My friend Jan arrived up from Cambridge to spend time in my gardens. Her garden in Cambridge is pristine and because she has now retired from her landscaping jobs, she misses, fortunately for me, getting stuck in to a pile of weeds and making a difference.
“What are those?” she asked looking down at my parade roses. In a previous article I had written about the joys of parade roses, their flowers, their form, their ability to grow no matter where. Here were my specimens, chewed to the ground by the last batch of ravaging possums. The larger roses have gorse all around them but it was hard to keep the gorse along the edge of the garden to protect the parade roses.
“Good grief!” she said when I told her. “These have to come out and be potted up before they die. They make a good pot plant.” And with that she dug them all out.
“You know,” said Box, “even when Barney fulfils his job of Chief Possum Killer, there are still going to be possums. The problem will always be there. Do you think that perhaps roses are not such a good idea.”
At the moment Box is spending a lot of time painting the house at the Block and this apparently gives him a lot of time to think. Jan and I went on with our weeding and at cup-of-tea time Box said: “I’ve been thinking about the roses and I think I have a solution. How about a walled garden just for the roses?”
“Brilliant,” I replied. I have always wanted a walled garden. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden must have had an impact on anyone who ever read it. The moment Mary finds the secret walled garden is magical: ‘It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place anyone could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses, which were so thick they were matted together… . There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees… . But she was inside the wonderful garden and she could come through the door under the ivy any time, and she felt as if she had found a world all of her own.’
A walled rose garden. What an absolute treat. My imagination went into overdrive.
“Brick walls? Rock walls?” Box began to look a bit panic stricken. I raced back to the cottages and the computer. English walled gardens were often built to create a micro climate and extend the growing season. The high brick walls trapped sun and warmth. This is not what I need for the roses. Our weather is hot enough. I cast aside ideas of bricks and rocks.
“Timber walls,” I said to Box who looked greatly relieved. “We need to let the air through.”
“How big are you thinking?” queried Box.
“Really big,” I said. It turns out he was thinking about 10 to 12 roses. Fortunately it hasn’t taken him long to adjust. It will need poles to hold up the roof of chicken wire which can double as supports. Personally I would like him to stop the house right now and get started so it is ready for next winter’s planting. He says the house and then the garage has to be built first. In the meantime I am giving him more ideas on a regular basis. I suspect he wishes he had never thought of it.
“You know, even when Barney fulfils his job of Chief Possum Killer, there are still going to be possums. The problem will always be there. Do you think that perhaps roses are not such a good idea.”