Gather ye roses if ye may (and ye can’t, the sodding ground is undiggable!)

In the spirit of trying to do as much as we can around our little homestead ourselves, we had a good crack at the main flowerbeds in the front garden. This is a slight change of pace for us as we’ve focussed mainly on practical projects thus far, chicken-proofing the paddock for them to free range and planting an orchard, and other useful things. But you have to feed the soul as well as the tummy and so we decided to treat ourselves and put in some lovely roses. I’m a huge fan of the traditional country garden and now that we’ve made the front garden into a parking area so that we don’t have to have vehicles in the back garden, I want to try to make the remaining beds in the front as pretty as possible because although the parking is practical, it’s really ugly (see the before and after below).


Last year I visited the new garden of a friend and she had a perfect country garden bed, filled with a classical mix of plants that worked so well that they really stayed with me.Last week we planted up a couple around by the boundary fencing, a huge mix of everything from Mock Orange bushes and lavender, through to primroses, lupins and  albums, and today we decided to put in the eleven beautiful David Austin roses we have spoiled ourselves with.


We’re becoming quite au fait with bare-rooted trees and bushes and I have to admit, with the dormant season half over already, I find myself quite frantic to get as much into the soil as we can so that we don’t lose a whole year of growing. It was in this vein that we decided to attack the beds. We soaked the bare roots, dug generously sized holes and sprinkled the Mycorrhizal Fungi on the roots and then planted them in with some well rotted compost. However, we hit our first real snag since moving here. We managed, just, to dig appropriate holes in the smaller of the beds and to plant four of the rose bushes. But the larger of the two had had enormous bushes in it for potentially a decade and although we’d commissioned a tree surgeon to empty the beds, he’d left an enormous amount of the stumps. In short, after actually bending our supposedly steel garden fork, we declared ourselves beaten.


It’s possible you can’t really see them, but there are four bushes in this bed!

We’ve heeled in the roses in a pot and I’m going to see if we can’t negotiate a deal with the chaps coming to repair our stock fencing next week to have them get a mini digger or similar on the case so that we can get these plants in the ground. Somewhat worrying they’re already starting to produce fresh buds so I’m really desperate to get it done. It was frustrating to say the least, all that effort in clearing the beds and cleaning moss and ivy etc off the stones and soaking the bushes only to fall at the last hurdle, but I suppose we have to bear in mind that if we want decades of enjoyment from these rose bushes, it’s worth making the effort to plant them properly.

Heeled in rose plants awaiting their forever home

It’s actually brought a couple of issues to the forefront of our minds, one of which is our appalling soil quality. Here in the South Downs National Park in Hampshire I’d assumed I’d be dealing with simple chalky soil but the clay content seems extremely high, and the sheer amount of rubble and refuse we find everywhere is gobsmacking. At some point some previous owner built an extension onto the  house and decided to cut costs by simply spreading the building waste over the land and covering it in topsoil which is going to cause issues when we start to develop the garden. I think that vegetable beds are going to have to be raised. I was hoping that I could make do this year by simply cutting a few rectangles out of the turf but I really don’t think our soil is good enough. Anyway, I’m straying off topic now, the point I want to make is that even though today was frustrating, not least for the heroic Mr Land Girl who was the one actually doing all the digging. But hopefully we’ll get the roses in and then we can plant other things around them to fill in the bed and make the house look prettier. I’ve got big plans for several clematis across the front in the future!


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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

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