I am always drawn to English cottage gardens – green hedges, lush garden beds filled with cut flowers, and roses and peonies wherever possible.
I want my garden to be informal but intentional – a bit messy. In this spirit, I’ve chosen to plant perennial flowers and blending them in with the surroundings with nature-looking wood mulch.
We also plan to grow evergreen hedges. If you remember our backyard layout, we neighbors four properties with long stretch of fences that needs to be covered.
I always knew our back fence will be the perfect place for a wall of climbing roses. It is west-facing and the majority of the fence receives full sun, ideal for growing roses. We have planted five fruit trees that will form canopies above the fence in a few years, but in between we could really use some green foliage and soft flowers.
Choosing the right rose
After weeks of research, I finally pulled the trigger and got four climbing roses from a local nursery. High Country Roses specializes on cold-hardy roses that grows well in Colorado, where high altitude, high winds, and clay soil take a toll on regular varieties. I have learned that from the veggie garden that we have to plant the specialty plants selected for our harsh climate. The regulars just do not stick.
The climbing roses we got are called Awakening. It is a sport of New Dawn, one of the most popular David Austin Rose. Reportedly, Awakening has all the advantages of New Dawn, including the glossy foliage, light apple scent, subtle pink and white blooms, but they grow faster and bloom better (more repeat) than New Dawn.
Its parent flower: New Dawn
As you can see, Awakening also offers more petals per flower, a softer look I am after. Our yard and house are rectangle-shaped and look very stiff. I could use some bendy canes, layered pink pedals, and curved garden beds to break up the rectangles. During weeks of research I have not read a single complaint about Awakening, except it grows faster and bigger than many would think. The decision was made easy.
I brought them back from the nursery and left them our in partially shaded area for a few days to harden off:
Before planting, I still needed to tackle a few tasks in the area, including removing the open yard compost along the back fence, and edging along the pickets.
Edging along the fence
As you can see, our yard slopes down towards the fence. Understandably there is a lot of soil build up against it:
The metal edging installed along the fence have been pushed around by the soil and do not protect the fence from touching the soil anymore.
Behind the fence there is a retaining wall, a few feet above neighbor’s yard. Preventing top soil from pilling up against the retaining wall is important for its integrity. So we really needed to refresh the edging before planting.
I started by digging along the fence and pulling out all the old metal edging. You can see some was already pushed into the other side of the fence.
After pulling every pieces of metal out, I was happy to find 6-mil poly (not landscape fabric) laid in our retaining wall on the other side of the fence. We have been wanting to come over to our neighbors to clean up the retaining wall since we moved in. Years of neglect granted it to be a shallow trash can and home for some happy weeds. Knowing that all that are only floating on the very surface above the plastic is comforting.
Our back fence is 88 feet long so it took me a few hours to remove all the old metal edging and dig down until all the pickets were shown. The edging needed to be installed against and just below the fence, so no soil will ever be in contact with the pickets.
We got the cheapest plastic edging from Home Depot. It is about $28 for 60 feet and we got two. They are also the tallest – about 5″. I want them to come above the soil a bit so we can mulch the area.
According to instructions, I laid them flat under the sun for a day or so to soften them up. They were very easy to manipulate after that.
I leaned the edging against the fence, made sure that the bottom of the edging sit just below the bottom of the pickets, and buried them with dirt.
One of the complaints about this particular edging is that it is too soft to hold a straight line. It was not a problem in this project since I was putting it up again a relatively straight fence.
Each roll of the edging is 60 feet, so for our 88 feet fence, I needed to join two together. Each roll of the edging came with a connector which made the seam tight and hardly noticeable.
This is the finished look and I am very happy with it. The new black edging made the fence look more polished and a whole lotta sharper.
Planting the Roses
The last task before planting the roses was to move the morning glory I previously planted along the fence.
They came up from seeds I planted mid-May and really should have grown bigger by this point. 🙁 They are getting another chance at the corners of the back fence.
While digging the morning glories out I was happy to see abundant of earth worms below. We have been piling up fall leaves and glass trimmings the back fence since last fall, 6 months till now. It was such a success. I did not cover, water, or turn them at all – just pile new stuff on top of the old. But all the fall leaves were completely broken down and mixed into the top soil thanks to the earth worms.
All the open compost were transferred to the new veggie beds and roses were planted into the now rich top soil.
We piled some wood chips we produced ourselves around the rose and watered them in. Now we wait! I do not expect much bloom this summer but hope to see some foliage. And I desperately need to learn how to care for these pretty babies. Should I stake the canes? Should I fertilize again? Should wait a few years before training the canes? I want pretty trellis that is self-supporting but invisible. which kind should I get? If you have experience growing and training climbing roses, or building garden trellis, I would love your advice!