The Rose Rambler 31/01/2013

Hello dear rose friends … as promised, another ‘Rose Rambler’ from Silkies Rose Farm at very dry, windy Clonbinane!   Here in the State of Victoria we would love some rain to recover our parched gardens while Queensland mops up from floods – in this week of Australia Day, we are all reminded of how truly remarkable Australia is!

YOU CANNOT KILL A ROSE … On 3rd January I packed up three standard roses destined for Gosford, NSW – Graham personally saw them onto the courier truck.  A week passed and our customer rang, he hadn’t received his roses and was getting concerned.  I assured him that the roses were very well packaged and they would arrive in the coming few days – he rang after ten days, then fourteen days.  The couriers assured me our customer had received his roses and I eventually tracked the roses to the forwarding courier depot in Shepparton.  The carton was delivered back to Clonbinane on 21st January – to my absolute delight and surprise, the roses had lost all their leaves however, the potting mix was beautifully damp and there were new watershoots on two of the roses!  I placed them in a solution of Natrakelp liquid seaweed and they were trimmed and potted later that day – ten days on and they have new foliage and are performing as though they never went through the trauma of being un-potted, packaged, shipped and left-for-dead at the courier depot … oh, if only they could talk!!!
Just for the fun of it, please send an email with your thoughts in about 200 words of how those roses may have endured the 21 days after leaving the nursery – all entries received before 7th February will receive a FREE bush rose of your choice when you come to the Silkies Rose Farm, Clonbinane, during the month of February.  This is not a competition but a fun exercise! 

FEEDBACK … I had lots of calls and emails from people who were pleased to hear my plea for us all to take care of the street trees in our neighbourhoods.  There is talk of us experiencing a wet Autumn so until we get good, deep-soaking rains, please continue to water trees in your garden and on your street – the trees are such an intrinsic part of the infrastructure of the space we live in and we must ensure they survive this hot, dry and windy Summer!

IN THE ROSE GARDEN THIS WEEK … If the roses are being irrigated, continue the Summer pruning program, leaving a good cover of foliage to shade the plant – light fertilizer application is recommended and certainly apply liquid seaweed.   A thick layer of mulch will preserve any moisture in the soil and keep the microbes and worms alive!

SNAKE WARNING … Within moments of watching Graham try to kill a snake by the front door yesterday afternoon, I answered a phone call from our insurance broker … we saw the snake go under the house and I asked Lerrell if maybe we should take out life insurance and did he have any advice on how to be rid of the snake?  He rang back within moments and suggested we get a mouse, tie it to a piece of string and dangle it at the edge of the house, then go and park the cars facing out towards the gate!  By this time, Graham was hauling a 44 gallon drum into the back room of the house and making an almighty amount of noise banging on the drum…??  Men, I give up and keep on giggling because otherwise, I’m sure I might be crying at their craziness and lack of sensibility!
Yesterday morning I thought I might have a slightly longer than usual shower since I had spent the previous day planting shrubs and roses on the north side of the driveway and the bones needed loosening … that was until I saw I was sharing my space with the biggest huntsman spider I’ve ever seen!  Some days are diamonds .. some days not!

Keep smiling until I share with you next week …
Diana & Graham Sargeant & Dingo, Bonnie, at Silkies Rose Farm, Clonbinane
P.S. Put the dates 16th & 17th February in your diary – I will be at the Royal Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne with our ‘stepping out’ exhibition of ‘Pearly Petals’ – FREE passes still available!

The Rose Rambler Special 25/1/2013

After many months of research and fine-tuning, we are excited to tell you all that
‘Pearly Petals’
is now available at the website: or and I will be exhibiting on
Saturday 16th  &  Sunday 17th February

GO Festival
Royal Exhibition Buildings, Carlton

and also at the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show (MIFGS), Carlton Gardens, from 20th – 25th March – stay posted for more information in following Rose Ramblers!

The GO (Girls Only) FESTIVAL is a weekend of celebrating women of all ages – it’s about taking time out to relax with friends while enjoying cooking demos, fashion parades, entertainment and the opportunity to see all things relative to being a woman at one exhibition!  To find out more, visit the website at  or

Because I would love you to see my exhibition on 16th & 17th February, I am offering 10 x single passes and 5 x double passes to you on a first-in-first-gets basis … simply call in at the Silkies Rose Farm, Clonbinane on any of our open days and you may collect one of either of the above passes … FREE!



Roses FAQ



Q.  Can I shift a rose at any time of the year?
A.  Yes, particularly if care is taken to follow this procedure:
* Heavily prune the rose leaving newest 45cm canes – if a climbing rose, canes can be up to 1mt in length
* Dig the rose with a sharp shovel – roots should be trimmed to fit pot or prepared new planting hole
* For potting:  use a 50cm tub and premium potting mix
For planting:  ½ mt x ½ mt rough hole forking root penetration holes in sides, compost and soil backfill
Complete the shift by applying Natrakelp Liquid Seaweed immediately then weekly for the first six weeks using a watering can with a sprinkler (rose) all over the plant – we guarantee success using this method!

Q.  Can I dig around the rose bushes?
A.  Never, ever dig around your rose bushes – if you have an invasive weed problem, dig the rose out completely, remove the weed and replant later.   A well mulched rose garden should not ever need to be dug and digging close to roses can cause the root stock to become active and start growing.

Q.  Can I plant a new rose in the same location as one I recently dug out?
A.  Yes, you can!  However, it is very, very important to rejuvenate the soil prior to planting the new rose.  If you have time to let the soil take a spell for 6-8 weeks, that is ideal.  In the event that isn’t possible, take at least four heaped shovels of soil out of the hole and place on the compost heap.  Place another four shovels of soil from the hole into the wheelbarrow and mix in compost and rockdust (Rose Marvel is great if you don’t make your own compost).  Fork the base and side wall of the planting hole and start replanting your new rose as per the rose planting instructions.

Q.  When should I prune my roses?
A.  Depending on where you live!  Most cities and towns are warm enough to start pruning in the early Winter weeks of June.  Cooler zones might wait until late July-mid August.  In the very cold zones (like here at Silkies Rose Farm, Clonbinane) we can get severe frost to minus 5 three nights in a row late October;  this will damage new growth on early pruned roses (while the Clematis laugh at it!!!).   We do year-round moderate pruning in some beds.
We are currently conducting rose pruning trials where the roses will not be heavily pruned until late Summer-early Autumn to reduce frost damage – stay posted for updates!

Q.  How often and what should I feed my roses?
A.  A half-handful of high quality complete organic fertilizer every 8-12 weeks and regular doses of ‘Natrakelp’ Liquid Seaweed whenever you get the urge but no less than once a month!

Q.  How much water do the roses need?
A.  Regular, consistent watering reduces plant stress and therefore, an automatic watering system which delivers 20 litres per plant per week is ideal.  If you are handwatering roses in the rose garden, count to 20 (slowly) while holding the hose at the base of each rose and you’ll get about 20litres per rose bush pretty accurately – doing it regularly is the key!!  Roses in pots require daily watering!  NEVER water your roses in the evening – the rose leaves stay wet overnight and create fungus problems.

Q.  I live in a unit and want to grow roses … how?
A.  Locate a sunny position on the balcony or in the courtyard;  roses will flourish with morning sun in preference to hot afternoon sun;  purchase self-watering pots 50-60cms diameter – Greensmart Pots are ideal because you could plant two roses per pot and have room for seedling flowers as well!  Always purchase top quality potting mix and with regular feeding and applications of ‘Natrakelp’ liquid seaweed, your potted roses will give you enormous pleasure for many years!  Root-trim and re-pot every couple of years into fresh potting mix.

Q.  What plants can I grow around the roses?
A.  Any number of varieties of annuals and perennials will enhance your rose garden planting.  To discourage pests, many people plant garlic and other herbs – if flowers are your thing, a border of catmint, lavender or rosemary add to the fragrance of the rose garden.  In the rose garden below the front verandah I grow lilliums, anemones, penstemons, catmint, calendular, daffodils & jonquils, rock cyclamen, grannies bonnets,  silverbeet, a clump of daylilies, love-in-a-mist, an Italian parsley border and other ‘stuff’ I don’t know the name of but have nurtured since we took over this garden 13 years ago!  Guess what, there’s still room for weeds!!!
Back on topic … the most important thing to remember about growing any type of other plants in your rose garden is to allow good air circulation around the roses by keeping all the other plants trimmed.

Q.  I only have three hours of sunshine – which rose can I grow there?
A.  We unequivocally will not sell you a rose for that site!  Roses require no less than 5 hours of direct sunshine every day – roses will stress without the sun and never reach their full potential – find a shade-tolerant plant for this location in your garden!

Q.  Can you please show me the thornless roses?
A.  The ‘Iceberg’ series of roses are almost thornless, ‘The Children’s Rose’ and ‘Firefighter’ have thornless flowering stems and the beautiful climbers:  Renae, Crepuscule, Pinkie, Zepherine Drouhin and Mme Alfred Carriere are pretty much thornless.  I usually recommend that gardeners should wear protective gloves when managing the roses and from experience, don’t worry about the little people, they soon work out that not all pretty things should be touched and when the ball goes into the rose bushes, they’ll call DAD … he’ll call MUM!

Q.  How do I plant climbing roses along the fence/shed as a screen?
A.  Climbing roses are an ideal screening plant which, once established, require very little maintenance.  Some climbing roses are more suited to this situation so we therefore recommend consultation before you plant.  Consideration should also be given to the ongoing maintenance of the structure against which the climbing rose will be placed and therefore, constructing a ‘frame’ of ‘star posts’ with reinforcing mesh slightly away from the structure will not only allow good airflow around the climbing roses but allow space for ongoing maintenance of the fence or shed.

Q.  Which roses are suitable to grow as a hedge?
A.  There are so many questions within the answer!  How tall/short?  How wide/narrow?  Mass colour display/picking roses?  One colour/varieties?  With the modern shrub roses, gardeners now have a choice of roses which are suited to hedgerow planting – you decide the colour, specify the height and width and we’ll supply the exact variety to match your specifications and you really should appoint qualified consulting rosarians when choosing the right rose for your individual situation – remember, this rose hedge will be enjoyed by many for more than thirty years!

Q.  Why do Silkies Rose Farm guarantee their roses?
A.  Because we grow the highest quality roses and there is no substitute for quality and a 100% guarantee when you continue to grow the roses to our specifications … Our grower, Brian, doesn’t grow a “sow’s ear and turn it into a silk purse”, he grows the silk purse of roses!  We have been growing roses for 30 years and we take the time to offer you advice, consultation and supreme service!  Take a quick look at our genuine customer testimonials and you can be sure, when you buy our roses, you’ll enjoy the experience!!!

Q.  How do I take cuttings of my roses?
A.  If you have a bit of a ‘green thumb’ and like to be creative in the garden, you’ll enjoy the novelty of taking cuttings of your roses.  Here’s how to:
* Cut a rose cane where the flowers are finished but where the buds have not broken into new growth;
*  Trim pencil-thick 20cm lengths and remove foliage;
* Dip cuttings into hormone powder/honey/vegemite or nothing and push into soil/potting mix;
* Water in with Natrakelp liquid seaweed and depending on weather conditions, light water daily;
From my experience, most cuttings die from either under or over-watering since it’s a very fine line and a mini hot-house is ideal to grow cuttings but then disease problems can be an issue.  Have a go anyway and share your cutting-grown roses with family and friends – take care not to sell them at the local school fete because they might be covered by Plant Breeders Rights or Trademark which means they are illegal to sell without the plant tag since the breeder is entitled to a royalty payment for every plant sold!!!

Q.  Why do Silkies roses perform better than other roses I have in my garden?
A.  Believe it or not, this is a very, very common question from our customers!  Our roses are grown and maintained using the highest quality organic products made in Australia and we (Graham mostly!) are always researching newer and better ways to enhance our growing methods.  When you follow our growing instructions you too will grow beautiful roses, organically, naturally!

Q.  What is the best mulch to use around roses?
A.  The highest quality mulch is definitely lucerne which comes with a price tag to match!  Next in line is pea straw which can come with peas to match!  Both lucerne and pea straw are legumes and nitrogen-fixing which means that when they break down in your soil, they add humus to the soil and are highly recommended, especially when establishing a ‘new’ garden.  Should the cost of lucerne/pea straw inhibit you from using them liberally, we suggest that they be used only around the drip-line of the rose bushes and any of the other mulch products be spread over the whole of the garden bed.

The Rose Rambler 24/1/2013

Hello dear rose friends … welcome to 2013 – may this year be a really grand year for your roses!  How easy it is to become complacent and expect the water to fall from the sky – according to one of my very special ‘old’ customers, Carmel, this particular period of weather is worse than all of the twelve years of drought and I couldn’t agree more!

By request, The Rose Rambler is now coming to your Inbox every Thursday.

If the street trees and plants in your locality are suffering through this unusually hot, dry period, please contact your local Council and ask them to come and water.  There is plenty of water in storage around the country and if you stop and consider the fact that when plants die, the replacement costs are far greater than what it would cost to help them through this dry spell … sometimes Mother Nature needs a hand and if you could extend a hand right now, I know she will be most grateful!!!  Driving around the streets in Melbourne last week was almost heartbreaking – the street trees are gasping for water and if you have a tree outside of your home, please give it a good soak … reduce your shower time to save the plants in your garden and on your street too!

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: The encylopaedia of roses.
Our new website will be launched in the coming weeks, focusing on everything roses.
A complete listing of every rose in Australia, hints and tips about growing roses and an in-depth look at events for rose lovers.

So why are the plants dying when they had such great rain over recent times?  Very perplexing because we thought the subsoil would be lovely and moist and keep everything in order … well, apparently, because of the very wet season, our plants produced lots of surface roots (deep roots literally ‘drowned’ because there was too much moisture) and then of course, with the incredible heat and dry conditions, those surface roots have also died!  When you visit Silkies Rose Farm at Clonbinane, take a good look at the trees which are not coping with the current weather conditions … those trees were sodden during the rainy seasons and now they’re turning up their toes – 3 of our more than 20 year old established eucalyptus trees have suddenly died!  Some oak trees are severely stressed and the west-facing (15+ year old) maples are all burned.  Unfortunately, we can’t see what’s going on in the soil and as in our situation now, we only became aware of a problem when the trees started showing signs of severe stress!  Hopefully all the trees will survive because they are such an intrinsic part of the infrastructure of our gardens … please, please deep soak your trees and give them some liquid seaweed!

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Pearly Petals, a beautiful new product from Silkie Gardens.
Our Rose Rambler next Thursday will give you all the details of this great new enhancement to your dining table. Here’s a sneak peak.



• Healthy, well drained and fertile soil which contains at least 10% organic compost (read article about compost and how to make great compost) which will guarantee there is good soil bacteria and fungi – a soil pH test should read 6 – 6.5 and the soil should feel and smell like you could eat it!
• Sun – at least 6 hours of sunshine per day.  Morning sun is particularly important as the stomata of the plant is open and receptive … just like humans should start their day with a great breakfast!
• Water – at least 20 litres of water per bush per week;  preferably delivered at the same time to ensure deep soaking in the root zone on the plant.  Never water roses late in the evening!
• Mulch – at least 5cms depth of compost covered by 10cms of quality mulch such as lucerne or pea straw should be maintained around the plants all year.  (Read article on mulch)
• Fertilizer – a complete organic fertilizer applied lightly at the rate of one half handful per plant every 8-12 weeks, watered in and plants washed down with Natrakelp liquid seaweed every couple of weeks.
• Air – if you grow other plants around your roses, keep the plants trimmed to ensure adequate air circulation around the base of the rose bushes.

Mulch In The Rose Garden

30 Reasons for using mulch
  • Improves soil conditions: binding sands and opening up clay
  • Conserves soil moisture – mulch can save 73% of what might be lost through evaporation!
  •  Improves soil drainage
  •  Keeps soil temperatures cool during the day, warm at night
  • Protects plants from frost injury
  • Stops erosion
  •  Allows the soil to be worked earlier in the spring
  •  Saves time in cultivating and hoeing
  •  Prevents surface crusting allowing the soil to breathe
  •  Reduces soil compaction
  •  Holds down weeds
  • Prevents hardpans being created in the earth
  • Provides nutrients, gases and other growth substances
  • Prevents vitamin loss in plants
  • Encourages nutrients to be taken up by the roots
  • Improves the yield of crops
  • Stops nutrients from being leached from the soil
  • Hinders pests laying their eggs near to the plant roots
  •  Deters harmful insects by its odour
  • Reduces losses caused by soil-borne diseases
  • Encourages earthworms and other microorganisms
  • Causes feeder roots to develop near the soil surface
  • Encourages roots to penetrate deeper in search of food
  • Stops plants wilting
  • Shades seedlings from sunlight
  • Makes plants more sturdy
  • Improves the flavor and keeping quality of the harvest
  • Protects the produce from mud-splash
  • Recycles waste
  • Improves the ‘look’ of the garden
So, there you have it, mulch is much, much more than just about saving water!  A fantastic weed suppressant, mulch is the key to a low maintenance garden.  The correct selection of mulch can also increase the level of nutrients in the soil.   Mulching weeds and feeds plants in the one operation!
Mulch is simple to apply.  Weed the garden bed, water and spread the mulch around, taking care to leave at least 10cm clearance around the base of the plants.  Water well after application.  For best results, top up the mulch layer at least once a year as it decomposes into the soil.
A simple rule is, the faster the mulch breaks down, the better it is for the soil, although if a long-term mulch is required, slower decomposition may be the preferred option.  Scientifically, things breakdown according to the carbon/nitrogen ratio.  The lower the carbon to nitrogen ratio, the faster the materials are broken down and the nutrients released to the soil.  These levels can be estimated by looking at the mulch.  The denser the structure, generally the higher the carbon content, and the longer it takes to break down.
There are many different types of mulch available.  In order to determine the best mulch for your garden, you must consider what you want the mulch to achieve, for example, only weed reduction and water conservation, or also helping your plants to grow.  Some of the more common mulches are listed with a quick guide to which to choose.
Organic mulches can be created from either living or dead material.  They will generally decompose in the soil, and can provide valuable nutrition for the plants.  They suppress weeds, act as an insulator to ‘even out’ soil temperature and conserve water.
All organic mulches conserve water by reducing evaporation due to sun and wind, suppress weed growth, and encourage worm activity.  Organic mulches hold and retain water for later use by the plants.  Even the uneven surface of most mulch acts to prevent water run-off, helping the water to be absorbed into the soil.
Carbon/Nitrogen levels are noted in brackets.  Note:  the lower the first number, the faster the mulch decomposes and provides greater nutrients to the soil.  The higher the first number, the longer lasting the mulch.
LUCERNE (12/1)  Lucerne (alfalfa) is the ‘prince’ of mulches, having a low carbon/nitrogen ratio.  It is a mulch which breaks down quickly and adds substantial nitrogen and other beneficial elements to the soil.  Lucerne breaks down to feed plants, stimulate biological activity and improve the sil structure.  An ideal mulch or feed for roses and shrubs, it also acts as an activator for compost.  For best results, buy lucerne which has been chopped into small pieces, otherwise the stalks can be very woody.  As it decomposes quickly, it will need topping up more regularly than other mulches.
ANIMAL MANURE (12-20/1)  All manures are great mulches.  Fresh manure must be used cautiously as you can burn plant roots and it often contains weeds.  Can have a strong odour so consideration needs to be given to the wind direction from your garden to your home!  Any type of animal manure is best left to mature for a month or more prior to application to the garden – ideal for application to the compost heap layers!
PEA STRAW (25/1)   Another nitrogen rich material, it breaks down quickly and conditions the soil.  Pea straw is ideal for the home gardener to use in the vegetable patch, around fruit trees, shrubs and rose gardens.  Pea straw may contain a few pea seeds that will self-germinate.  These can be easily weeded out or left to grow to provide natural nitrogen to the soil.  Use a ‘biscuit’ of pea straw on the border of garden beds to reduce the incidence of birds flicking the pea straw off and exposing the soil.
SEAWEED (25/1)  Ideal mulch with long-lasting properties.  Thought to be beneficial in reducing pests and diseases and must be thoroughly washed prior to application to remove excess salt.  When using as a soil conditioner, mix with soil or manure in a compost to help it break down quicker.
LEAF LITTER (60/1)  Leaves provide excellent natural mulch, particularly if fallen from the trees within your garden.  Like wood chips, the plants can have a strong preference for related leaves as mulch.  Native plants for example, would prefer their own litter as mulch!
SUGAR CANE MULCH (60-80/1)  A good mulch but can be quite acidic so exercise caution and restrict application to those plants which are not sensitive to acidic soil conditions.
WOOD CHIPS/PINE BARK (100-500/1)  One of the most readily available mulches – they break down slowly, changing colour as they weather.  Many plants are particular about the type of wood chips used near them, for example, Australian natives don’t like mulch from oaks, elms or pines, yet respond well to mulch of their own variety such as eucalypts.  An excellent long-lasting mulch – wood chips are economical for large areas!
STRAW (WHEAT OR BARLEY) (80-100/1)  Crop straw is high in carbon and takes longer to break down so it is ideal to protect strawberries and vegetables from soil borne diseases.  If this material was to be used more as a fertilizing agent, then a nitrogen source (manure, etc.) would be needed to help decomposition.
MUSHROOM COMPOST (31/1)  A good-looking mulch material however, not particularly nutritious, nor cheap to purchase!  Care needs to be exercised with the pH level – if it is too high (alkaline), it can restrict plant growth and cause leaves to curl.  Not recommended for continual use – certainly not in the rose garden!
SAWDUST (500/1)  Makes a good mulch and reduces weed activity.  It does not absorb moisture if applied too thickly.  If used as a soil conditioner, apply some nitrogen fertilizer as it uses the nitrogen in the soil as it rots.  Use sparingly and do not use near plants which do not like acidic soil.  Course sawdust should be reserved for weed-free pathways and playgrounds.
NEWSPAPER  (170/1)  Newspapers 4-5mm thick provide good weed suppression and moisture retention, however, they must be covered with mulch material and if using around roses, ensure that the newspaper is 10cm clear of the rose understock stem!
NON-ORGANIC MULCHES  These mulches may be man-made materials such as plastic, or mineral substances such as gravel.  They are generally water saving and help even out the soil temperature, however, they do not provide any nutrients for the soil and some such as plastic, can even starve plant roots of oxygen.
Gravel, scoria or pebbles are not recommended to use if you want to dig into the garden bed.  Whilst conserving soil moisture and keeping ground temperatures even, these materials should have suitable weed-inhibiting mats under them and even then, weeds can be an ongoing problem!
Plastic might be excellent for keeping weeds at bay, however, it will encourage shallow root systems, stifles oxygen intake and definitely fails to add nutrient to the soil so is NOT recommended for garden beds!