Monday, February 15, 2010

The Generosity of Strangers...and friends!

I often think I'm quite crazy with my Polyanna notions of pruning 4000 roses. I never worked this hard when I was 30, and now, and nearly 60, my body just says 'no' every day.

But thanks to the generosity of strangers and friends, somehow the progress of preparing the garden for May continues along. Yesterday one new friend, Polly, and two old friends, Sarah and Carolyn, came to work for the day, weeding the Damask Perpetual borders. This is the section of the garden east of the house, which Teresa and I call the 'pretty garden'. The two of us spent days last year cleaning and pruning it and then filling it with companion plants, so that at least one corner of the garden was full to over-flowing. Our theme was 'blue companions' and included violas, salvias, agapanthus, fuschias (in lavender-blue tones), lavenders, dahlias, sweet peas, giant forget-me-nots and tall asters. It was magnificent all summer long, the blue companions spilling across the pinks and crimsons of the reblooming Damasks and Hybrid Perpetuals.

Yesterday we faced the devastation of the late summer weeds that had escaped my attention, mostly grass weeds that surged up above the roses and perennials and draped everything with golden threads—so impossible to comb out from the thorny branches. Polly and Sarah weeded all day long and Carolyn soon arrived and worked alongside me—Carolyn who can scarcely walk thanks to failing knees that aren't scheduled for replacement until May!

We managed to clear out more than half of the garden—enough to leave me confident that the rest will soon follow, along with the pruning and then the mulching!

This week Tora Rocha of the Morecomb garden of roses in Oakland is bringing a small army of her dead-header volunteers to learn a bit about pruning various types of old roses, and then to help with the mulching, and perhaps a bit more weeding, in the lower Hybrid Teas, where we first began this misguided process.

It's clear that this garden of three acres is beyond me, and now beyond the manpower that Vintage Gardens can supply. But this year, thanks to the generosity of so many who love old roses, we have May to look forward to, and a garden of scents and colors that will give joy to the many who visit. I hope you can be among our visitors!


  1. You are nearing the half way point! The light at the end of the tunnel is closer. The weather looks promising - sunny skies coaxing the plants and pruners both along.

  2. Looks good Gregg! I hope it cools back down though, the roses are going to wonder about this hot sun and start popping. I mentioned you today in my blog.

  3. Lovely Gregg.

    Congratulations to you and your garden angels.

    "Pruning", what's that??

    I'm happiest when I can let the roses do their thing and intervene in the least invasive manner.

    Still, I know nature will reward you in a big way in a scant several weeks.

    So nice to read about your progress.