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What I've learned about my garden

It's been over two years since we began gardening at our new house up in the hills in Southern California. On a separate thread I'll post before, during and after pictures. Here I just want to talk about what I've learned about this particular garden, and I hope it will be of some interest to someone other than me.

Regarding Austin roses: I've decided that I won't buy any more, and certainly not any of the larger ones. I don't want to spend my life pruning recalcitrant bushes into shape when I can grow teas that will need very little pruning and have a much more graceful shape. I'll keep Abraham Darby, Teasing Georgia and Janet because of their flowers and I will learn how to prune them to best advantage. Mrs. Doreen Pike, Cottage Rose, Sister Elizabeth, Glamis Castle and Harlow Darr are small and beautiful and shouldn't be a problem. I haven't had Spirit of Freedom (which I'm growing as a climber), Bishop's Castle and Carding Mill long enough to know what challenges they'll represent.

I've found that I'm leaning more and more toward old roses. Burgundy Iceberg, Wild Blue Yonder, Ebb Tide, Route 66 and Our Lady of Guadalupe are roses I'll keep and probably also Julia Child, while Centenaire de Lourdes and Gourmet Popcorn are questionable. The latter has such fleeting blooms that I wonder what the hype is about, although perhaps it does better in other climate zones. Climbing Pinkie is small and young and hasn't shown me what it can do.

I've discovered reblooming irises and find them to be wonderful companions to roses, especially since the foliage in and of itself is a great contrast to the round, billowy shapes of the rose bushes.

I won't keep a rose if it isn't a nice shrub, even sans flowers. Tamora and Intrigue have left me for that reason.

I've discovered the wonders of alfalfa meal. I'm sure there are other great fertilizers around in addition to or instead of, but this is simple and inexpensive and, very importantly, organic, so it's a keeper.

Mulch is absolutely essential. I don't think one can have a garden in this area without it, unless you're heavily into ice plants. (It's amazing how many people here are.)

My border of warm colored tea roses is not an unqualified success since it provides too much contrast to the more natural landscape beyond it. I've taken out General Gallieni and substituted Blumenschmidt to tone things down and will wait another year to see how well the rest of the teas blend in.

I like my area of small purple roses interspersee with reblooming irises, lavender crape myrtles and Ley's Perpetual and Celine Forestier on the wall behind them, although these are still very tiny now. This area will have to wait at least another year before I can make a final judgment on it.

My three "Mediterranean cottage garden" areas in front of the house on the whole are successful and seem to please most people very much. Of course they'll be fine tuned over the years and be a constant work in progress. I'm sure you all know what I mean. An area in front of the guest room sliding door is still a work in progress and will be one of our main projects this year. A border of mostly pink and some pale roses and white butterfly bushes should be more or less complete when we've added Barbara Worl and Le Vesuve which arrived recently from Vintage. Single Cerise China and the polyantha Marie-Jeanne from the same order have already found homes. Until recently I hadn't heard of either rose so it will be fun to watch them develop. I'm waiting for Reve d'Or and E. Veyrat Hermanos to make big statements on a wall that needs it, in a bed against the house that includes Huilito, Aunt Margy's Rose, Heideroeslein, News and Single Cerise China.

I hope I haven't bored everyone to tears with these ramblings. It has clarified in my mind what gardening is all about for me at this moment in time. Most of all, it's about bringing my husband and me great happiness.


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