14 June 2011
Every June the garden takes part in London Open Garden Squares Weekend. The weekend is organised by London Parks and Gardens Trust and is a great opportunity to explore many of London's private gardens - the majority of the participating gardens are private squares and this is the only opportunity for non-key holders to have a look round. The Phoenix, being open access every day of the year, closes to the general public for the weekend and is only open to Open Squares ticket holders. This year was very busy with over 300 visitors on the Saturday alone, so it is a great opportunity for garden volunteers to show off the results of all the hard work they do throughout the year to keep the Phoenix Garden running. The Open Squares visitors are viewing the garden alongside other gardens, many that have planting budgets we can only dream of, so it is good to get all the feedback and to hear how we stand up to the competition. Many visitors are amazed that the garden is open to the public as a matter of course and there are many compliments regarding the planting and the design - of course I already know we are the best! Garden volunteers also run a refreshments tent selling teas, coffees and home-made cakes, and they were run off their feet keeping up with demand!
A long day greeting 300 visitors, and hearing a litany of complaints from those too tight to support 'their' charity garden, has exhausted the gatekeeper! I should probably know better by now but I am still surprised at the unpleasantness freely directed towards garden volunteers by those unwilling to pay the £3 entrance fee for the day; "but this is MY garden you effing middle-class wanker!".
I continue to be amazed at the commitment of the volunteer team who keep on running fund raising events such as these for such little thanks, so here is a Big Thank You to: Jane, Alex, Ray, Craig, Peter, Elizabeth, Graziella, Sharon & Pauline, who made the weekend such a success.
3 June 2011
I have been having lots of odd weather/climate change conversations recently, what with it being such a dry and early year (so you know, I am; yes, climate is changing - no, an early spring doesn't prove it). Whatever the reason the roses are out well before they usually are and are going over quickly. Get them while they last, they are looking great.
The roses here are a mix of odds and sods from yesteryear with a few new ones planted over the past few years. The Phoenix is being managed as a natural garden and they are probably not first class shrubs for wildlife but in full bloom they bring a welcome touch of luxury and they are useful protectors for other plants - they are spikey and prevent in-bed-intruders. None of the roses here get any other treatment than the occasional dollop of compost, regular deadheading of repeat flowerers and a prune and tie-in in winter. No sprays, no extra food and no extra water. A couple of them get hit each year with blackspot, the fungal bane of rose growers, but they seem none the worse for this. Powdery mildew silvers leaves and twists new growth later in the season but it seems to do no lasting damage. I find them tough and they grow and flower well in the rubble soil here.
'Iceberg' white, repeat flowers well, unscented.
Unnamed (possibly 'Felicia'), soft pink, fantastic fragrance.
I lost the label of this, one of the David Austin English roses (all are over-rated I think), great when first out, fades badly.
50p bargain bin, good scent, very spiny flower stems, blighter to deadhead, blackspot prone.
50p bargain bin, nasty shade of pink, blackspot prone.
50p bargain bin, tall red blooms, no scent I can detect, repeats non-stop, lovely red foliage in early spring.
Climbing red rose, good first flush of bloom, gets too dry here (it's under the tulip tree) to flower again, very thorny.
Zephirine Drouhine, pink, scented, thornless, mildew-prone.
'Pilgrim Climbing', I like it when the buds first open,
less so when fully open (too many petals for my taste), and I can't detect the scent,
but the bush has thickened nicely up the railings at the North end. Another English Rose. Not as yellow as I hoped it would be but disease free.
'Ballerina' semi-double, soft pink, repeat flowers well, tough, tough, tough.
Along the front railings this vigorous white rambler throws it's thorny stems like living barbed wire. In full flower the fragrance battles the ammonia stink in this pee-soaked corner. Mildew gets hold every year but it still manages to grow new 3m stems each year.
Tied in during winter it flowers only once in a great burst and garlands the rails with this glorious display. I think it is 'Rambling Rector' - rather apt at the foot of the Churchyard steps.
'Francis E Lester' apple-blossom single flowers with a good fragrance, followed by ornamental pea-sized red hips. Covered in aphids early in the season it shrugs these off undamaged and is my favourite medium sized rambler, growing to 5m.
And the very best is this three year old giant rambler, Rosa filipes 'Kiftsgate', with fragrant single cream flowers with yellow stamens. This is growing to go up the walnut tree where it should eventually hang great trails of blossom from top to bottom. That's the idea anyway, it is a monstrously big rose and I may regret it in the long term but for now I just love it!
For wildlife the garden roses are not the very best of shrubs but they are not the worse by far. The single roses will all be better as the open flowers are easy to access - only fat bumblebees can manage to muscle themselves into the centre of double blooms - the small red hips of Francis E Lester and Kiftsgate are eaten by birds through the winter months, the leaves of all are used by leafcutter bees to line their nests, rose sawfly grubs eat the leaves to skeletons, greenfly wait to be eaten while sucking rose sap and deep in the flowers camouflaged hunters, like crab spiders, lay in wait for the unwary.
If you sniff at the roses, do mind your nose - you could end up like this hoverfly!