One Year On: a rose cottage by any other name

sunflower terrace

Our home in Penrith, NSW, was named Rose Cottage when it was built in 1879. A magnificent hedge of pink, climbing, roses fronted the house, and tumbled over a white gate trellis that we built to showcase these marvellous blooms. It was my pride, my joy, and people would stop as they passed, to admire it, and sometimes to pluck a bud.

An elderly lady arrived one Sunday afternoon while I was out tip-pruning to ensure a second blooming. She was with her daughter, and asked if she could look around the garden. She explained that she had grown up in our cottage, and was delighted to see the rose hedge flourishing.  She enjoyed a tour of  the garden I had planted at the rear; it was filled with ornamental climbers, olive trees, and apple tree, and cascades of jasmine, as well as raised beds and a rockery planted with cacti and succulents to give our resident Blue Tongued lizard a safe home. The lady remembered, in her youth,  riding the old bicycle I showed her, which I  had found in the tumble-down shed when we bought the house.

Plaster mouldings inside were of intricate rose patterns. A glorious stained-glass window in the bathroom depicted a single red rose. I grew many roses in the front and back gardens: pinks, reds, yellows; and my pride and joy, a heavily-scented creamy white, which would fill the entire house with a heavenly perfume when cut and brought inside.

I was delighted to find that the gardens of our new home were also filled with roses, mostly pinks and whites. All were in need of pruning, a drenching with my homemade anti-bug treatment, and a good feed. Hard, ruthless pruning last winter brought them all back to life, and we enjoyed a superb show this summer.

I have already sourced fresh horse and cow manure to compost for next season. I had to re-home many bushes, to the boundary fence, when I revamped the terrace garden at the front of the house, where, happily, they have flourished.

We, naturally, thought of calling our new home Casa de Rosas, but after some discussion we decided to name it something that reflected its aspect – south-east facing – bathed in sunlight from dawn to dusk. Sunflowers are Sarah’s favourite flower, so Casa Girasol was the obvious choice, confirmed when we jointly decided on the colour for both the exterior and some of the interior walls; sunflower yellow!

A friend appeared with two sunflower seedlings at the beginning of summer. I planted them in one of the huge half-wine-barrels we have sunk into the terrace as raised beds, where I grow herbs for the garden. They quickly stretched and grew large, fluffy yellow manes that they turned each day as the we slowly spun around the sun. Casa Girasol had her first girasoles!

I have many, many seeds to plant for next year, which will go into the ground a couple of weeks before the last spring frost. When the summer sun shines on Casa Girasol next year, our sunflowers, and our new B&B business will, we hope, flourish.





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