Moving roses in winter

I came racing in just now, clutching a tin of seed packets and a precious half dozen stone pine seeds that are refusing to germinate in their pots.

Well, that’s a surprise. I checked the temperature of my gorgeous perspex roof potting shed and yep, it’s 0 Degrees. Freezing. Bright and airy and gorgeous, but freezing. So the stone pine seeds are now perched in front of the window in the warmest part of the house. As am I.

The plans to do a spot of seed sowing and potting on of the kale has been postponed.

Plan B was to finish the transplanting of the last rose job. But I have now moved to making a huge batch of lentil and tomato dahl on the stove, piling the oak logs onto the fire and trying not to gaze too longingly outside.

Fat chance of that. It’s snowing. Hard. I can barely see the village on the other side of the valley.

The poor birds are battling to get to the sunflower seeds on the terrace – they are taking quite a buffeting. And I just have to admit defeat and be inside for a bit.

Three roses down and one to go.

And what better thing to do when you reach Plan C, than look through your slide archive for pictures to illustrate this story.

Roses. Pure colour and scent sensations in the potager.

But the poor shrubs are on the move again.

I was trying to work my way backwards to where they started and plot their peregrination.

I knew I would want roses on this farm; even if it meant bringing them out bare rooted from England as the David Austin Gertrude Jekyll was my object of desire.

They started out in large wooden planters in the courtyard back in 2008.

They reached peak glorious by 2012. Mainly by dint of the fact the roots had escaped the confines of their planters and were rooted firmly into the soil of the courtyard.

Then, when disaster struck in 2013 and the whole courtyard (and half the garden) flooded, we had to shift them to relay the whole area and make a rill for flood water to flow.

Poor Etienne drew the short straw on that job.

And it was then that we discovered why they didn’t get washed down to the next few terraces like the rest of the gravel, soil and random garden furniture.

They had rooted. So instead of thinking, gee, these amazing plants could do with being planted in proper soil, I did the dumb thing of repairing the planters and putting them back.

They weren’t happy. Not even with their elegant makeover.

Every trip away was one of those fraught anxiety worries (you all know it well) of whether the roses would cark it from lack of water before my return.

It was always the first job I did when I drove back.

And then, by the winter of 2017, I knew they had to move. So down they went to the random parts of the potager that weren’t already claimed.

(I couldn’t believe this shot of the potager when I was rummaging. 2014. Peak neat. Those were the days.)

I kept them in the planter pots and just assumed they would do their usual escape trick; and meander they did.

Glory years. Two glorious years of unfettered rose delight.

I even had the pruning just so.

Long tendrils bending slightly downwards so the buds would break all the way along the stems. Every winter I just needed to cut back the breaks to two or three buds and watch the snaking rose structure work its way along the potager support. They were supposed to bring a bit of shade to the lettuce that I planted underneath.

But actually it was just so much fun to have the flowers I neglected to weed properly and permit more than self seeded rocket and sorrel to grow. Jungle mess of self seeded snow peas, roses, and veg. Fetching in a photo, not so much fun when your garden becomes a trip hazard.

They are in the way of the new system I am slowly, ever so slowly creating. (Permaculture bed number two is done. Have I shown you?

It lacks the last planks of wood on the long sections, but I managed to build it up despite the gap, using the liner to hold in the lasagne of layers.)

And bed number there is smack bang in the centre of the garden where the best of my Gertie roses stood. Yesterday.

I had to shift. Again. Which makes me suddenly think of that scene in Lord of the Rings when Lord Sauron in the guise of Sharkey calls to his faithful and treacherous servant Grima Wormtongue and says ‘Come Grima, we must take to the road again.’

I’m misquoting. But I don’t want to get distracted trying to find my copy in the bookshelves and never return to this post.

But I can just hear all the poor roses saying to each other in rose-speak ‘oh no, here she comes again, and it’s not just with the secateurs, she’s wielding the fork!’

Naturally I had to find where to put the roses first. There is no point uprooting my darlings in this freezing winter weather and leaving their fine roots to desiccate in the snow flurry.

An idea came to me on my morning walk (read, battle through a mini blizzard all the way to the bridge and back).

The fence. I have this gorgeous underused and perfectly positioned chestnut fence that runs the length of the potager.

It usually constrains the roses. Why not use it to display them?

I paced it out and worked out I can move the four Gertrude Jekyll roses that are dotted throughout the changing potager and place one every two metres apart.

So I did. Well, I did three. It’s slow work. And boy do I have some unattractive shots to illustrate this. I ought to have cut down the spent crocosmia stalks in the bed beside it first.

The roots were very extensive and had to be heaved out with my trusty Bulldog fork. Bits of swearing. Lots of watering to the hole before and after. No compost or muck, and then back-fill with the soil I dug out.

They will find the nutrients. I’m not a believer in getting them spoilt in fertiliser-rich soil.

I took great care tying the long tendrils to the fence. In time they will forgive me this great winter upheaval and go on flowering and bringing joy.

And for now I am about to fetch a bowl of lentil soup and make a cup of tea and stay huddled here in front of the fire dreaming of roses and perfume and summer to come.