Planting the first rose

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro' the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shallot.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson 

The first rose (and the first plant) to be planted in our new garden is the David Austin rose The Lady of Shalot. Roses were my first love and I grew close to 100 varieties of mostly old garden roses in the previous garden. The David Austin roses became popular after the garden was established and there wasn't much room to add more. I did grow a few of the Austin roses but they were a bit of a challenge in Alabama. Reports on their performance sounds good here and I am anxious to try some. I love the color of this one and I think it would go well with the brick on our house.

I did not really know what to expect when I dug the first hole but I was pleased. The soil is a bit dense but easy to dig. The hardest part is removing the grass. I do not know what kind of grass this is but it is tough and hard to remove even though it is shallow rooted. I was also surprised to find that the ground was not soggy or wet even though we had some heavy rain earlier in the week.
I have yet to see any rocks in the soil. I saw several earthworms so I know that is a good sign.

You can see the soil comes out in clumps. It breaks apart very easily.

I added a generous amount of compost. This is called a "3-in-1 mix" and was recommended for using in raised beds as well as amending soil.

After incorporating the compost, I broke up the soil and mixed it well with the original soil.

After the rose was planted, I watered it well. It started raining after I finished the job. Regional expert Ann Lovejoy says to add as many ammendments as possible. I have just started a compost pile so right now, I must rely on commercial products.
I posted photos of the new fence on Facebook but forgot to show them here. The fence was completed last week and we are very pleased.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. A good fence makes good neighbors. This is a very nice fence. Your neighbors don't know what a delight is in store for them. I would like to be your neighbor. You would make me incorrigible in the garden. I might even try a rose. I so enjoy seeing these before pictures and I can't wait to see what all goes into your new garden. This rose is gorgeous. If I dug a hole that large in the garden I would find a variety of soil. Some of this soil around the house was brought in from who knows where. At first glance it looks good rich black. I have found that black soil can be heavy clay or full of sand. Please keep us up to date. It appears that your truck arrived. I hope all was in good shape after being in a truck so long.

    1. Lisa, actually it has not arrived but it should be here next week. I need it badly. I had this compost delivered and it was costly. I cannot afford to keep that up!

  2. P.S. Did you choose the rose because of the poem, Lord Tennyson, the color or all three?

  3. Hi Phillip,

    Your new fence looks very nice. I like the gate/arbor! Are you planning to grow any plants on the fence?

    Congrats on your inaugural rose! I hope it brings you much joy and is just the first step in a garden that will undoubtedly be filled with beauty.

    PS - I've got major soil envy. Looks like you're starting in a good place. Surprised to hear that a regional expert recommends lots of soil amendments. I thought the accepted wisdom now was to amend only minimally (if at all), especially if you're starting with decent soil??

  4. Beautiful fence! We'll remember it in this photo even after its covered up by all the terrific plants that will adorn it soon!!! Love that rose!

  5. The fence looks great. I am a bit envious that you'll be able to grow David Austin roses, and happy for you. Can't wait to see the developments in your new garden!

  6. A practically blank canvas to work with. Looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

  7. And so it begins! The fence is lovely, I'm sure there will be flowers climbing up the trellis is no time.

  8. Well, Portland is the City of Roses, so you're in prime rose country now. Your soil looks wonderful - dark and crumbly - like mine but without the rocks. Easy digging - it will make your gardening that much more satisfying!

  9. Lovely! I look forward to seeing your garden grow!

  10. Your fence looks great! I imagine that before you know it, that fence will be covered with a swath of roses! It must be wonderful to get the first plant in the ground. I love the rose you chose. I never had luck with David Austin roses. Hopefully they will do great in your new climate.

  11. Getting started. Really like the new fence. Seems to be setting the stage for the beautiful garden to come.

  12. The color of your rose is divine. I love the pink tinge added to the yellow-orange-gold. I notice you have the down spout extended into the lawn. Have you considered putting in a rain garden?

    1. I have considered rain barrels - is that what you mean? I am not sure I would put one in front but I do want one in back. The thought of losing all that water really gets to me.

  13. Hooray for your new fence and your first rose! Too bad you didn't stuff your truck with plants from your Alabama garden but how cool to be able to shop Portland area nurseries to fill your new space! While it would be difficult to leave an established garden with all the things you've planted over the years, this must be an exciting adventure!


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