Take Time to Smell the Roses - 70 Thornton Road - Shelley & Glenn Williamson

Take Time to Smell the Roses - 70 Thornton Road

I visited Shelley and Glenn Williamson’s Thornton Road garden on a cool but fine winter’s morning on my own.  Ailsa was occupied at a Stork Party.

They have lots of roses.  Shelley hadn’t counted them, but we estimated more than 60.  This garden will be magnificent come November. When I visited, I could see many thorns but not too many roses.

So, Shelley told me about the roses.  Many are David Austin roses.  She quickly mentioned Graham Thomas, Evelyn and Leander, among her favourites.

I asked her what apricot-pink rose she would recommend, and she pointed to ‘Archiduc Joseph’ just in front of us.  She said this is an outstanding rose that has a blend of pink, apricot and peach tones.  It is a super healthy rose with few thorns, has a wonderful fragrance and flowers in abundance.  Her specimen is probably 20 years old.

In the same vicinity Shelley pointed out the David Austin climber, ‘New Dawn’.  She said it is a magnificent rose producing clusters of silvery soft pink flowers that deepen in colour towards the centre.  But regrettably it only flowers once a year, she added.

One of my favourites, ‘Sally Holmes’, a fragrant creamy white single rose was another among many more.

I shouldn’t give you the impression that this is just a rose garden.  Far from it.  When I first arrived, we walked through a special outdoor area beside the house.  Glenn is clearly very skilful.  What a magnificent job he has made of the decks, paving, outdoor fire and a pizza oven.  He was inspired to build the pizza oven 5-6 years ago after they had visited Italy.  He said the oven can heat up to about 750o C.  They can cook roasts in the oven and, of course, pizzas.  Incredibly, they cooked 40 pizzas on one occasion.

Glenn built a tiny house on the property for daughter Ella.  Ella, who runs Layers by Ella Williamson, plans to have a cake stall on the day of the festival.

There are trees and shrubs.  Some camellias in standard form.  One was ‘Lemon Drop’, absolutely covered with flower buds and which will be great when its double white blooms with lemon in the middle are in flower.  There’s a Waterlily camellia that Shelley brought with her to the property  28 years ago.

A Silver Pear nearly died but has recovered.  Shelley said it looks stunning in the spring with its silver-grey leaves. 

There’s a 30-year-old weeping cherry with a rose ‘Old Danish’ growing right through it.  At the front there’s a large double cherry with a massive rose ‘Wedding Day’ growing through it.

Other deciduous plants include Cornus ‘Eddies White Wonder’, a lace cap viburnum that died but replaced itself from a sucker, helleborus, a pink Weigela and several magnolias.

Shelley caught the gardening bug from her mother, now 93, and still gardening.  To begin with she would give Shelley cuttings and Shelley thought she better plant them to please her mother.  Well, the cuttings started to grow, and things evolved from there.

 Glenn has kept things tidy by employing brick edging everywhere to provide a good mowing strip.  He sourced his demolition bricks from D & S McDonald in Hamilton for about 30c per brick.  He has cut up pine sleepers and placed them behind the brick edging in one area to raise the height of the garden.

As we walk around the house the range of plants continues. Shelley has daphnes, both pink and white varieties.  Foxgloves, primarily in white or apricot.  If they revert to purple, they get pulled out.  Shelley got five peonies from a grower to try but has not been very successful yet.  She doesn’t think it is cold enough.

Shelley has a seasonal garden that is constantly changing.  She says she likes plants that smell and that repeat flower.  They “make you happy”.

I think if you visit this garden (and the cake stall), it will make you happy.

As I left the garden, I found myself thinking, “I have visited six of the festival gardens now.  Not only have I enjoyed seeing the gardens, but how lovely the hosts have been.  They have been so enthusiastic, engaging, friendly and willing to give me their time.”


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