suspense

Old roses and romantic suspense

Old deep pink rose the neglected garden novel Suzanne Winterly

As the sun continues to beam down on Ireland, I'm working hard to finish another draft of THE NEGLECTED GARDEN in time to send it to the copy-editor. A cloudless blue sky and a temperature of 25 degrees centigrade are both difficult to resist when I'm used to summers that usually last about three days, so I'm allowing myself a few breaks with a mug of tea and a stroll around the garden.

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Our roses are loving the sun

Our roses at home haven't been holding us in suspense. They've been loving the sun. We've certainly had seasons of extremes in Ireland this year. When I was writing my March blog with deep snow outside, I never could have imagined we'd get weeks of endless sunshine with up to 29 degrees. 

Our own well is holding up so far but families on mains water supply have a legally enforced hosepipe ban until the end of July. The drought is tough on local farmers who are struggling to feed their livestock. Irish grass is usually green and lush but this year it has turned brown and dry. Not even our lawns are growing.

Many of the old rose varieties in our garden originated in France so it's no wonder they're flowering with enthusiasm. Here are three of the best:

This is a rambler rose called Paul's Himalayan Musk and it's six or seven metres high. It needs a tree or a hedge to scramble up. I just leave it alone and off it goes. No need to prune if you have the space.

This is a rambler rose called Paul's Himalayan Musk and it's six or seven metres high. It needs a tree or a hedge to scramble up. I just leave it alone and off it goes. No need to prune if you have the space.

Great Maiden's Blush has never been as happy as in this summer's sun. It hates the rain and protests by turning brown but is magnificent this year. A beautiful, old-fashioned shrub rose.

Great Maiden's Blush has never been as happy as in this summer's sun. It hates the rain and protests by turning brown but is magnificent this year. A beautiful, old-fashioned shrub rose.

Madame Isaac Pereire is a Bourbon rose and was named after a French banker's wife in the late 19th century. I keep this one in a large container by a garden bench where I can sit and appreciate its huge, deep pink blooms and divine scent.

Madame Isaac Pereire is a Bourbon rose and was named after a French banker's wife in the late 19th century. I keep this one in a large container by a garden bench where I can sit and appreciate its huge, deep pink blooms and divine scent.

If you'd like to share your own rose photos, please send them by email or upload them to my Facebook page.  And if you've got any tips for keeping garden plants happy in drought conditions, I'd love to hear them!

Walled gardens - past and present

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A walled garden in the past

I've always loved gardening and walled gardens. The setting for the novel is based on a house where my grandparents lived years ago. The walled garden at Glanesfort is much the same size as theirs was - about an acre - with vegetables and flowers. My grandmother loved her border for flower arranging and filled the house with her creations. My grandfather was an organic gardener - not so common in Ireland then - and I can still recall the flavour of his fruit and vegetables. I remember sneaking into the garden as a child with my brothers and devouring Royal Sovereign strawberries when no one was looking. We'd eat peas straight from the pod and juicy tomatoes, warm from the greenhouse. 

 

Favourite rambling roses

The garden was constructed in the Georgian era and roses scrambled over its walls. My grandfather's favourite rambler was Albertine. I still grow Albertine in my own garden and, although it only flowers once a year, its copper pink buds that open and fade to pale pink are beautiful. This rose needs lots of space as it is vigorous. Another rose that requires even more space, preferably a tree to scramble up, is Paul's Himalayan Musk. Ours grows up a hawthorn and is twenty to thirty feet tall. Fabulous in the summer against a blue sky. Again, it only flowers once but when it does, it's spectacular. 

 

The heroine's garden design

When Gilly Townsend comes to Glanesfort, her brief is to design a more formal garden for the owner's tenants. She decides to divide it into four sections, with a pond and fountain, a rose garden, yew hedging and gravel paths. I asked a garden designer to draw up some ideas and this became Gilly's plan in the novel. I'll post a copy of her design later on and, who knows, you might even be able to use some parts of it yourself. 

The walled garden is a huge challenge for Gilly and she's excited about the project. She makes good progress but unfortunately Denys Fletcher, the London property developer who owns Glanesfort, has a secret past that begins to overtake them both. Perhaps I'd better not tell you any more. You'll have to read the novel to find out what happens!

 

Pauls Himalayan Musk.jpg

Paul's Himalayan Musk

A rose that loves climbing and easy to grow. Just point it at a tree and off it goes.