to show as well, not to mention some later ones that actually never stopped all winter…

It appears I failed to publish this blog at time of writing, oops. In the meantime the weather has seriously come right and the first Open Day has been and gone. Trade was brisk, the weather was kind and lots of people came and wandered around the awakening gardens. In the week since the roses have moved into overdrive and are leafing and budding up fast. It’s such an exciting time of year!

Next Open Day in 3 weeks on October 13th and I really think there will be some early roses blooming in the garden by then.


Rain, rain go away…

Poohs. The weather has been very disappointing of late, we’re all pretty over the rain. I know I shouldn’t be complaining after so much mild and sunny winter weather, but somehow it seems even worse when you’ve got used to unnaturally good weather…

Unfortunately the mild and sunny June and July we had caused all the plants and weeds to think it was either still Autumn, or Spring already (not sure which) and they’ve just kept moving on full steam ahead. A poor mulch decision has added to the problem big time. We bought 40 square metres of pine mulch which was spread with many steps and wheelbarrows (and some mini tractor loads) around our gardens as we did the autumn clean up and planted things to fill the gaps. Sadly the mulch had been sitting in its mountain for too long and basically turned into soil conditioner rather than mulch. Instead of suppressing the weeds it gave them great happiness!

So long story short, we now have a new load of mulch to spread over the existing mulch, but there’s mammoth weeding to do in between. Most of the new plants and roses we surrounded with said mulch are out of sight! hidden by giant sow thistles and buttercups (and many other varieties of “wildflower”)

With the arrival of August has come more typical upper North Island weather, with rain of some sort pretty much every day. Lots of thunder storms, wind, the odd bit of hail and basically squall, squall, squall..

In other news, the nursery is humming along, nearly ready for our first Spring Open Day on September 15th. Hoping the garden will be coming into its own , this will involve a lot more weed pulling and mulching, hopefully some man power will materialise very soon to help me with the herculean task! The roses and perennials are coming on well and the bulbs are really going for it.

Whilst on the subject of weeding, its interesting talking to people about their favourite methods and tools. I’m a get down on the ground on knees or butt and use a sharp hand tool sort of girl… Extremely arthritic ankles mean getting off them keeps me in the garden for longer. However arthritic fingers have led me to my tool of choice, which is a Barnett lettuce cutting knife. Cost, around $10 or less, so you can afford to have them dotted around the garden. They weigh just a few grams, yet seem to be very strong. A slightly curved serrated blade is custom made for slipping beneath the surface and slicing through buttercup roots. Buttercup is the bane of my life in most of the garden. We have a lot of it on the farm from whence the garden was born. Once every year or 2 we shout ourselves to a helicopter to hit the broadleaf weeds on the farm, but as roses and perennials come under this category the helicopter is not allowed within cooee of the garden. Therefore its on your knees with a lettuce cutter!!! Those renunculae just love twisting themselves inside rose roots, so there’s nothing for it than to dive under the giant vicious roses and hope for the best!

More amazing uses for what I have come to look on as the perfect garden handtool are as follows…you can trim odd arms off perennials and roses as you crawl, with a pull and slice, to make a cutting or tidy things up…dead arms on roses can be lopped off, even pretty fat ones, if you saw a fault in it and then snap (can’t cut off big live arms though)…small pieces can be sawed off perennials and transplanted nearby, it will dig an ample small hole… furrows can be dug for planting seeds direct in the garden…and last but not least its even good for harvesting vegetables…including lettuces!

So there you go , a bargain find at Horticentre, I highly recommend for oldish decrepit ground gardeners!

I must away and don my wet weather gear for some more ground weeding, roll on Spring and hopefully some fine weather!


Confusion abounds…

pink attraction july

Winter, it’s really here now as it’s past mid July, but a lot of the plants just don’t seem to know the date…some still feel it must be Autumn, now it’s finally rained a lot and it’s a bit colder. So the Salvias for the most part are still flowering away merrily, even those which go completely dormant in Winter! The Bearded Irises which usually repeat in Autumn ( I have about half a dozen repeaters) didn’t manage a second go this year, it was too dry even for Irises…but now, one by one, they’re making mid-Winter blooms!  So along with the dianthus carrying on as they do and the roses still producing blooms, the garden does not look like a winter scene.

passionfruit vine being very confused…flowering plus setting fruit and growing them in mid winter!!!

I’m still busy making cuttings most days, and this morning I went over to Banksia Lutea to collect some wood, as all the Autumn cuttings died. Lo and behold, she was covered in bunches of buds, many already open! The enormous Laevigata left behind in the chook run at Weiti was also sporting many blooms last week. That’s what I call really early Spring flowering!

Following another NE rain event scheduled for tomorrow there’s a wonderful long anti cyclone hovering in the wings for all of next week. I’m really hoping temperatures drop more than predicted and we can get a nice week of frosts to kill some bugs and fungi or we’re going to have a bad season next year.

So Winter tasks continue, with the added burden of having to continue with things that shouldn’t be tasks at this time of year…the lawns are still needing mowing weekly or close to it, the weeds are still sprouting and growing like crazy Spring weeds! Many more roses than usual are still having flowers, mostly just odd blooms, but the real grafters are still producing a show. Mary Rose is always one in this category. She out does the Chinas on continuity. She was introduced by the late David Austin in 1983 and to my mind, 36 years later hasn’t been surpassed. Sure there are much fancier flowers with much stronger scents and better shaped bushes, but when it comes to producing attractive foliage and flowers all through the year, she scores extremely highly in my books.

Weiti Sherry, Summer
Weiti Michele late july

Some of our own homebred roses are pleasing in their non stop production of flowers also. Weiti Sherry is a Mutabilis cross and one can usually find a bloom or bunch on her in any month of the year. Like many of the Tea roses, her winter blooms can be quite unrecognisable colour wise. In Winter there’s no sign of pink In Sherry…

Another new girl on the block is Weiti Michele. She is obviously of Hybrid Musk origin and makes a large arching shrub with pleasingly few thorns. She is now getting more established in her new spot in my garden and this season is continuing to flower through the Autumn and now into Winter. Her sweet musk scent is so welcome on a foggy cold Winter morning!

Onward and upward…the sun has risen I believe as it’s now light outside so I must get outside to inspect the garden. The Spring bulbs are appearing with their cheerful faces, daffodils and erlicheer along with the first of the dutch irises. It will be interesting to see how the season unfolds and whether the confused flowers will come again at their “right” time


Winter arrives with a vengeance

I’ve been waxing lyrical about the wonderful weather these last few months, but that halcyon time is over and winter has arrived with a first lovely light frost followed by days of horrible every direction winds and cold, thundery showers. That’s much more normal! We are marching towards the shortest day which always seems a starting point to me, but of course actually heralds the meteorological start to winter, not the turning point to spring! Nevertheless, dark mornings and evenings are the truly depressing part of the down months for many, me included, so in a couple more weeks the tide will turn on the increasingly short days and the chooks will start to lay again! I’m being tided over on the egg front by friends and family who keep red shavers. They’ve had their biological clocks bred out of them and don’t seem to notice how short the daylight hours are!

Enough of this domestic dribble, and on to roses and winter.

Blackboy, an old Australian Tea climber, never goes on holiday…

Most roses like to take a bit of a Winter rest, probably dream of a holiday in Fiji or something, and whilst they are “away” is a good time to give them a good trim and spray for dormant diseases. Pruning is a subject that is way too over thought. Roses mostly like a good trim, whether it be by passing horses or sheep or by your hand, trimming invigorates new growth. In colder areas where tender new leaves can be dissed by frost, pruning needs to be left till later in the winter, as the trimming will indeed encourage new leaves and growth. I have gardened all my life in the North, so don’t know about these things. Whilst we get some good white frosts here most winters, the temperatures aren’t cold enough to make a rose blink, so pruning/trimming can really be carried out whenever the mood takes.

There are certain classes of roses which buck the trend, so to speak, and prefer not to be pruned. These are mostly the Chinas and Teas, which tend to flower right on through the winter months. Pruning them won’t kill them, let alone a light trim, but they can get sulky after hard pruning and are happier left to their own devices. As trimming roses is my business, my Chinas and Teas must put up with removal of cutting wood regularly, but I make sure to always thank them for the offerings and give them some extra fertiliser to sweeten the deal…

Allux Symphony is a David Austin of Floribunda type, so enjoys a good prune, but does then produce slightly OTT blooms in Spring

Then there are the classes which much prefer a good hack back in winter. Hybrid Perpetuals, Hybrid Teas and Floribundas come under this category. The traditional razing to a foot or 2 high that one sees in public gardens applies here, although not compulsory by any means. The hard prune approach brings on a slightly earlier flush in Spring and produces larger blooms at the outset. One can see if the roots have to get leaves growing all the way up many long shoots before it can start producing flowers, it will take them a bit longer to do it, so rule of thumb is hard pruning produces less but bigger flowers in Spring, whilst light trimming means a lot more slightly smaller flowers. As Spring flowers tend to be very big anyway, I know which method I prefer…

a well pruned and espalliered rambler like The Garland, will make a real show on a fence

Other classes of roses are happy either way. Shrubs should be pruned to look like shrubs, some callous removal of older wood and trimming to shape. Shrubs that produce arching growth need to be treated carefully, as trimming branches will result in unsightly new growth from the cut, so whole branches that don’t look good should be cut off at ground level. The same applies to most ramblers, which are really gigantic arching shrubs. Unwanted arms (of which there are usually many) should be cut off at ground level and nice new ones trained along the fence or whatever.

Climbers tend to have less shoots from the ground, so pruning should be only old unhealthy arms and just a trim off the laterals.

So, having said it doesn’t matter what you do, I seem to have written a whole heap of rules, just like everybody else!!! Just don’t lose sight of the golden rule, which is roses are really tough and will cope with whatever you do or don’t do to them.

Even if your roses are mostly healthy, it pays to give them a spray sometime in the winter. I like to leave it till maybe July or August, to make sure the bushes and ground around them gets a douse with something anti fungal. The addition of some oil:- conqueror, neem, eco or whatever will keep the scale at bay. This is the one time of year I make sure everything in the garden, including once flowerers, gets a douse. I have to admit I don’t even consider going around the property doing the ramblers and giant climbers, they are too many and big to attempt clean up on! They can take their chances, which are very high…

The ever contrary nature of gardeners…

It seems to me, as a gardener and a farmer, one is always having to complain about something…almost always the weather. Too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, or possibly several or all of these things together.

Well that aint happening this autumn. I have to say the weather has been almost faultless for the last couple of months. Countless still, fine, relatively warm days and nights. The garden is very happy about it, growing very well for the time of year, as is the grass after the big dry…but there’s always a but…my life, and my poor roses are being plagued by a possum population explosion, and as fast as helpful son out-law (unmarried to my daughter) shoots them, a new wave appears. The other night he shot 6 in and around my garden, but new damage was spotted yesterday on some poor David Austins which get chewed as soon as they muster the strength to grow some new leaves. It is very heartbreaking and makes the garden look very tatty for the open days as all the bushes just have some leaves and flowers at the very top of their thorny arms. The old fashioned borders are off their track from trees to orchard, so fare better, and also are surrounded by perennials so don’t look so bare.

Speaking of open days, we are having the last before a winter break this Sunday. If you live handy and want some bargains, we have put lots of our already ridiculously cheap perennials for half price so you can acquire for coin cost!

If you happen to have any old unwanted rose pots laying around we would much appreciate them. The advent of open days has meant we are constantly on the edge of running out as every plant, however cheap leaves in a pot ! When we post the plants, we take them out of their pots to reduce weight, thus the pots go back into use. Buying them is out of the question for us as the cost would mean putting all our prices up, and whilst pb bags are cheap enough they are a bugger to pot up into and water alike.

Whilst writing this post the darkness and mist have lifted and another peerless Autumn day is summoning me to the garden. I write to you from a new computer, the old one having died following a dousing with top quality Australian Shiraz, and taking all my history and photos etc with it, so it’s going to have to be a photo from the website to brighten the page…

The Teas are coming into their own at this time of year. Maman Cochet last year.

Winter is coming?? or so they say…

Autumn continues with no sign of Winter’s approach. Some seasonal chilly nights in April have morphed into several more balmy weeks, with hardly a drop of wind or rain. The “Anything Garden” is still proudly displaying its Summer glory, with the addition of the Camellia hedge at the back flowering at the same time. I’ve never experienced an Autumn quite like it! The colour on the deciduous trees and shrubs is absolutely astounding due to the dry summer, but the leaf drop is also outstanding in its own way, ie so voluminous due to the outstanding warm, wet spring we had, which sent all the trees into a growing frenzy. With no wind, the piles of oak leaves from the 2 enormous oaks close to the house, lie in piles where they dropped, instead of being chased to  the perimeters of the garden.

Meanwhile the roses are finally producing lots of lovely autumn blooms (where they haven’t been ravished by the ever present possum population). Better late than never, as the old adage goes. The autumn flush has certainly been a disjointed, strung out affair  this season, but it does mean its lasted longer than usual…

This red Hybrid Tea is one of my “mystery roses”…another I grew from a cutting but have no idea where the cutting came from… It’s been putting on a magnificent autumn flush this year, along with the Teas which are getting ready to boogy all winter as they do.

We had an open day in the nursery and garden in late April,

it was very well attended and many cars left loaded with our value perennials and roses.

We have decided to have 1 more before winter sets in, which will be on Sunday May 26th. We will continue to post plants through the winter, but feel its not the best season for enjoying the gardens, so the May day will be the last before we start monthly ones again in September.

We have new perennials and roses being potted up every day, so there should be interesting things to peruse even if you came last month. Also, we will be putting lots of “past their use date” perennials on the half price table, so serious bargains to be had.

In the meantime the post summer clean up continues in the garden, trailer loads of weeds and cut back perennials being towed off almost daily, and as we trim the roses, any worthy cutting wood is put in pots in the hope of new roses for next season. I never give up on the stubborn ones…patience and perseverance always pays off, so I keep on putting in pots full until I finally coax one to grow roots… Once a plant is growing on its own roots the likelihood of its cuttings taking seems to go up exponentially, not to mention the fact that the chances of losing the bush exponentially goes down, so getting cuttings to grow from rare grafted plants is my main aim in life !!

The Green Drought…3rd time lucky ( I hope)

Computers and I are not very compatible. This is my 3rd attempt at this blog, the last 2 were eaten by the computer when I asked it to publish. I have very poor internet here and it turns itself off often…if I press something when the internet has disconnected, …gone…and it might just as well happen when I ask it to save draft if its not in the mood, so there you go. This is my third and final attempt and if it happens again I officially give this lark up!

So…the Green Drought…not a widely known term, but a self explanatory phenomenon . Summer is over, Autumn is here, except no Autumn rains. A few feeble attempts are enough to set the grass and weeds feebly growing, and the shorter and comparatively cooler days and nights allow the feeble sprouts to stay alive. Hence we have rock hard, bone dry soil with a fine cover of green to trick passers by.

At least in these conditions watering works well, so I can plant things once the site has been flooded so I can get the spade in to dig the hole and remove weeds which are welded into the rock ! fill the hole with water, insert pot bound plant which has been waiting in the nursery too long, cover surrounding area with thick layer of mulch and whammo…autumn colour has arrived. So that’s what I’ve been doing a bit of every day, filling in gaps and applying mulch to stop the weeds coming back. It’s hard yakka though, so I can only manage a small area every day.

In between I’m continuing to make lots of rose and perennial cuttings and also potting up some kind ones that took for me in the summer.

In other news, we’re planning an open day on Sunday April 28th. Garden and Nursery will surely be full of happiness and autumn rain by then. We have lots of interesting new perennials on offer, including a great selection of Salvia, which have certainly earned their keep in the garden during this exceptionally hot, dry summer.


April flowers from The David Austin collection

Autumn amongst the roses is surely my favourite season. Of course we must make do with the repeat flowerers, as the magnificence of the True Old Fashioneds is a Spring only thing, but the Autumn flush is much less hectic and the roses are slowing down and really concentrating on their blooms, so it’s all about quality, not quantity. Of all the species in the garden which coped with the dry summer, the roses certainly came out on top. Autumn is a great time to get plants in the ground, for the next couple of months they’ll be going for it and will be well established by the time winter sets in. So get planting (you may need to get buying first) and make sure you save time to admire the beautiful autumn blooms.

Summer, the highs and lows…

It’s always important to look on the bright side of things, so I shall list the good things about the current weather in the garden…..

  1. The weeds are dying of their own accord, or alternatively deeply unhappy, thus easier to pull out.
  2. We are lucky cos there’s no bush fires nearby
  3. We are lucky cos we have a good bore, although we are getting worried it could be under stress.
  4. Haven’t seen a slug or snail in ages…
  5. Your garden gloves don’t get caked with mud when you’re weeding.
  6. You don’t need to mow the lawn at all except the strip by the gardens that inherits some water.
Pierre de Ronsard a few weeks ago before “Thrip Attack”
pierre post thrip attack

That’s it as far as I can think. Mostly it’s just all bad. every thing’s dying except the bugs and diseases which are thriving. While one thinks of fungus as a spring humid thing, as roses get stressed in any way they become much more susceptible to disease. The thrips have arrived en masse, thinking due to a sudden plummet in flowers they’ve all congregated in the few there are at present, turning them all into ugly brown mush. I hate thrips!!! So its been early morning hefting of back pack loaded with fungicide and confidor.

In other more pleasant news we had our mid summer open day on Saturday and fluked probably the coolest day in a month, with some cloud and a nice breeze. There were lots of visitors who mostly went home with loads of roses and perennials. We kicked off our Sizzling Summer Sellout which will now continue for the next month or so. You can snap up bargains online or arrange to come and pick up from the nursery.

Gardening with the heater on…

It’s amazing how quickly things change. We sat through, and possibly revelled in the wettest December in living memory. How then , a few weeks later can we be despairing of the dry! The heat is the answer, that nasty golden eye beating down on us and our roses relentlessly. In my younger days I worked on through it and got hot and brown, but as I’ve got older I can’t handle being out in it for any length of time, so it’s early starts and late finishes for me in the garden at the moment, with a few short sortees in between. Bookwork and housework get done in it, along with baking and preserving, but not gardening.

The roses are loving it though, as it’s still wet deep down where their roots are and the find that nasty golden eye very invigorating. Basal shoots are still bursting out all over the place and flower production is at an all time high for January. The flowers cope less well in the sun and tend to go from bud stage to blown in a matter of hours. It’s interesting to note how different plants react, some roses, just like some people, cope much better with the glare.

Talking about change, I currently have this shot of the old fashioned border as my screen saver

and recently while trawling through photos looking for perennial shots to put on the perennial page I came upon the same view (slightly different angle, but the same piece of garden) 3 years ago

Haha I was so proud of how good it looked I took a photo!!! Having scoffed at the thought, there were a lot less weeds in that garden 3 years ago…

February Open Day

Grassroots Roses & Perennials

Garden tours and plant sales

Open Saturday February 9th, 2019
10am to 4pm

Admission FREE

We have two lovely gardens to peruse in a tranquil farm setting. With the main rose garden featuring over 600 heritage rose and nursery at

761 Kaiaua Road, Mangatangi

 Plenty of paddock parking.

Exciting selection of rare and unusual roses and perennials for sale at the nursery plus handmade pottery, free range eggs and more!

NO EFTPOS : bring cash or have good coverage on your phone for internet transfer! (poor coverage under the Hunuas).

Sociable dogs welcome on leads and please pick up any leavings in the garden!

P.S. Feel free to bring any unwanted plat pots and score a free cup of tea!.

Email: weitistation@xtra.co.nz or to to grassrootsroses.co.nz for more info