Thursday, 21 August 2008

The adventures of Shropshire Lass

I've always had a soft spot for my Rosa 'Shropshire Lass' ever since I rescued it as nothing more than a stick with a few miserable roots at one end and a couple of leaves at the other, languishing in a bargain bin on a late Spring Launceston street about 20 years ago. I could find out nothing about it at the time other than it was a David Austin rose so, in my ignorance, I planted it in the corner of a new garden bed I had created. Gradually it thrived and by year 2 it produced its first flush of large single blushed flowers hovering over the bush like scented butterflies. I knew by now that she flowered only once but I still didn't know that she was not a bush but a large shrub - and a wickedly thorned one at that.

And so it proved. She began to throw out long trailing arms, ensnaring the unwary visitor and as, at the time, I was a participant in the Open Gardens Scheme, something would have to be done. So Fer kindly helped me dig it out and we moved it to a choice new spot in the middle of a new bed where she could grow and flower unhindered. We had to cut her back of course and for two years she was very ugly and stunted and produced only one or two butterflies. Then she took off and she has been a miracle every November/December producing a breathtaking display.

Then this winter I looked at what she had become ...

She was overwhelming, choked and tangled, full of dead and spindly wood, and smothering everything around her. No more pussy-footing around - it was time to prune!

I know you're supposed to prune once-flowering roses after they've flowered but in this position everything else is growing around it and it's just too difficult to get at it so it has had to be now. It has taken me two days - agonisingly prickly days - but at last it's complete - and what a transformation!

She's had her revenge. I'm covered with scratches and embedded rose thorns and I have a bloodshot eye where she poked me in the corner with one of her freshly pruned stems. But I know she'll forgive me and the butterflies will fly again in early Summer.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Taking the line of least resistance.

It's August now and the last month of winter. It's time to get all that pruning and weeding done before everything starts to sprout. I've spent the last two weeks working my way around the garden cutting back, moving, transplanting and mulching as I go. But there always remain the hard tasks...

The current trend for using grasses in the garden has not left this gardener untouched! After a disastrous encounter with Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus' which grew so massive that I had to take an axe to it, I've fallen in love with Miscanthus transmorrisonensis - so graceful and magic. But pruning these grasses invariably leaves a bunch of stubby stems on a dead looking plant and the grass doesn't always want to flourish afterwards.

Last year I burnt a clump of foxtail grasses and the result was decisive. Within a few days the clump sprouted again and performed better than before. So I tried it on the Miscanthus. Fire is so exciting! I know it's not PC to burn stuff, what with global warming and all that, but it proved to be the most effective way of treating the rather overwhelming clump. It has now been reduced to a cleaned up tuft brimming with potential.

Now ... where are my matches ...?

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Pheobe's Garden

This is the final quilt in the series I've made for my niece's 5 children. Pheobe is the middle child and the quietest and least easy to get to know. The only thing I could find out about her is that she likes frangipanis. I'd always admired the medallion style quilt and I thought it was a good chance to make one.

I managed to find a fabric which had some frangipanis printed on it. There weren't a lot of them but it did have some butterflies printed on as well. It also provided me with a colour scheme for the quilt. I used a Cynthia England pattern to piece two larger butterflies for the central block: I later embroidered details onto them to give more definition. I found the medallion style quite challenging to make - so much bias work! Some parts bulged but thankfully it did"quilt out." the quilt is machine pieced and hand quilted using a poly/wool batting.