Friday, July 26, 2013

How to Design a Romantic Garden | P. Allen Smith Classics

Too lovely not to share ...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hidcote Manor Garden Style: Lawrence Johnson's Masterful Gardens

Hidcote Manor Garden Photo © Copyright Neil Kennedy
When American expatriate, Lawrence Johnson created the garden at Hidcote Manor, Gloucestershire in 1907, he created a stir among the gardening elite. His care-free view of flowers, garden design and gardening in general took the romanticism of earlier periods to a new level.

Vita Sackville West's Views of Hidcote

According to Vita-Sackville West, a well-known English gardener and garden writer in the last century, Hidcote "did not seem a promising site" on which to make a garden." In her view, the property was shapeless, with no foundation hedges, trees or old walls for protection against the wind, and the soil was impossible to work. Vita took note of the amount of energy, creativity and optimism the garden took for it to become the famous and beautiful garden it became.

Gate at Hidcote  Photo © Copyright Carol Walker

Hidcote and Sissinghurst

There are many similarities between Lawrence Johnson's style of gardening to that of Vita Sackville-West's and her husband Harold Nicolson's garden at Sissinghurst. The major design features in both gardens are the series of garden rooms – walled or hedged enclosures that offer a sense of intimacy. Both garden designs considered the vistas, so that each path or alley through a lime walk or rose walk drew the eye to another garden view, a seat or a statue.

Hidcote was given formal hedges and gardens rooms within those enclosures, but the garden "rooms" within were less austere than the gardens of most of the grand manors in England at the time. Numerous flowers were added. Herbaceous borders were filled with color and they included flowering trees, shrubs, and roses. Lots of roses.

Romantic Garden Style

In more formal gardens of Britain, stray plants were pulled and climbing roses only climbed as high or wide as the head gardener allowed – the classical style always at odds with romanticism. A neat and tidy appearance was the order of the day. But Lawrence Johnson fought against those strict gardening ideals and let the garden dictate how it would evolve. This style of gardening had always been practiced in the lowly cottager's gardens, and was now showing itself in the gardens of the gentry, quickly becoming accepted as the new romantic garden style.

A garden "room" at Hidcote: Photo © Copyright David Stowell

Hidcote Manor and the National Trust

Hitcote Manor is now under the care of Britain's National Trust whose purpose is to care for and maintain the property and allow visitors to the sites under their protection. It is located in the heart of the Cotswolds. Visiting times and more details can be found at the National Trust's website.


    The Romantic Garden, Graham Rose, Penguin Books,1988
    The English Gardening School, Rosemary Alexander and Anthony du Gard Pasley, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987
    The Principles of Gardening, Hugh Johnson, Simon and Schuster, 1979
    Sissinghurst: Portrait of a Garden, Jane Brown, Harry N. Abrams,Inc., 1990

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Brief Tutorial on Propagating Roses by Cuttings

Photo Copyright 2012 by Lorraine Syratt
  "Constance Spry"
Roses are easy to propagate from cuttings. In the English soil and climate, a gardener need only take a small cutting and slip it into the soil. In North America, however, a little more attention is needed.

The best time to take cuttings is when the rose canes show well-ripened first year growth. Mid-summer to early September are the best times in zones 4-7. This gives the cutting several weeks to form roots before the frost of mid autumn. If you are in a higher gardening zone, you can wait a little longer because you generally have longer growing seasons before the cooler weather sets in.

Find a small area in the garden to devote to a nursery bed. This bed is an important feature for die-hard gardeners and will hold not just rose cuttings, but an assortment of plants in various stages of propagation. The bed will need to be in dappled shade, and it will also need to be protected from the wind. 

Simple Stem Cutting Procedure

  1. Cut the stem pieces to about 8" long.  
  2. Remove about two thirds of the lower leaves from the cutting. 
  3. Make a slit or hole in the ground with a pencil or other tool to about 6" deep. 
  4.  Dip the stem bottom in a rooting hormone that is formulated for shrubby plants or roses in particular. 
  5. Place the cutting in the hole. 
  6. If taking several cuttings, place them 4" to 6" apart in rows. 
  7. Firm the soil around the cutting with your knuckles or fingers. 
  8. Label the cuttings with the rose's name and type. Otherwise, keep a reference map with a key to all the plants in the nursery bed.

You will recognize the cuttings "that took" when new leaves form. Others will just turn brown and shrivel.

When the cold months arrive, use straw or light mulch to protect the plants in the nursery bed. By the following autumn, the cuttings should be ready to plant out in the garden. They could also placed in a temporary bed to grow on for another year before planting in the garden proper.

It's not difficult to take cuttings from roses and have some success. With experience, you will learn what works best in your location with regards to timing, as well as what roses or rose types that have the best results. This same system can work for many shrubby plants.

Monday, July 1, 2013

In Defence of Rosa Multiflora

R. multiflora "inermis" background on porch, 2011
(not recommended for US gardens)

In the United States, the non-native species rose, Rosa multiflora has been kicked, burned, axed, nipped in the bud, bull-dozed over, poisoned and verbally abused by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, as well as by gardeners in locations where it seems to flourish. Is the wildness of its ways the fault of the plant or the fault of those who planted it en masse along Missouri's highways in the 1950s without foresight and left it to grow untended?

Years ago, one of my father's more refined roses, probably a tea or floribunda, reverted to its Rosa multiflora rootstock. In this case, it is the thornless (nearly) species, Rosa multiflora inermis. He was a good rosarian, my dad, but sometimes these little freaks of nature happen when plants are being manipulated (grafted) or poorly grafted. He left the rose growing by the side of the house for a few years, and grow it did, into a beautiful, big, scented mound that stopped pedestrians and slowed traffic. My father hated "the thing." In his view, it was unrefined, too wild, too big, and it was damaging his fence. He was getting rid of it. I begged cuttings, but at that time, I didn't trust my know-how.  He cut it down severely one year and planted six cuttings in a protected area of his garden, and to my joy, they all took.

   R. multiflora "inermis", same porch, 2012
  I waited until after it bloomed to cut it back

I originally planted them around a terraced hilltop, but they don't thrive there. They didn't become vigorous like his. They grew to a few feet and that was that. It was a bad location, very dry with strong west winds. After building the long porch, I needed something growing up the posts, so I dug up one of the multifloras and moved it to side of the steps. There is no eavestroughing along the porch roof, so all the water drips into the border in front.

The rose gained a few feet the first year, a few more by the second, and by the third year, I was using a long ladder to tie the canes into the balcony and along the porch roof.  In my zone 5b garden, it grew to 25 feet by the 4th season in this location. Any American gardeners reading this will probably think I'm nuts nurturing this rose, but I love it, and it's not considered invasive in Canada. I also have a sentimental attachment to it because my father, the bearer of the gift, is gone now. And even though he hated the rose, he took the care to please his daughter who loved it. I treasure it above all other roses in my garden.

I know there are many more-refined roses that have a similar nature to R. multiflora, like the cultivars Rambling Rector, Kiftsgate, Paul's Himalayan Musk, R. Mulligani and R. longicuspis, but they aren't as hardy in my location to ensure I'd get the height I look for.

I've since learned the best way to propagate this species is by seed, not by stem cuttings. Stem cuttings may carry viruses. And being a species rose, seed propagation results with plants that are true to form. I've had luck with both seed propagation and cuttings.

Rosa multiflora has a very strong spicy scent and vigorous growth to 20 or 30 feet in the right environment. It just finished blooming in my garden and the scent on my porch was intoxicating and exotic. Rosa multiflora gets it strong spicy scent from its stamens rather than the blooms' petals. But from my own experience, it also gets it from the ends of new growth from its unfurled leaves. I'm so impatient for the scent in early spring, I gently touch an end and it releases its fragrance onto my fingers. Long after the blooms are spent, the scent is still there on the tips of new growth.

For Canadian gardeners in zones 4 or higher, this is a rose to treasure as both a climber and a stand-alone specimen in the lawn where its long arching branches can be left to layer themselves one on top of the other.

The multiflora rose is most often used as rootstock for all those modern hybrids found lined up in neat little rows in garden centres. And every once in a while, the rootstock wins. The rose reverts to its rootstock and the gardener is blessed with a non-fussy rose with small white blossoms in large clusters. But it's also possible to purchase rosa multiflora from Canadian mail-order rose nurseries. Propagation from cuttings and seeds has great results. Hence all the bother with the rose "taking over." I have not had that issue on my Canadian fifty acres. It grows only where I've planted it in and around my garden.

As a root stock, it is especially useful for creating rambling roses and many of the most beautiful ramblers gardeners enjoy have R. Multiflora as either parentage or as its rootstock. Gardeners treasure it for its simple elegance and vigor5 feet per season.

Keep it in Check

~ Given its invasive nature in the US and being close to Lake Ontario and border, I remove most of the spent blooms so there are fewer hips in fall for the birds to take away. It's a small point, but it can't hurt.

~ R. multiflora blooms on the previous years growth, so it's important to only cut back older canes in fall.

~ If you cut it back more severely every 2nd or 3rd year, the plant will be less bushy. A few canes is all you need if you want it to rise over an arbor or up a porch post.

~ While it's not considered invasive here in Canada, it's probably a good idea to watch for accidental layering. I haven't noticed it with mine, but given that in higher US hardiness zones, it's not just the high germination percentage of the seeds that created its invasive nature; it can spread via accidental layering and via root sprouts. I'm assuming it's the climate factor.


~ Highly scented, in and out of bloom
~ Very vigorous. Under right conditions, will grow 5 feet per season
~ Easily propagated. I consider this an attribute, but it's the very reason it's so invasive south of the border, where it propagates naturally.
~ Very floriferous


This rose is not native to north America, but an introduction from Japan and Korea. According to rosarian, F.F. Rockwell, in his 1958 book The Complete Book of Roses, Rosa Multiflora was first brought to England from Japan in 1875. But at the same time Rockwell's book came out, gardener and writer, Vita Sackville-West, wrote in 1957 that R. Multiflora was not available in Engand, but that "... it will be procurable in this country before long, in the form of seedlings which are already coming up like mustard and cress in a rosarian's nursery." One or the other got something wrong, but that's the world of rose experts.


Vita Sackville-West, Even More for your Garden, Michael Joseph, 1958, pg. 79

F.F.Rockwell and Esther C. Grayson, The Rockwell's Complete Book of Roses, American Garden Guild and Doubleday, 1958, pg. 263

Botanica, Forward by William A. Grant, Botanica's Pocket Roses, Whitecap Books, 2001, pg. 60
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