For my 50th birthday my lovely romantic husband wanted to buy me a dozen roses. I agreed provided they had roots on! He was a bit taken aback by my pragmatism – I don’t know why because he was always the more romantic of the two of us! – but he swallowed hard at the price and agreed. So a dozen rose bushes, plus a bonus rambler to go on the gable end of the house, all from David Austen duly arrived later in the year.
It was not long after the bulldozer had departed for the last time and the garden looked like a quarry with no soil, just compacted shale everywhere.
We decided that the track up to the veg patch, which is at the same level as the house gutters, was wider than we needed and that we would plant the rose bushes on the left hand side of the first part of the slope with blackcurrants further up on both sides. I spent many hours digging planting holes through the stone using an assortment of heavy iron bars to shift the bigger lumps of rock. Often the holes were bigger than I intended when a particularly large rock had to be extricated from near the bottom and the sides collapsed. It also proved impractical to get the bushes evenly spaced for the same reason – a large stone could cause me to shift one way or the other. Eventually 12 holes were dug, filled with compost and the bushes planted.
The roses settled in happily to my delight. Unfortunately so did nettles brambles… and because of the stony ground I could keep cutting them back but getting the roots out was well nigh impossible. I managed to keep it all reasonably tidy until John’s deteriorating health meant I had very little time or energy to do gardening and what I had was concentrated on growing food not flowers. Luckily the roses survived – just.
Over the last few years I have gradually worked to rebuild the garden. Each year have cut back the weeds on this patch, put down cardboard and topped it with a layer of chipped wood which I am able to get free from a local firm. This year I realised that almost all the deep rooted weeds have finally given up. They still grow on the bank behind the roses and flop over towards the path but in the soil around the bushes the weeds are light annual ones. The layers of card and mulch, augmented by leaves from the trees have made lovely friable soil and the annual stuff pulls out fairly easily. So this year, when I have finished the next layer I can plant in things to cover the ground and hopefully exclude the next crop of weeds. I have plenty of nasturtium and borage seeds, self seeded feverfew, buckler leaf sorrel which needs splitting and mint which needs digging out. That should do for starters and look quite pretty.