I was speaking to a friend recently who is a novice at gardening.  She was fascinated to learn that I purchase roses via mail order, rather than the more common way of visiting a garden centre and buying up those bagged up prisoners.  I now have two orders of roses by post ready and am waiting for their delivery.  I find waiting for a mail order an exciting time because I always spend several days researching the rose selections.  Here is a gardening tip for any beginner gardeners out there who are considering purchasing via mail order, rather than the bland offerings available in mainstream nurseries.  Remember, obscure little mail order nurseries are often the best places to source unusual or rare plants.  I am a great believer in plant biodiversity when it comes to gardens so I patronise these establishments in the first instance, rather than accepting the mainstream and often quite pedestrian offerings at large nurseries where the vast majority of the roses on offer are the usual suspects – modern hybrid teas.

I recently received a lovely colour photograph catalogue from a nursery in Victoria.  I spent three days poring through the catalogue, mainly at night after working outside.  Over the course of three days, I managed to make up a “wish list” of my desired roses.  Once again, I only selected heritage, old fashioned roses and a good sprinkling of hybrid perpetuals; all with fragrance and repeat flowering tendencies.  Now, here is another piece of advice with regards to marketing – never take the words in any catalogue as the absolute truth when considering purchasing roses.  This is the reason I am writing this short piece about how to purchase via mail order.

I took my desired short list and then consulted a massive rose encyclopaedia I have here on our burgeoning book shelves.  This is where the reality of my selection was revealed to me.  Both mail order nurseries conveniently did not mention any “dirty” words in rose parlance such as black spot, powdery mildew and thorns big enough to rip open a major vein, causing death within minutes, if you ask me.  After consulting my rose encyclopaedia, I went through my desired rose list ruthlessly and removed some of the plants I had set my heart on acquiring because quite frankly, they did not really measure up to my strict requirements as far as robust health and fragrance is concerned.

Just to make sure I had selected a suitable variety for our climate here and a variety that was black spot resistant and really did have swags of overwhelmingly divine fragrance and repeat flowering tendencies, I consulted a website that I have used for a few years now folks:

Use the search engine and write in the name of the rose you are considering purchasing and the extensive database will quickly reveal a photograph and detailed information.  Write in a rose name that you are thinking of purchasing.  Up comes a detailed description of the flower colour and structure and usually quite a good quality photograph.  Click on the green tab “Member Comments” and you are able to read up on what other people who are growing this rose have had to say.  The gardener comments are really useful because you read first hand experiences people have had with a particular rose in other parts of the world. There is no gloriously embellished language used in the comments section, just plain old honesty.

What I really appreciate about this website is the fact I can compare the photograph in the glossy nursery catalogue with another photograph of the same rose on this website.  Often, there are differences to take into account thanks to the marvels of digital photography, soil variance, climatic conditions, time of year the rose was photographed, etc.  I also find that some of my roses change colour slightly from spring to autumn.  Augusta Luise (1999) is a prime example of subtle colour shift between the manic rush of spring and the more mellow temperatures of autumn.  Incidentally, I looked up Augusta Luise on this website and find that this beautiful rose has received 67 votes from members and also has a rating of “excellent” which is a pretty good recommendation, if you ask me.

This is a good site that may list any problems associated with any particular rose.  This is my second reference point when considering purchasing roses as I must make sure they are black spot resistant.  We have humid summers as we are in sight of the Southern Ocean here in sunny South Australia. Therefore, the hot days are usually tempered at night by cooler weather that can be humid on occasions as a sea mist can sometimes come rolling in from the Southern Ocean.  Humidity is bad news for roses, especially for a cottage gardener like me as I always inter plant roses with other interesting bulbs, annuals and perennials.

After compiling my initial wish list of roses I wanted to buy from the nursery, along with the assistance of two further references, I was able to immediately cross out some initial choices and make better choices for my garden.  Now, why go to all this trouble you may ask?  As other hard bitten gardeners will know, roses live for decades so it makes good sense to research carefully before making a purchase that will be around for a very long time indeed.  Another reason I have to select very carefully with more than a modicum of discrimination is that I only have three large beds in which to plant my desired beauties. Therefore, each rose I select has to “perform” as a star in its carefully selected place.  We shall see, won’t we?  For me, the choice to purchase via mail order is simple – why buy fish and chips when you can buy a gourmet meal for the same price? There really is no comparison between specialist mail order nurseries that know their subject well and provide good quality customer service and the bog standard ones associated with hardware chain stores where the concept of genuine customer service is long forgotten.  We must cherish small business owners in this country that have rapidly been taken over by large and impersonal corporations out for a quick buck.


Copyright:  Persephone Design

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