This has been a historically long and harsh winter in the Northeast part of the United States. It was a similar season of snow and hibernation that inspired my novel The Proposal, featuring a female botanical artist and landscape designer in the late 18th century.
Usually at this time of year I travel to a warmer part of the country, or to England, seeking an early (for me) taste of springtime. I recently returned…my head crammed with memories of blooming bulbs and azaleas and dogwood and wisteria.I arrived home to the welcome sight of crocus shoots springing up from the ground—a sign of many more good things to come. In due time I shall have narcissus, daffodils, hyacinths, bluebells, tulips, fritillaries, iris, peonies, lilacs, rhododendrons, passion flower, clematis, columbine, sweetpea, pansies, foxglove, astilbe, anemone, lupine.
I am genetically inclined to grow roses. My mother grows them. So did my father’s father, and I cherish my childhood memories of wandering through roses of brightly coloured blooms almost as large as my head.
The roses that appear in my fiction are the oldest of all varieties: gallica, alba, damask, centifolia. These have appeared in art through the centuries. I grow the lush Bourbon roses developed in the 19th century, mostly by the French. I have China and rugose rose hybrids. And I rely upon the hybrids from David Austin that mimic the ancient flowers, in shape and scent, but have the advantage of re-blooming until the late frost arrives to put the plants to sleep again.
My rose regimen is fairly simple. I fertilise in spring, applying compost. As the leaf buds begin to sprout, I selectively trim the repeat-bloomers—my David Austins and the rugosas. I usually cut the branches back by 1/3 or in some cases as much as ½, unless I’m using them as climbers and then I mostly remove dead portions. For the once-blooming antique roses, I give them a very line trim to shape them, as they bloom on old wood. If they require downsizing, I do it after their bloom time is finished.
A couple of years ago I moved house, leaving behind many roses but transplanting a good number to the new location. And of course, I added many more that year. And last year. And as I write this, I await delivery of this year’s purchases!
This is what I found in my garden when I returned from my travels--signs of spring at last!
In support of the Authors in Bloom 4th Annual Blog Hop, and to celebrate the recent re-issue of The Proposal and the launch of A Pledge of Better Times. I am giving away a copy of each title--so 2 winners will receive a book. To enter, leave a comment with the name of your favourite flower.