Monday 22nd Still bright, with a morning mist coming up from the valley. I can finally put my fingers in the ground, sniff the bells of the snowdrops, firm up the roots of roses loosened by mad March winds, tie back the waving stems of climbers such as Paul’s Himalayan Musk which can’t quite catch the tree’s stolid trunk to continue its climb on up into the high branches.
I have planted, outside the commercial necessities of our fields, and inspired by my friend the garden designer Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, enough rambling roses to cover the native black poplar tree outside our French windows, which holds the children’s swing. Further down the garden its mate (not sure if it’s the male or the female) lets loose clouds of white fluff in early summer which sometimes hitches a ride on the white roses growing below. Our fields are divided by colour: white, below the poplar, pink, along the hedgerow we planted eight years ago as a wind break, red, where the deep opulent Shakespearean colours flaunt themselves in scarlet, purple and crimson: Falstaff, William Shakespeare, Big Purple, Isabella, Royal William, and Ferdinand Pichard – a variegated ancient species of French rose which really belongs in those old oil portraits of the Tudor Kings so familiar to our landscape – the valleys of the Dedham Vale, ‘Constable’ country – where John Constable and Gainsborough painted and lived and vyed with each other either end of our valley.
And finally the peach bed which does not hold fruit but the edible golden rose colours of flowers like Abraham Darby, Pat Austin, Just Joey, Pure Bliss, Liliana and Warm Wishes.
We have offered these roses to discerning florists and the occasional clever bride for six years. Two years ago we connected with Sarah Raven who wants people to buy British, not just for their food tables but with flowers. We filmed with her for Gardener’s World, and I made five short films shown on This Morning television, for the last two years in May I have talked endlessly and probably boringly about roses at Covent Garden market. But. The Recession hit hard. Small family businesses like ours, particularly rural ones, have found it hard to survive. We have to make changes, cut costs, increase income, and now is decision time.