Planning, Planting & Pruning the roses in my garden

Planning and planting my new rose garden has been more therapeutic than I could ever imagine.

In just a few weeks, it’ll be two years since my father passed away

The final two weeks in the hospital was an especially difficult time.  The hours toiled away as I quietly sat with him, trying not to disturb him as he slept.

It was January, and my mailbox was filled with plant and seed catalogs that I’d bring with me to read during those long hours of heartbreaking silence. 

To put it mildly, those catalogs were my life preserver, preventing me from drowning in a sea of despair.   

It was during this time that I felt the powerful desire to create my new garden with the sole purpose of giving me as much joy as possible.  And since gardens and plants bring me so much happiness, I decided to order any plant that I’ve ever wanted to try. 

I didn’t care if they were borderline hardy in my new zone.  I didn’t care if I didn’t have much experience with them.  I didn’t care what the shipping charges were. 

They were my antidepressants, and I desperately needed them.


It’s impossible to plant a bare-root rose, a bulb, or a seed in the ground without imagining what it’ll look like in the months to come. 

And this directly translates into thinking about the future, and into hope

I needed all the hope those scraggly little plants represented.

Fast forward two years and my garden has flourished. 

Sure, there’s been some failures, but at least it was fun (and more importantly, distracting) to try new things.  

Every time I marvel at one of these new successes (like the ‘Sheffield Pink’ mums I recently wrote about, which bloomed through the end of December!), I’m reminded that no matter how hard life seems, the only way to survive is to take things one step at a time.   

And before you know it, you’ll find yourself inhaling the heady scent of a rose once again.


Speaking of roses – for whatever reason, I grew a little tired of them in my last garden.  But in my new garden they have been, by far, some of my favorite additions.   

During those long hours in the hospital, there was something mesmerizing about the David Austin catalog I held in my hands.   

I studied every rose on every page, imaging what it might look like in my new garden. 

I couldn’t wait for them to arrive in the mail!



When ordering roses from a catalog, I’ll warn you – they’ll arrive looking less than inspirational!

It’s imperative you follow the planting directions included.

The first step is to soak the root ball in water for several hours to rehydrate those poor little dried-out roots.

When planting in the ground or container, use high-quality soil and mound it in the center. 

The reason for this is to not only support the root ball, but more importantly to eliminate any air pockets (which leads to dried out roots – not good!)   

Rest the root ball on the mound of soil, gently spread its roots out, and cover with soil. 

Water thoroughly, and within a few weeks you’ll notice teeny tiny buds start to swell.  From there, just sit back and watch the magic happen!


Since some of my favorite colors fall into the orange family (some of my favorites are here), I chose roses with peachy, orange, and yellow tones.


Planted along my iron fence are climbing ‘Lady of Shallot’ (above)

and ‘Port Sunlight’ (below), placed so their different shades of apricot can intermingle. 



Planted in two nearby containers are ‘Roald Dahl’ (below) which grows to a tidy 3×3. 

And just like the catalog says, they are mighty, pumping out soft peachy-yellow blooms month after month. 

Deviating from the apricot-peach tones, is another tidy 3×3 rose – ‘Jubilee Celebration’.


Even though it’s pink, I just had to try this one for the scent alone, and WOW – it doesn’t disappoint.

But besides the heavenly old-rose fragrance, the pink color ties into the next rose that lives a few feet beyond – my trusty old friend ‘Spring Song’.


‘Spring Song’, has journeyed with me from my first home in San Luis Obispo, to Los Altos, and now to Granite Bay. 

To celebrate my very first mother’s day (25 years ago!) I bought this little rose in a quart-sized container at my favorite place in Cambria – Sharon Lovejoy’s Heart’s Ease.  Do any of you remember that shop? 

Oh, how I loved spending time in that magical place.


Over the decades, this little rose grew into a stunning 4×4 shrub, and before we moved up to Granite Bay, we were able to transplant half of it.   Why half?

Well, my husband tried to dig the entire thing up to take with us, but accidentally cut its root ball in half. 

I thought all was lost as I watched it wilt and pathetically limp along in its container. 

Boy, was I wrong!  It loves living in its new garden and rewards me with blooms year-round.

In fact, it was just yesterday (January!) that I took this photo.

And while it’s wonderful to have a few blooms in January, it’s crucial that a rose has some downtime to rejuvenate itself before spring arrives.


Which is why I created this video several years ago on how to prune roses in milder climates.

It’s the most-watched video I’ve made, so I thought I’d include it here since those of us living in a temperate climate need to think about pruning our roses.

(Forgive the bad hair day – it was sprinkling while we were taping this!)


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  • Oh gosh, how did I miss this wonderful, in so many ways, post? It’s now March in NE Alabama and definitely time to be cutting back roses.

    I postponed reading lots of blog postings due to two eye surgeries in December – first one to successfully close a macular hole in the back of the eye and the second one a week later because the retina had detached. That was a traumatic, invasive surgery that included inserting silicone oil into the eye to hold the retina in place. Next up will be surgery to remove the oil, hopefully in April, that will be much less traumatic and invasive. (Sure, tell that to my body when they start putting in the drops to dilate the eye for surgery – my mind might be calm but the body knows what’s coming!) Vision has improved a great deal already so hoping for the best. This all followed three, yes three, cataract surgeries last winter, giving me 5 eye surgeries in one year. So ready to be done with all this but SO GRATEFUL that so much progress has been made in dealing with these vision issues.

    Thanks for the coupon – now I’ll have to try to beat the deadline and order my first David Austin roses!

    • Oh, Barbara! I can’t even imagine what you’ve been going through! FIVE eye surgeries? That sounds just so, so awful and I pray your vision comes back 100%. I thought I had it bad with 6 surgeries with my breast cancer/mastectomy/reconstruction but quite honestly I think yours sound even worse. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with all of that. I sure hope you treated yourself to some fantastic roses from David Austin – you deserve them, that’s for sure! Sending you lots of big hugs. xoxo

  • Going through treatment, I’m enjoying the newly arrived David Austin Rose Catalog as well. Hope for the future is necessary! Thanks for your latest Harmony in the Garden Rebecca!

    • Hello Maia, and I think of you often, hoping you’re hanging in there with all you have going on with your health. I pray the catalogs give you as much hope as they did for me, and let your mind wander a bit into the future. Sending you big hugs!

  • Heart Ease was at its best when Sharon Lovejoy was there. It’s hard to grow David Austin roses in Cambria, but I try my best. Love your blog.

    • Wasn’t it wonderful, Darlene? It definitely formed the basis of the type of gardener that I am today and I’ll be forever grateful to Sharon for her gift of Hearts Ease. Thanks and I wish you the best of luck with your roses!

  • Oh Rebecca, it is so good to hear from you. You have been to H and back. Thanks to beautiful pictures of roses you survived. Gardening has saved many of us our sanity. I had my pots on the patio when I needed something to dig in. We use what is available. Your garden must be beautiful now. Hope I get to see it sometime. Keep posting your lovely pieces, I for one love them. My good news is I am going into my fifth year in remission. Love you Rebecca. Kick up your heels and enjoy life. Love and Hugs, Jean

    • Hello Jean – how wonderful to hear from you! And congratulations on your fifth year of remission (me, too! If we were here together we could toast #5!) I hope you’re enjoying life down there and miss seeing your happy face!

  • Creating gardens and sharing space for wild things does help us
    heal our hearts.

    So wonderful to see more David Austin English Roses! I have four that I bought many years ago. Only one variety has been less than ideal with regard to disease (prone to black spot – not supposed to be!), but it still flowers beautifully. This year I am adding a few ‘Sally Holmes’ climbers to the garden too, as the bees just love them and they will look lovely with the deep pink, soft butter yellow and delicate peach of theEnglish roses.

    Thank you so much for the coupon. I’ll definitely take a look at new varities!

    • Thank you, Ronnie, and I’m happy you’ll be ordering some Sally Holmes. I had a HUGE one along my fence in my last garden and miss it so much – it just bloomed and bloomed for months on end. I came ‘this’ close to ordering it, choosing the other ones instead. I have limited space for climbing roses so Sally had to take a back seat for now.

  • Thank you for beautiful writing and sharing your garden stories – your post today is lovely and inspiring.

  • Rebecca, I loved your post so much! Planning a garden during an especially difficult and sad period is something I know about. You described it so well.

    Your roses are fantastic. If you have room for one more, please try David Austin’s “Just Joey”. It’s my favorite rose! We have several in Carmel, CA, maybe not too far from you. It makes enormous, blousy blooms that are wonderfully fragrant…. The color changes and mellows as each flower ages, from a vivid apricot/orange into apricot/pinks and golds and yellows. I add Just Joey anytime I have a spot big enough for her.

    Thank you again for your great post.

    • Thank you, Nancy, I’m so glad my post resonated with you. I completely forgot about ‘Joey’! My husband used to love that rose (admitting that he mainly liked it because it was a guy’s name – ha!) You’re so right – I need to add it to my collection! Thanks for the reminder.


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