We would usually say that “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good”, a saying dating back to the 16th century at least and meaning that the wind which might be bad for one person may well be good for another – a nautical saying in its origins. The saying has been changed by some over the years. Sir Walter Scott rewrote it as “it’s an ill wind blaws naebody gude” – that it was indeed a bad wind which brought good to nobody. And then, of course, there was the quip, attributed to Sir Thomas Beecham, on the difficult to master French horn that it was “the wind that nobody blows good”. This latter play in words was made popular by Danny Kaye’s character in the film, ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’.
Wind is not the weather element which is occupying our minds these day; rather it is the long period of intense sunshine and accompanying drought. Our garden plants are suffering quite badly with many already beyond recovery for this year but we hope they may reappear next year or even revive to some extent later in the season if rain returns – which, it would seem, will certainly not happen in the next week or more. Astilbes have scorched and all but vanished; Brunneras have shrivelled; Pulmonarias have collapsed totally and even tough old Bergenias, carex and Hakonechloa seem beyond recovery. A large planting of Rodgersia is now as dry as tobacco leaf and many hostas are in extreme distress. Leaf-fall from trees is what we would expect in autumn and grass growth has not only stopped – the lawn has shrunk away from the edging bricks.
So, what might benefit from such an ill sun? Roses! Roses have simply loved the hot dry conditions – no leaf spotting, no mould, no balling of the opening buds, no spoiling of the flowers by rain. It has been a perfect year for roses and while other shrubs have struggled – we certainly will lose a handful of azaleas – the roses have, literally and figuratively, blossomed.
Some of you may remember the Tv series “The Avengers” with the ever so gentlemanly John Steed as the perfect spy. Patrick Macnee was the actor who made the John Steed character his own – in much the same way as David Suchet will ever be the one and only perfect Poirot or Joan Hickson the irreplaceable Miss Marple. I recall seeing a television interview with Patrick Macnee where he recounted his move to California – to benefit his daughter’s health – and the beautiful garden of roses he grew in a desert garden. It mystified me how he could do this successfully but I now understand that they enjoy these hot dry conditions and this ill sun certainly blows well for them.
Iain and Frances McDonald grow a wonderful selection of roses in their garden, The Bay, which is situated on the N11, north of Ferns, Co. Wexford and when we visited over the weekend they were absolutely splendid – especially an outstanding specimen of ‘Iceberg’ growing on the front of the house. My few photographs will give you a flavour but it is worth going to enjoy them yourself.