13 March 2010
releasing the inner pilgrim
At the Stacey St/Flitcroft St corner there has been an ongoing and unequal battle for supremacy between a Potato Vine - Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin' and a climbing English rose ' The Pilgrim' since planting three years ago. They were planted either side of a brick buttress to minimise the competition between their roots and both have established well despite how incredibly dry it becomes here every summer. The vigorous growth of the potato vine rapidly reached the top of the railings and covered with mauve and yellow potato flowers for months is beautiful but its dense growth had become far too dominant. The rose has been much slower to get going above ground and up until last year had only grown bush-like. It has flowered well but low on the railings all the flowers were picked by passersby. The advice for climbing English roses is to leave pruning well alone until it produces climbing shoots and I managed to keep the secateurs at bay. My patience was rewarded last year as finally a number of climbing stems, viciously thorned whippy growths, had grown up through the tangle of potato vine stems to wave wildly out the top.
The potato vine has done a great job of covering the railings but in the long term this space is the roses. All the dense top growth of the potato vine was cut away bit by bit to free the rose stems from its clutches - the thorn free stems of the potato efficiently snag on everything causing whippy vicious rose stems to slap my face to a chorus of my own cursing. The potato has now been reduced to just two stems and tied in to have its new growth trained out along the railings away from the rose - I'll see how it does this year but it may have to come out completely. The rose now freed had the longest shoots tied in along the top of the rails at the corner and its lower bushiness reduced. This forms the start of a permanent framework of flowering wood that with access to light and air, and up high and out of reach, should be covered this summer in a long lasting display of large soft yellow scented roses.