A highlight of the Melbourne Cup Festival each November is the magnificent display of roses we glimpse at Flemington – what a magnificent job those gardeners do; their prized specimens bloom in such abundance on THE Day each year. I have a brilliant yellow rose, Graham Thomas, the same rose they grow at Flemington – I just wish mine was as prolific as its cousins in the south.
In my garden are a number of varieties and behind many there is a story of why that rose has its place. The majority are perfumed, from mild to strong and I adore sitting outside allowing their fragrance to waft over me. Gertrude Stein may have thought a “Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose”, but, with respect, she is mistaken; every rose in my garden has it’s own beauty and many are attached to a special person.
When I was just a littlie, Dad designated a part of the garden to be my responsibility; he planted a Black Boy Rose, a climber, to cover the wire link fence. Also in the bed was a Peace rose, which although released at the end of World War 11 (1945), did not make it to Australia until the year if my birth, 1949. As you might guess, I have one of each in my garden honouring my Dad. The Black Boy is magnificent in spring but doesn’t produce flowers year round. Peace is a frequent bloomer.
One of the most delicate roses in my collection is Princesse de Monaco, obviously named for Grace Kelly, Princess Grace of Monaco. It has a sweet perfume and is a delicate white with pink edges, or as one rose lover describes it, a delicate rose with a heart of gold. This is Mum’s rose, feminine, strong and resilient.
A friend said her favourite rose was the Chicago Peace, another beautiful fragrant rose in the most amazing colour, pink with a hint of orange and yellow at the centre.
I never look at the Chicago Peace without thinking of Barbie. I adore the original Peace, but when Spirit of Peace, a delicate cream was released to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the original Peace, I had to have one. Making up the quartet, is Pink Peace, a deep pink, again with a strong perfume.
My brother, a wonderful gardener with a vast knowledge of plants and their families generally, introduced me to a rose called Parole. This is the most prolific producer in my garden. It has huge blooms, up to 22 cm across, only one per stalk. The largest I’ve measured on my bushes is 16 cm. Just one in a vase perfumes the house. I have two in pots and they frequently have a dozen or more blooms at any time. Removing the spent blooms allows them to immediately bud up again. I must say I don’t know why its name changed from the original, Buxom Beauty – that’s exactly what they are.
Another rose which changed its name on its way across the world is the Eden, known in Australia as Pierre de Ronsard. This is a beautiful climber, although I keep mine confined to a smallish frame. It sits next to a Blue Moon – these roses remind me of my grandmothers.
One of my favourite groups of roses is bi-colours. Many bi-colours do not have perfume, but Double Delight has a fruity strong perfume I adore.
Candy stripe, pink and white stripe is a more traditional rose perfume and Scentimental won the fragrant rose of the year a few years back. These sit either side of the entrance to our home.
Probably the most unusual of my bi-colours is the Abracadabra a very deep purple-red, with almost black overtones and a cream highlight.
Then there is the amazing Chameleon, which starts out one colour and finishes up another. I don’t know if this is technically a bi-colour, but Eyes for You, bred in Queensland is cream with a purple heart. They handle humidity wonderfully and are blackspot free. There is one in a pot sitting outside my window as I write, one flowering finished, another underway with masses of tiny new buds.
This is only a sample of the roses in my garden everything from climbers to little ground cover roses. Some quite famous people live in my garden, Margaret Merril, Barbara Streisand, Mr Lincoln, Betty Cuthbert, Pope John Paul and Papa Meilland; there is even a Tipsy Imperial Concubine!
Growing roses in Queensland is a bit challenging, but don’t let that scare you. The results are so awesome that a bit of black spot or sooty mould is just one of the things you put up with; as my brother says – all they need is the magic ingredient, good old common H2O. Treat them to some lovely manure and an occasional water with seaweed solution and they are blooming wonderful.
I know at least one other Starts at 60 Community member is a rose lover (Hi Dolly D) – what about you? What is your favourite rose?