The antici…pation continues.

Well they said it was Spring 16 days ago, but I’m still waiting for mine to arrive. We’ve had as many frosts in Spring (4) as we had all Winter. The “Spring” frosts are a lot harder on the plants too, as they believed the daylight hours and earlier warmth and thought they were safe to start growing sappy new growth. Sucked in! so many plants are looking pretty dismal this week, ready for people to come and see them in their disgrace this weekend!

Luckily roses don’t mind a bit of frost, so they’re moving on unharmed, but no sign of the crazy Spring growth yet, a bit of rain would help things along I’m sure. Keeping my fingers crossed for some mooted for Friday.

I’ve been flat out in the garden and nursery preparing for our first Open Day on Sunday. I’ve had some visitors recently who all get roped in to fun jobs like mulching or weeding or potting up roses. If I was them I’d never visit me…

The Spring bulbs have been legend this year, they’re still filling parts of the garden with their showy flowers, which is a great boon for August and September till the early perennials like the aquilegias and Irises take over and then  of course the roses. The early Species are flowering, some started ridiculously early, like in July! And the Teas are mostly still having some last Winter flowers amidst their burgeoning red Spring growth. What a wonderful family they are, it’s hard to imagine they were superceded by Hybrid Teas, but then of course for the most part they don’t thrive in England or anywhere colder and the early 20th century Kiwis were obviously slaves to Commonwealth fashion and didn’t notice they were replacing their magnificent year round flowerers for a very inferior substitute!

Anyway, on with the show…I have to mention the plum blossom which I have failed to catch on camera, but believe you me, it is astounding. Leaves any cherry blossom for dead! I’m almost glad it has been so horrifically windy this last week as it might slow pollination down…Luckily I now have a resident lamb in the orchard…one of the  many orphans we save annually before sending off to the sale or locally for kids to raise for calf club. Unfortunately Henri had a damaged spine and wouldn’t have been up to calf club, so he’s on orchard mowing duty (much to the chagrin of the chooks as he chases them mercilessly trying to play) I’m sure he will oblige with the excess fruit problem this season.

Better get this baby published as I wanted to mention if you’re coming over for the Open Day Sunday we are always on the look out for any unwanted plant pots. Everything is recycled here to keep prices down!

So, hopefully when next I write Spring will really have sprung and the roses will be preparing for magnificence…


Open Garden & Nursery

Open Garden & Nursery

Sunday, 20 September 2020

10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Yippee, Spring is here and it’s time for our open days to start up again! Our first one will be on the 20th of September, the nursery is FULL and the gardens starting to look fab as they wake up from winter. We hope to see you, please share with any gardening pals!

761 Kaiaua Rd, Mangatangi, Mangatawhiri 2473, New Zealand

Hosted by Grassroots Roses and Perennials

Open Gardens & Nursery @ Grassroots Roses & Perennials. Country plant nursery full of old-fashioned roses and perennials and great prices. Plus two gardens to enjoy. Admission is free, Dogs on leads welcome. All Level 2 guidelines in place. An easy drive from Auckland or Waikato. Perfect Spring outing for any gardener. Email for more info.

A little overdue

A little overdue

Somehow July got away on me , not sure how that happened…I started a late

June blog as follows…

In true Tea fashion Archiduc Joseph has continued to produce flowers right thru the Winter

“I must write a shortest day blog, the Winter Solstice is such a milestone in the year. As far as I can see it heralds the true start of Winter, but also the start of better things to come ie every day from here will be a little bit longer.

I’m a pretty close to nature sort of girl and like to work with the daylight hours available to me, so  with my aging body, 9 hours of daylight doesn’t offer much scope for bursts of energy interspersed by rests…therefore its gotta be go hard out for as long as you can, then collapse with wine and a fire.

It’s a very physical time of year too, rose planting and moving, we’ve also moved some large shrubs and even a small but very old Maple…the tractor did that one! All these moves are made harder by the fact that I hate to waste a good bit of blood and bone, and as I have a pretty much continuous supply of dead possums, I feel the need to plant one in the bottom of every hole I dig for a new rose. This greatly increases the hole size necessary!!! Too shallow and its a fun game for the dogs to dig them up again which doesn’t bode well for the newly planted rose! ”

but that’s as far as I got, and now it’s 6 weeks later! I will continue…


Noisette, Crepescule, is closely related to a Tea rose, and whilst loving warmer climates, is happy to flower all year round.

It’s certainly a busy time of year in the garden, trying to get things sorted for the big Spring Season ahead. Currently the end of the first week of August, Spring is just around the corner. It would be easy to believe it was here already, the last 3 days have been glorious weather and the garden certainly feels springlike. Many of the roses are breaking leaf bud, as I don’t prune much, many are still hanging onto their last winter blooms (they were meant to be autumn ones I think) The Spring bulbs are in full song, the early King Alfreds already giving way to the next swathes of daffs and Irises coming out everywhere. Not joking when I say everywhere either, lots in places I swear I never put them….

We’re certainly experiencing one of the most pleasant Winters I can remember. Easy to enjoy, but can’t help but feel a lot more rain wouldn’t go amiss…seems wrong to be able to walk around the farm in sneakers in August. Hopefully it will rain a lot in late August and September. We are making dates for our Spring Open Days, the first will  be September 13th.

Rose sales have continued at a strong rate and numbers are rather low until some of our newly potted babies grow on a bit. Our orders have all arrived and been planted so Spring/Summer  will bring the excitement of 20 or more new faces and hopefully some of them will be available for sale next year.

We also have a lovely lot of perennials getting potted up daily, so should have a good offering of small plants for the first open day and bigger ones for the next one in October.

In the meantime I’m enjoying the rain we are getting today, very well timed between a big cow day yesterday and a big rose day planned for tomorrow

Prosperity is the odd man out amongst these 3 as it certainly shouldn’t be flowering in August!

All go in the Garden

The rains have well and truly come and whilst we have slipped into June and supposedly Winter, the plants and grass are still feeling quite frisky and obviously feel the need to make up for lost drought time. I was really hoping this would happen, like it did after last Autumn’s terrible (but minor compared to this year’s) drought.

The Autumn flowering bulbs, like Nerines, that had a few pitiful flowers in March amidst sad looking leaves, are now covered in bright blooms amidst lush green foliage. Alongside them the Spring flowering bulbs are emerging at a great rate too! To add to the confusion I noticed both my big banksia roses were budding up in parts yesterday! This is before they have lost all their leaves for Winter…

Miss Ellen Wilmott, along with most of the Tea roses is gearing up for an early winter flush

Many Autumn flowering plants like roses and irises are now setting about making new growth and blooms. Hopefully the Winter doesn’t get too harsh anytime soon and ruin their bounty.

We had a great turn out for the Open Day and sold lots of perennials and roses which were begging for homes. The eternally fine Autumn broke down into rain that day, but kindly waited till after lunch when most of the punters had been and gone.

June 1st is Gypsy Day amongst dairy farmers and also is the time for the annual “Rose Movement”. Invariably in the space of nearly 12 whole months, many roses have out grown their spot, or look unhappy or have failed to fulfill promise or indeed have outdone themselves and deserve a more prominent position! So many reasons to move roses! Also happening this year, is the formation of a new garden for my “Rose Partner”, Mary Ellen. We both moved from East Coast Road, North Auckland around the same time and many of her roses ended up at my place as she was moving to an apartment in the city. Any that were rare or special we transplanted here, often they were repeats of ones I also had. Now she and her husband have finished building their new house in Miranda, about 20 minutes from here and the landscaping is all complete. Therefore she is reclaiming lost property and freeing up space in my garden for new and different roses!

We are both slightly past our prime, so the digging up of established roses is a drawn out affair, with many coffee and wine breaks involved. I’ve got to say it’s a lot easier digging them out of prime dairy topsoil versus the hard yellow clay we both gardened in for 30 years up North! Lucky we were more primal 5-6 years ago…

Freedom in so many ways!

May has bought the breaking of the drought early in the month for us, we scored nearly 100 mils of rain over about 5 days. Such blessed relief! Freedom from watering the garden until next summer, and the nursery for a few days at least. Can’t say its quite freedom from feeding out to all the cows and horses, the rain came a bit late for vigorous grass growth, but at least they all have something to nibble on between meals on wheels…

Last of the Autumn flowers are few but extra beautiful…Mary Rose

And of course the other freedom we are all being granted is freedom from lockdown as of tomorrow night. To be completely honest, lockdown hasn’t really had much of an adverse effect on me as I’m not a socialiser or shopper, but it will certainly be good to welcome visitors to the garden again.

The “Open Day Drought” has been a long one, stretching way back to December when I had ankle surgery and was good for nothing for a very long time. Just as that came right the summer drought was so bad we couldn’t have people looking at the dreary garden, and then the dreaded lockdown put paid to our proposed Autumn Open Day. The other consequence of the lockdown has been a lot of email orders for roses. This is something I’m working on at present, dozens of orders and a disabled postal system ! I have sent a few but am wary to send any more just yet as they seem to just travel to the Auckland post depot and no further for some time. Way too long a time for roses to be happy on arrival. I’m hoping this will right itself asap.

So upshot of all this rambling is that we will be holding a “last minute before Winter Open Day” on Sunday May 24th. Social distancing will be easy, hand washing facilities available for before and after your visit. Names and addresses must be written into the book. Payment by phone transfer, cheque or cash.

We have plenty of last years well grown roses still available, and the first of the Summer cuttings are now potted up and available for pick up only. The perennials are the big drawcard, they are very well grown, and will fill spots in your garden post lockdown amendment!

Hope to see some eager gardeners, both gardens will be open, if a little bare with Winter closing in.

Remember we are always short of plant pots if you have any unwanted ones lying around we can put them to good use.

The roller coaster that is life at the moment…

1 month since last I wrote…and soooo much has happened! First up Lockdown happened and we had to cancel the Open Day.

The new “tea Bank” extension

Lockdown is obviously a terrible thing for many people. My daughter, for instance, relies on retail therapy and fast food for a sound mind…clearly she has gone a bit crazy!!! Actually she has adapted very well and the bonus of a stay home partner who has even bigger muscles than her has meant many jobs have got done around the farm and of course, gardens. In fact both of us have had some big garden changes happening in the last few weeks.

I am ashamed to say I’ve found lockdown pretty darn good. Going out is not something I aspire to and I have my entire immediate family in my bubble so am very lucky. Lots of help from husband Graham, who is still operating and managing ten or so farms, but with no stock sales etc, there’s a lot more “hometime” for jobs on our own 2 small farms. The pay off for all this extra help is catering, I set myself up as Lockdown Cook and have had to perform much culinary labour !

The grass is green and the trees are colourful!

The other big recent change has involved the water falling from the sky scenario. We have been generously given 55mil in the last week or so and whilst the soil moisture deficit is still insane, the top of the ground got wet and the plants (and weeds) all got very happy. Too late for some, but others that have struggled on are looking like they’re going to make it after all. The drought has worked its magic on deciduous trees which are currently putting on a magnificent display! Right up there with South Island standards.

The other big problem we’ve been experiencing, presumably due to the drought, is a possum explosion. They’re always a  problem in our area and my orchard is a big draw card, but for the last few months they are in plague proportions. My daughter’s partner, besides having big muscles, also has a rifle and a good eye. Under normal conditions he goes out once a week or so and shoots invaders, but for the last couple of months he goes out at least every second or third night and often shoots 20 or more just in the area of our 2 gardens. Drought tally is currently about 300 and they just keep coming…sad for my David Austin collection which is right beside the orchard and gets grazed nightly on the way to and from apple dinner. Only the Granny Smith still has fruit left, when they’re gone the roses will cop it even more.  The local council spent millions baiting them in the Hunuas across the road last year, one can’t help but think they didn’t do such a great job…

Moving on and Level 3 is a week away. I will then be able to post some back log orders and we have devised a “click and collect” scenario for locals who want to pick up roses and/or perennials. The nursery is bursting at the seams with big flowering perennials, most, probably too big to sensibly post. We have made list of what perennials we have available in reasonable numbers and will also post it on the website and the facebook page. The roses will still be available according to the website catalogue.

If you can ge here you can email us an order and pay online and organise a time to come and pick them up from the nursery with no contact.

In the meantime, in my pitifully slow – gradually healing from ankle surgery – way, I continue to amend and plant in the garden and look forward to a time when my local lady and various friends can return and help with the weeding etc and we can advertise a proper open day again. There are lots of new roses waiting to be potted up and more cuttings getting put in daily, so come Level 2 we should be ready for business as usual…

Garden Therapy.

It is a well known, pretty much scientific, fact, that getting your hands dirty is good for the soul. In all this global pandemonium about washing your hands, no mention is made of the benefits of dirtying them.

Not in any way down sizing the magnitude of the covid disaster, but if you can’t do all those other things that are banned, I’d recommend you replace them with gardening. Ok, it’s a shame the covid disaster is coinciding with our own local drought disaster, but both will pass eventually and with winter approaching and with a hose on hand gardening is now a possibility again!

Amendment is the order of the day! Rip out all the dead things, chop back the spent flowers on those that “weathered the storm” (possibly not the best analogy…) and trim all the dead bits off the roses. Watering things after amendment is a necessary ritual, most especially if there’s a chance they’ll flower again. Then survey the scene…at our place this means surveying a lot of empty space. Next up, fill your garden trolley or wheelbarrow with potted plants that have been waiting for their moment to be planted. This part of the plan may involve shopping if you don’t have a fully stocked nursery to choose from.

My first recommendation would be to pencil in March 29th and come for a drive to our place. It’s a very safe outing, all outside and no crowds usually!

If this isn’t on the cards, there are many bargains to be had at garden centres at this time of year. With the faint hearted gardeners out of the picture for the drought scenario, there tends to be a lot of unsold plants they want to move on. They might look tatty, but get them in the ground and water well and they should perk up quickly while its still warm. Beware any plants that have low water needs and look sad, as these have probably been over watered, and won’t necessarily bounce back. Even professionals can make mistakes in this vein…when I was looking at 12 weeks non weight bearing ahead of me in December, we put all the perennials and roses together in big blocks to make watering from a seated position a possibility. Someone forgot about the water needs of Bearded Irises (I’ve got my hand up) and half of them rotted away while the parent plants happily baked in the drought ridden garden.

So that’s your activities sorted then for the next few weeks ! Gardening, garden shopping then more gardening. At the end of each day you will feel sooo much better if you need to scrub your fingernails to remove dirt you can actually see! You may feel in need of some analgesics or anti inflammatories of course…

To wrap things up for this supplementary blog, I bring to you some of the plants which have earned bonus points this terrible summer for drought hardiness.

  1. Lady of Shallott shrugs off the drought and death surrounding her…

    of course is ROSES. All the roses in the garden have survived,many are putting on a charming autumn show with little or no help from the hose. There were a few very sad ones too close to trees which Mary Ellen and I dug up a few weeks ago to save. All have bounced back but one whose only surviving arm died. But wait!! a few days ago a healthy good sized basal shoot emerged from the wreckage! Roses are the best!!!

  2. Mirabilis or “4 o clocks” amaze me, as they didn’t even emerge till the drought was in full swing. They are bigger than ever this season and covered in their bright scented flowers. Not for everyone as their colour range could be described as disturbing, but if you want a bright  space filler for the summer months, these are hard to beat.
  3. Penstemons have carried on flowering without water throughout the garden.
  4. Admittedly this photo of Alice’s Salvias is not really recent, but most of them are still flowering on, be it a little more straggly!

    Salvias have been a mixed bag but by and large have really been a massive colour boost. They are such a diverse range of plants from all corners of the globe, so obviously they can’t all be happy in high temperatures with no water…A few have become sad, but most have thrived and made the bees very happy.

  5. Antirrhinums must get a mention. Considered by most an annual, they are all pretty much short lived perennials. I have all sorts and colours dotted about, many self seeded, many onto their third season. I poked some mini seedlings in the hot garden in november, this being one of the gardens which seems to have suffered the most this summer. With only the very odd splash of water they all grew and have flowered prodigiously all summer/autumn. One of my favourite “annuals”
  6. Pelargoniums. Another big family. Their close relatives the Cranesbill geraniums dislike the hot and dry and have mostly hunkered down (will be sure to sprout again next spring, or indeed before winter if we get some rain) Pelargoniums however thrive in the hot and dry mostly and continue to grace the garden with their colourful flowers and in some cases,  leaves as well.
  7. Hemerocallis or Day Lilies and Cannas are certainly drought champs. Most of mine are in very tough places but have continued to flower on through it all.
  8. Asters cop some bad press on water requirements, but I have many varied in different gardens and all have delighted this summer/autumn. Admittedly they can get some dead leaves at the base, but hey, who looks at the base when the top is putting on a lovely show                                  Of course there are many more I’ve forgotten and I haven’t even started on the supposed hardy perennials that disappoint time and again, but this blog has been going on too long and it needs to get published!!!
  9. Just remember the golden rules…stay in the garden, not the town and wash your hands thoroughly to get the lovely healthy dirt off afterwards. Hope to see some of you at the open day next week – all outside and  you can pay on your phone by internet banking…

Autumn open day

Grassroots Roses Autumn open day

Sunday 29th March, 10am-4pm

Come get some healthy country air

Come and join us for another open nursery and gardens. A great range of old-fashioned roses and perennials available for sale, as well as country gardens to wonder through.

Admission is free and dogs on leads welcome.

An easy one-hour drive from Auckland central.

Grab a trolley and nab some rare and well prices plants for your garden this autumn.

No eftpos

761 Kaiaua Rd, Mangatangi, Sunday 29th March, 10am-4pm

Three cheers for Autumn!

So happy that we can officially declare Summer over! We were very lucky last week with a delightful 20 mils of rain. It certainly couldn’t be declared a drought breaker, there is still no feed for anything and the ground is a hard concrete block, but the grass took on a greenish hue (that whose roots hadn’t died) and we’ve had some more small showers and drizzle to keep the colour coming.

Even though it did apparently nothing to the ground moisture below an inch or so, its incredible how happy it made the plants.(those whose roots hadn’t died). And how happy it makes the gardeners! An end is in sight!

So in this spirit of hope we have decided to have our first open day since December at the end of the month. We have seriously big perennials available, which will quickly fill bare patches in the garden! Daily water and hot sun for 3 months equals plants bursting to be planted. The roses are also growing at great rates in their pots and have been producing the first of the sublime autumn flowers, which are always my favourites.

The roses in the garden are weathering the continued lack of moisture with brave faces…we have been very lucky down here with very low humidity most of the time (I believe this is not the case further North) so the disease has pretty much only been some blackspot and mildew due to water starvation. Many of the roses lost most of their leaves and stayed bare for the duration, but now they can sense Autumn and hopefully its associated rains coming, they are leafing and budding up for an Autumn show.

14 weeks post surgery I am gaining some normality at last, ie I can walk without support…but am still many months away from full recovery, so can only do short bursts in the garden at a time. This is the great thing about the drought…weeds haven’t been sprouting! So the garden will look respectable with a bit of amendment of spent or dead perennials. That is respectable by drought standards…Anyone thinking of coming to have a nosy or an autumn buy up, please don’t expect a show garden!!! Four months on the bench and with pretty much no rain for 3 months does not equal a pretty picture! Lots of dead bits on roses and dead things in garden…if you are experiencing the same drought prepare to feel much better about your own garden!

The Arid Garden

It’s been hard to create any enthusiasm to write a post this month. My daily garden tours are not something to look forward to, as they mostly just involve “what’s died today…”

This astilbe is near the hose and was watered lots of times. Not any more tho, better to save the water for something more deserving!
2 weeks ago the lawns were going ,going…now they’re gone! You can see why we’re not holding open days at the moment!

We have a good  bore here, but also sixty something cows and thirty odd horses, all of which are living on dry feed, which makes them very thirsty. The grass is gone, except in the few little gullies, so their diet is hay and some silage. Obviously their welfare comes first, followed by the nursery. Our 2 large gardens are at the bottom of the heap of water commitments.

The nursery gets watered every evening and is a lush paradise! Many of these plants will be used to fill in the gaps when the rains finally come.

I spend an hour or so morning and evening, doling out meager  supplies to priority plants. More than this and the header tank gets emptied and then takes a very long time to fill again.

Christopher Marlowe is in a very dry garden in front of the house. He’s been watered once…

My first priority is any rare roses, which should they die, would be irreplaceable. If I have a cutting grown one in the nursery, they have to take their chances. For the roses, their chances are high, as they are definitely, not withstanding succulents, the toughest things in the garden when it comes to surviving and some indeed prospering, in a drought. Eventually they start to let their older shoots die, saving this season’s basal shoots to ride it out. Most of them are soldiering on at this stage, still  producing fleeting summer flowers. Most of the Teas have descended into mildew mode, they love the heat and insist on growing and flowering, but look less than attractive covered in mould!

At this stage there is no end in sight. February is probably my least favoured month. Eventually the days will shorten and cool and hopefully some decent rain will come before June. Last year the autumn rains never came, surely that won’t happen again?