The Irish spring continues to rage around us with cold, drying winds, overcast skies and very little in the way of rain. One old book described these conditions rather poetically as “the ground is iron and the sky brass”. It makes life hard for the gardener, already under pressure to preserve the life of the recently transplanted young plants with shallow roots, whist keeping the weeds down. But one class of plant is beginning to come into its own, the rose.
The first flowers of the ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ roses planted on the walls of what was the old Mushroom House are full ‘Old Rose’ in character with a gorgeous strong scent. An upright rose, it has been trained as a climber and needs a firm hand at pruning time. Another climber, ‘Graham Thomas’, an ‘English Rose’, has a more subtle fragrance than ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and the golden cup-like flowers less full and blousy. Another upright rose, if it is assiduously dead-headed, the display can be kept going all summer.
One last very special rose is the fine red, ‘Dublin Bay’, whose only defect is its lack of a strong fragrance, at least in Northern Ireland. Perhaps it needs heat to exude its scent. Bred by McCredy in New Zealand in 1975, the flowers are bright red and the colour always leaps out at the viewer. Another climber, with dead-heading, the flowers are repeated all summer long.
Elsewhere in the garden, there are still small plants to be transplanted despite the dry weather. The new boulder wall as you enter the Woodland Walk will be planted with grasses and Ranga Lilies from New Zealand and many tubs need to be planted up for the summer. A start will be made on one of five exotic borders with the planting of some choice plants such as Saxgothaea conspicua, the Prince Albert Yew from Chile and Schefflera digitata from New Zealand, all underplanted with Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata with orange flowers.