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Victoria State Rose Garden










Late April and time to start getting excited.  Pruning time is coming fast and we need to get ready for it.  We wander round the garden mentally taking out old canes and shortening “back and sides”.

 Like many another new chum, back in the 1990s, I was daunted by the amount of facts I had to learn to become a pruner of roses.  Each cultivar had a different method of attack with some to be pruned lightly, some medium and others heavily.  The cuts had to be half an inch above the ‘most suitable bud’ sloping away from the bud so that the water would not lie on the cut and create ‘dieback’.  I had to remember to sterilize my secauters after tackling a bush that had any disease, in case I passed the disease on to the next bush.  Every piece that was cut off and every leaf had to be picked up and disposed of ‘properly’ as any debris would create a haven for future diseases.

 I very nearly gave the whole idea of roses away to go back to fuschias.  They didn’t have thorns or all these diseases or need mollycoddling. However, those who know me will tell you that I am a little stubborn and occasionally unorthodox.  I began to question the need for this entire mystique. After all, at the Victoria State Rose Garden there are some five to six thousand roses to be pruned by a large group of volunteers. Each season there are new people starting with us. If we make the procedure too difficult, they will not be with us at the end of the season. Pruning must be simple to explain and easy to learn.

 First of all we must understand why pruning is done.  When you speak to an orchardist, he will tell you he prunes to remove un-wanted, non-productive foliage; to maintain a shape that is easy to work with; to remove dead, dying, damaged or diseased branches;   and most importantly from his point of view,  to increase his crop yield.  I think the same requirements apply, as a general rule, to pruning our roses.

 I accept that there are different techniques of pruning dependant on the background classification of the rose.  Ramblers, species, climbers, and some of the Heritage classifications require different treatment to bush and shrub roses.  However, the orchardist’s principle above, in my opinion, remains valid if we want better production.

 The following simplified instructions are given to our new pruners at the start of each season.  Before you start, have a good look at the bush to see what new growth there has been since last year.  The amount of growth, particularly basal growth, will indicate how much you can afford to take off.  Little growth, light prune; massive growth, heavy prune. If there has been a lot of basal growth, we try to remove some of the three to four year old canes.  Our aim is to reduce the growth to about five productive, young canes

 Next, remove all Dead, Dying and Diseased branches, cutting them back to healthy growth.  Then look at  Damaged canes.  You may have to live with a damaged cane if it is part of the shape you want to achieve, but where possible, they should be removed.  For the majority of Hybrid Teas, Clustered Flowered, Bush and Shrub roses, we tell them to remove the Diddley bits, the twiggy, unproductive growth.

 I know there are some cultivars that produce their flowers on the didley bits, most of which have a fair percentage of China in them.  We have to explain to our new chums why we treat these particular roses differently.

 The new chums have great delight in removing the old canes and the five D’s, which they can easily understand, and they soon pick up the need to shape the bush by cutting canes to a bud at the “best thickness”, and cleaning out the center of the bush for air circulation. 

 We start our new people on the HTs, progress them to Floribundas, and for those with the interest, they can move on to Standards, Weeping Standards, Arches, Tripods, Festoons, and the Heritage Border.  We have a team of long term members who act as trainers for each of the specialty sections. Of course, with the variety of roses we have, some pruning starts at the end of spring when the spring flowering has finished (late November, early December. This includes some of the Heritage and ramblers on festoons and weepers. 

  We do not have to meet a specific timetable like Terry Freeman at Flemington Racecourse, nor do we have to produce single prize winning blooms for particular shows.  We want to produce mass displays for the enjoyment of the masses.  At the time of writing this, the results of our efforts are well worth a visit if you are in our vicinity.


You have finished the pruning and are ready to sit back and do nothing until the first lot of deadheads arrive in November.  

How wrong you are.  First, you need to get those secateurs, loppers and saws out and clean them of all the old sap, sharpen them and oil them so that they do not go rusty before you need to use them again.

This is the time when the dreaded blackspot will start to make its presence known.  The fungal spores are in the air floating from your next door neighbour’s garden ready to settle on all those new leaves that are starting to develop.  To defeat them, you need to start your spray regime.  

The purpose of spraying at this time is to apply a coating on the leaves to prevent the fungal spores from resting there. There are many commercial preparations on the shelf for this exercise, but why waste your money on chemicals which may or may not be nasty to your health and the health of the garden.  

Be a cheapskate and look for sprays that are cheap, and safe to use.  For example, a litre of full cream milk, mixed with ten litres of water in a pressure spray, will do the trick.  Use it as the leaves begin to appear, respray every ten days or thereabouts, replenish it if it rains and most importantly don’t be sparing of it.  Spray every surface of the leaves until it drips off – it’s cheap so don’t hesitate.

The next job is to look for suckers and remove them.  A sucker is root stock growth coming from below the budding joint, the scion.  When a root has been damaged, there is a strong chance for the rootstock to develop its own shoot.  You need to dig down, following the sucker until you can see where it is coming from the root and cut it off cleanly there.  Do not cut it off at ground level or you will have a stronger growth with multiple stems arising.  Also do not cut off any basal shoots as they are the next generation of canes of the desired rose.  If the new growth is coming from above the scion, it is a basal shoot.

Now you need to feed your roses.  Spring is when a rose bush is trying to make maximum growth, so help it out by giving every bush a good handful of food, spread evenly around the plant.  Wet the ground before spreading, then water it in well.  Talking of water, make sure every bush has at least a bucketful of water every week.  Avoid daily sprinkling, as this leads to shallow root systems.  A deep drenching is far better so that the roots will go well down into the ground, stabilizing your plant and making it much stronger.

Keep you eye out for aphids, scale, powder mildew, rust, and all those other pests and diseases that affect your bushes.  Attack each one as you discover it.  If you do not know how to treat these, ask one of our members how they go about it.  Or go on to the website and read all about them there.

Suddenly you realise, with all the work I have outlined, that Spring has departed and it is time to start deadheading.

Good gardening.  Wal


Last Wednesday someone asked about heat stress in roses, so let’s start off there.  The first signs of stress is (like in humans) drooping or wilting of the newer growth.  Do nothing and the leaves and newer canes will show some signs of sunburn – reddish-brown edges to the leaves and browning on the canes.  Then the bush will start to drop its leaves, in an effort to save the plant – and if left the bush will become completely defoliated.  At this stage the plant is starting to die unless drastic measures are taken. Take the time to have a look at Colorama in Petal B for a bad example of heat stress.  Lots of leaves on the ground and sunburnt canes throughout.

 The remedy is to get water to the roots by whatever method you can.  It won’t hurt to also give the plant a thorough overhead soaking as plants can take up some moisture through the leaves. Make sure the water is soaking in by giving the ground some wetting agent.  In extra dry weather, the ground becomes hydrophobic and the water will run off rather than soaking in.


Almost June and it is time to think of replacing those old, worn out roses in the garden.  We want to plant new roses in the same place, but have read that one shouldn’t do this. There is a terrible disease called ROSE REPLANT DISEASE According to the experts, it is almost certain death to a new rose if you plant it in the same location as an old rose. Some talk of nasties in the soil which will affect the new plant.

Let us look carefully at this. At the VSRG we have been replacing beds of roses every year.  The new roses go into the same beds as the old roses came out of.  This seems to make a joke of the experts’ advice, but let us not be too hasty in rejecting the lore.

The truth behind the “Disease” is one that gardeners have long known and abided by, particularly vegetable growers.  They call it monoculture. For example, if you grow tomatoes in the same ground year after year, the plants will be poorer in quality and there will be less fruit each successive year.  The continuous cropping of one species has used up the nutrients required by that type of plant.

There is a simple answer to overcome the problem.  Replace the soil or enrich it.  We do this.  After removing the old roses we remove some soil from the beds – for two reasons.  Firstly, the addition of mulch over the years has built up the level of the beds well above the surrounding areas. Secondly, we are about to increase the height of the beds by additional material.  For preference we scrape the good top soil to one side and remove the next layer (the clay, with root debris). 

 We then rotary hoe the soil, then add lawn clippings, fertiliser and any mulch we can get hold of.  The beds are then rotary hoed again to mix it all together, and allowed to stand for, we hope, at least six weeks before we plant the new roses.

The new roses can then be planted in good “new” soil and generally thrive well.

For your home situation, remove at least two bucketfuls of “old” soil where the old rose was growing, replace it with soil that has never grown a rose before, add mulch and fertiliser, let it stand for at least six weeks, then plant your rose. Keep the old soil for your vegie garden. Alternatively, use flood irrigation into the old site and wash the nasties down into the subsoil.


Wandering round the Tudor Rose I noticed a large number of blind shoots.  Many of you may have noticed this phenomena in the past without realizing that it is quite common, particularly, for some reason, on red HTs.  

 In the early spring and autumn growth, laterals malfunction and instead of producing a bud, they go “blind”.  Growth on that lateral stops and the plant responds by either stopping sap flow to that lateral, resulting in dieback, or by sending the sap flow to a lower stipule on the lateral, thus creating a new lateral. 

 If you see blind shoots, you should cut the lateral back to the next lower stipule.  Leaving the blind shoot only takes up good sap that the plant could use elsewhere. If the blind shoot is one of those short ones originating from surface eyes on old wood quite low on the plant, cut the entire lateral off.  It will never do anything.

Look for blind shoots on Mr. Lincoln. Chrysler Imperial, Peace, Crimson Glory.

What causes blind shoots?  A single proven and accepted cause is still unknown.

 Wal J Apr 2017

ANATOMY of the ROSE (in simple terms)

For those of you who want to find your way round catalogues or try to identify a rose variety, a certain amount of knowledge of the anatomical terms is desirable.

Many of these are in the language of the botanist to ensure commonality.

Starting from the ground up, we have: -

Root system. Most of the roses we buy these days are on a rootstock or understock.  The root system is fibrous i.e. full of fibres, and relies on these to uptake water and food for conversion to sap to feed the plant.  

 Bud. An embryonic shoot that may eventually produce either foliage or flowers. The bud is located in the axil of the leaf stalk.

 Bud Union. The location where the scion (Bud) was affixed to the rootstock.  This should be well calloused by the time the plant is sold by the grower. The bud is inserted into the cambium layer of the rootstock. The cambium layer is the green layer between the outer bark and the inner hardwood of the stem or cane.

 Canes.  The stem of a rose, either the main stem, which is often called the trunk, or lateral stems or branches. Canes can be a very important part in identifying a variety of rose.  Canes can be thick and rigid; pliable; straight; crooked; hairy; scaly; red, green, purple, brown, or grey. 

 Thorns.  A thorn is actually a branch of the plant that becomes hard and pointed.  Cactus and lemons have thorns. Roses have prickles, as they are not a fundamental part of the stem.  Thorns, as we will continue to call them, can often serve to identify a plant.  Some are straight, others are hooked, some are hooked towards the main cane, others are hooked away from the main cane; some grow in pairs, others are scattered; some are white, others red or brown. There may be bristles between them, they may be on the back of the leaves, and some varieties have no thorns at all.

 Foliage. There is a wide variation in rose foliage.  The leaves are characteristically pinnate – that is, composed of more than three leaflets arranged in two rows along a common stalk.  The shape may be broad in the base and narrow at the top, or the complete reverse.  The surface of the leaflet may be wrinkled as in the rugosas, or smooth.  The edges can be scalloped, pointed, turned under or blunt at the tip.  Leaflets may have thorns on the undersides of the leaflets and along the stalks, or have no thorns at all.  Each of these factors varies from variety to variety and class to class and is used by the experts to help identify a particular variety.

 Where the leaf stalk attaches to the cane are the stipules. Their shape and the way they are attached to the leaf stalk vary from species to species.  They may be toothed, fringed, comb-like or slashed. 

 Enough for today.  Some time in the future we will talk about the rest of the plant – leading up to the flower head.


A very large proportion of modern climbers are sports of bush roses i.e. they are genetic variations.   Climbers by their very nature want to reach for the sky and inevitably do not flower until they have reached the top.  Most have thick canes which resist bending.  

It is very difficult to study a rose or smell the perfume when standing on a ladder.  So we must fool the plant to give us blooms at a lower altitude and yet have it reaching the top of a festoon, tripod or arch.

During the spring and summer, let the young climbing canes go as far up in the air as they can.  Preferably the height reached should be the distance required when the cane is brought to the horizontal.  Many climbing canes will not increase their length once they are trained to the horizontal.

In autumn, take the long canes and gently bring them down towards the horizontal without stressing or breaking them and tie them in at that angle.  The canes should end up as close to horizontal as we can get them, which may take several weeks of bringing them down, tying, then rebending and retying to get them there. 

Canes of climbers do not like going downhill, frequently suffering dieback in these attempts, so do not attempt to take them below horizontal.  In your home garden you can bring the canes down by tying an old soft drink bottle to the end of the cane.  Add water to the bottle every couple of days to increase the weight until the cane gets to where you want it.

Having tortured the canes into these new shapes, stand back and watch laterals shoot up from almost every second bud.  These laterals become the flower bearing shoots.

For recurrent climbers, deadhead the laterals fairly firmly (back to a plump bud three or four from the main cane) to give the best displays of roses.  In winter pruning, the team will try to replace old non-productive canes with new ones.  They usually restrict the number of canes on each bush to five or six.

For once blooming climbers, the team will prune once flowering is finished, by pruning the laterals to a level of two or three buds from the main cane and then in winter, do a shaping trim only.


When left to her own devices, Nature has a wonderful lot of surprises for us.  This is particularly so when we raise a new rose from seed of the hips in the Garden.

We know what one of the parents is, because we take the hip from that plant, but we have no idea what the other parent is.  So we will be in for a surprise when our new plant appears.  That is, unless we are in the business of controlled hybridisation.  This talk is NOT about that system.

Pick the Hip when the stem is browning off and wait for the hip to change to a mature colour that is, ripen.  If it is withered then the potential is that the seed inside is dead. If you are collecting more than one variety of hip, LABEL the hip with the Parent name.

Collect the seed by cutting open the hip with a sharp knife and scraping out the seed(s).  Depending on the rose, there may be one seed or as many as twenty seeds inside.  Clean off any pulp that is coating the seed, as failure to do so may result in mould. (Experts use a variety of cleansing methods to ensure the seed is free from fungal spores or mould – we do not need to do this).  Drop the seeds into a glass of water.  Those that drop to the bottom are good, the ones that float are seldom likely to produce a plant. 

Stratify your seeds.  Your seeds have a greater chance of success if you treat them to a Northern hemisphere autumn, by cooling them off.  Place your entire hips inside a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge for five to six weeks.  Alternatively, place your seeds on a moist paper towel and place that inside a sealed plastic bag, then into the crisper drawer for five to six weeks.  DO SEAL them as the odours from other items in the fridge can spoil the seeds.  Keep the paper towel moist – not wet.

Sow your seeds.  You can use open ground or a seed tray, or a plastic cup, or half a toilet roll to contain your seed mix.  I recommend a seed raising mix as it is free draining and easy to use. Place the seeds about twelve mms apart on top of the mix, then place a twelve mm layer of mix on top of the seeds.  LABEL THEM. Protect the seeds from birds, cats, dogs by hanging wire netting over them. Keep the mix moist, but not wet.

THE ORIGINS OF PRUNING The Essential old Rose, by Trevor Griffiths

An anecdote, whether true of not I don’t know, concerning the pruning of roses relates to the actions of a gardener at the court of George III. The palace grounds of the time contained beds of roses – probably albas, gallicas and centifolias. Although they were tended according to the knowledge of the time, by today’s standards precious little maintenance was done bar keeping the surface of the beds tidy by removing leaves and rubbish when the colder weather set in each year.

It was during one such annual clean-up that this story takes place.  Gardeners were raking or sweeping all the loose dry material from the rose beds so that it could be moved to a more open space for burning.  One of the gardeners who was working in the palace grounds for the first time could not see the sense in carrying away the rubbish to burn it, so he piled it into a heap adjacent to the rose plants and set the mass alight.  Everything burned quite well for a time until the wind changed and became stronger so that the flames blew back against the nearest rose plants.  Ultimately quite a number of plants burned to the ground.

The King, who had been absent from the palace for a few days on official business, returned to find his beloved roses desecrated by the actions of a lazy gardener.  His fury knew no bounds and the hapless man was dismissed immediately.  The next spring, however, the burned bushes grew infinitely better than they had ever done and the summer flowering was the best anyone had ever seen.  This, then, became the rather cumbersome method by which roses were shortened back to encourage young growth and better flowering, until years later gardeners began to simply cut back old growth.  Thus began the intended pruning of roses, or so it would seem.” (March 2018)


My garden at home is seriously infested with aphids. Aphids are worldwide, called greenfly in many countries.  They always come in plague proportions on the warm summer wind.  They can be green, the most common, gold, which seem to prefer my hoyas, and black, which infest my garlic and chives.  If they are in small numbers I run my fingers over the infested parts and squash them.  The resultant stain on your thumb is where we get the expression “having a green thumb”. Slightly bigger infestation calls for them being washed off with high hose pressure.  Be careful to keep your free hand behind the buds to avoid breaking them off.   

However, for a serious infestation, stronger measures are needed.  It is my belief that any spray regime should be safe for the user and for the environment.  It should also be cheap to use so that there is no hesitation because a product is expensive.  Historically there have been some very nasty commercial products offered.  Remember the wonder spray – DDT. 

Any spray regime must be regular – 10 to 14 day intervals – and must be repeated after being washed off with rain.  All bugs develop an immunity to a particular spray, so one needs to change the spray type regularly.

The principle of spraying pests is that they are all air breathers.  If we can coat the little rascals with a contact spray, it covers their breathing ports and when it dries, they suffocate.  The problem is none of the sprays can discriminate between good bugs and bad bugs. 

Let’s start off with a very cheap bug spray.  Soapy water – spray it on, under and over the plants.  BUT soapy water is hard to disperse as it suds up in the sprayer. Then there is the full cream milk spray.  1 part milk to 10 parts water.  Flood the plant with it.  It leaves a coating on the leaves, which also stops fungal spores from settling.  Does this coating also, stop the production of chlorophyll, which relies on the sun’s interaction with the leaves?

There was an interesting article in Gardening Australia some years back on the legality of espousing home remedies for the control of pests, diseases and weeds.  It seems all such products come under the Federal Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code of 1994, and must be registered with the appropriate authority.  So for common natural products such as milk, seaweed, fish products or bicarb of soda, these are not registered nor exempt from registration.  So, I can recommend the use of arsenic but not milk.

Gardening Australia TV program of last week had a small segment on rose culture which inferred that using a balanced fertiliser stops aphids.  What the rosarian was trying to get across was that by using a low nitrogen fertiliser, the rose stems hardened up quicker, making it impossible for the aphids to suck the sap.  I can only imagine the confusion the program has created.

Getting back to a safe spray.  The following formula (NON-Registered) will act as a pesticide and fungicide.  Mix 2 tablespoons of bi-carb of soda with 30 mls of soluble vegetable oil (Eco-Oil or Seasol, but not a mineral oil such as White Oil which will burn the foliage in hot weather) and 3 drops of washing up detergent.  Mix them together in 5 litres of water.  During the growing season September to April, every 10 to 14 days, spray all the foliage, stems and near ground of the rose bushes.  REMEMBER that you will kill all bugs, good and bad, so if you have invested in predatory mites, do not use this formula.

You will be able to find this talk, and all my other talks in our website.


Soil Conditioner

A soil conditioner is a product which is added to soil to improve its qualities, usually its fertility (ability to provide nutrition for plants) and sometimes its mechanics.

The most common use of soil conditioners is to improve soil structure.  Soils tend to become compacted over time. This impedes root growth, decreasing the ability of plants to take up nutrients and water. 

The addition of organic material can greatly improve water retention and fluff up the soil.  A wide variety of materials can be used to improve soil quality, such as compost, manure, straw, lime, gypsum. Working these products into the soil can add more texture to keep the soil loose allowing roots to grow more effectively.  

Commercial soil conditioners are usually made from seaweed, pulverized fish and manure.  We use Seamungus which has all these products in its make-up. Other commercial products include Charley Carp, Hortico, Osmocote, Scotts Garden Soil Improver. They can come pelletised or in liquid form.  There are also a range of probiotic products which add microbe cultures, enzymes, and amino acids.  Go-go Juice is an example of this.


Fertilisers are concentrated nutrient amounts added to the soil for direct plant growth influence.  This nutrient addition does not help the soil’s texture. It has a balanced ratio of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) available to plants after application.  

Commercial fertilisers always show the ratio of NPK on their packaging and these vary quite a bit.  For comparison, Dynamic Lifter has an NPK of 3.7; 2; 1.8, where Sudden Impact for Roses has 9; 2; 12.  Also shown are the percentages of  trace elements – Calcium, Sulphur, Magnesium, Boron, Zinc, Copper, Iodine, Iron and Manganese.  Liquid fertilisers are also commercially available for foliar feeding.  Foliar feeding provides essential elements through spray on leaves taken up by the stomata and epidermis


Pelletised soil conditioner and fertiliser should be applied to wet soil and watered in well after application.   Keep the pellets away from the base of the plant to avoid burning the trunk.  Soil conditioner should be applied during winter (immediately after pruning) and fertilizer during the growing periods of spring, summer and autumn. (Wal J Sep 2018)

THE MYTHS OF PRUNING......... Click Here for PDF Story & Pictures


John has asked me to talk to you about suckers.  This is the time of the year when suckers really start to get going so you need to be able to spot the difference between a new basal shoot and a sucker. Basal shoots are our future, whereas suckers can take the life of our desired rose.   

 John has been working on our suckers for many years now.  He and Glenis virtually controlled all the suckers in the Garden, but John needs your help in spotting and advising him of their whereabouts.

 So, what is a sucker? The majority of modern roses are budded on to a rootstock or understock.  For a commercial grower, this method is more economically viable than trying to grow roses on their own roots. The strike rate is higher, the quality is often better, it is faster to do and the cultivar is ready for market sooner. 

 Any strong root-growing rose can be used as a rootstock.  The most common form we find in our Garden is Dr Huey.  This is a delightful rambler in its own right and can be found in the festoons in Petal E.  The commercial grower has fields of this plant and bundles of budwood waiting for the professional graft budders to come once a year to bud up the next years roses.

 We plant out the new season roses, being careful not to disturb the root system.  Damaging the roots may cause the plant to throw up a new cane which is attached to the roots or rootstock.  Keep this fact in mind when underplanting your roses at home.  It is very easy to dig that little bit deep and damage a root, causing a sucker to appear. This new cane, being below the bud graft, will be a sucker.  This is the major method of determining whether a new cane is a basal shoot or a sucker.  If below the graft – sucker; conversely, if above the graft – basal shoot.

 Keep an eye out for different growth when working in the Garden.  If in doubt, call on one of our senior members to determine if it is a sucker.  Then take a note of the bed it is in and mark it on the work board so John can find and remove.  Incidentally, he would love to have an offsider if anyone wants a change of job.

 Wal J 17 Jan 2018 


  • When Sam McGredy, the NZ rose breeder, retired in 2002, he sprayed his left-over seedlings with a herbicide.
  • South Australian Rose Breeder, George Thomson believes that he has bred two commercial propositions for every 320,000 seeds he has sown.  Work it out – he has registered 76 roses, including Crown Princess Mary and Howard Florey.
  • The first yellow Hybrid Tea was Gottfried Keller, bred by an amateur, Dr Muller of Germany, six years before Joseph Pernet-Ducher bred Soliel d’ Or.
  • The largest single repository of Heritage Roses in Australia is Rookwood Cemetery, near the Sydney Olympic site.
  • Brent Dickerson wrote that identification of roses old or new is an intricate and demanding affair, and one should begin any attempt with the clear understanding that success is unlikely.
  • On Identification of roses, there are around thirty points to be considered.  These include the obvious, such as colour, number of petals, perfume and leaves, but then also to be considered are:  Prickles – their size, shape, colour, location on the bush, their direction; Blooms – bloom shape, petal shape, size, habit (single, clusters).  Do NOT bring me a flower and hope that I can identify it.  Any identification would be a fluke.

  • It is my (Wal) belief that the Meilland line of roses require a strong need for solid winter dormancy.  Because our climate in Werribee does not give them this dormancy they never have very attractive bushes and suffer badly from die-back. I include Mme A. Meilland (Peace); Papa Meilland; Chicago Peace; Spirit of Peace. A further possibility is that due to these lines being overbudded (i.e. taking budwood from bushes that have been taken from budwood, etc. ) they have lost their vigor, and need to be re-started from new stock. Other examples of probable overbudding are Friesia, Gold Bunny, Crimson Glory.

Wal J Apr 2018


Lex has asked me to talk to you about why and how we replace roses in our garden.

Firstly the “why”.  Audits are done every year on the beds in the Tudor Rose.  There will always be some that are performing badly, having reached their life span.  It is a sad probability that more modern roses have a shorter life span than some of the old favourites.  They age quicker and produce less, smaller blooms. Over the past 20+ years we have had a replacement team responsible for selecting those beds which are to be replaced.  They present their findings to Council for approval.  We try to only replace one bed in each petal each year.  We certainly do not want the public to see three or four beds in the same petal, bare for at least two months waiting for replacement.  Not good for a display garden open to the public.

Then the team have the responsibility of selecting new roses.  Past experience tells us that it is dangerous to rely on descriptions in catalogues.  The nurseryman is in the business of selling roses so makes each cultivar sound tremendous, using emotive language and names.  Consider the names that came out to commemorate the anniversary of WWI.  

Because of this danger, we instituted three beds to trial how each potential rose performs in our soil and climate.  Each potential candidate is  on trial ( three plants) for two years.  Each of you has the opportunity to comment on the roses in these beds (in writing to our secretary, please).  Unfortunately these trials can create a problem as the roses we are trialing may not be commercially available when we need them.  There are some 5000 new roses created every year. It is a sad fact that 2000 of them are not commercially available the following year due to fashion changes and poor sales.

Coming back to selection of new roses, it is important to remember that we are a display garden, not a garden for growing prize blooms.  A lot of prize winning show roses are often not suitable for a display garden.  Take for example, Papa Meiland or Peace.  Beautiful flower, good perfume – lousy bush, spindly and hard to maintain.

The replacement team has to consider the height, shape and colour of the selections.  They have  to ensure that the new cultivar is pleasing to the eye, has good foliage, has good perfume, is not going to attack the public by wayward growth and will not colour clash with its potential neighbour.  They also have to consider whether the quantities we need for a bed will be commercially available.  It is no good selecting a rose only to find that there are only three of them available when we need twenty in two years time.  What a task!!

 One of those up to the task was Veronica who was a member of the replacement team for many years. She was President of National Rose Society of Australia, was in constant contact with local and overseas breeders and distributors and  took notes of potential roses at rose shows.  She visited the trial beds at Adelaide over the last four years.  She was a source we will miss in our selection process.

For those of you who are unaware, the Australian Rose Trials are the only independent trial of new plant releases for Australia and are conducted over a two year period.  The new releases are given a number and grown incognito where they are regularly judged by a team of rosarians under the control of the National Rose Society and the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.  Points are given for colour, fragrance, perfume, growth habit, disease resistance, and tolerance to Australian conditions.  We have Medal winning roses in our Garden.  

Then there was Joan who, for years, was tasked with finding sources for the roses we needed.  There are only a handful of rose nurseries in Australia who breed the quantities we need for a bed.  Those same rose nurseries are in the business of making money so if a rose is inferior or weak or not selling, it will be tossed out in favour of the next fad.  

Talking of fads, it cannot be stressed too much how big an influence Rose Society Shows have on the rose market and our thinking.  If a rose doesn’t win prizes, it quickly goes out of favour with the members of the Societies. and this is reflected in sales of that rose.  

Graham and Marlene are also dedicated to selecting plants which perform well as park roses.  As well as selecting from catalogues, they rely quite heavily on information from the public and our members.  If you grow a rose in your garden which yo believe would do well in our garden, let them know.    

Coming back to rose selection, one of the criteria is disease resistance.  There is no such thing as disease free roses.  Some lines of breeding are creating disease resistant plants but even these need the staples to keep them healthy – one bucket of water a week, four feeds throughout the year and five hours of sunshine.  Our Parks team provides the water but is restricted in the usage due to the age of the watering facilities – only one section of the Werribee estate can be done at any one time.  

Similarly, the Parks team arrange for contractors to spray the garden for diseases, but at $1300 per spray, cannot afford to do this as regularly as we would like.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if we had roses that didn’t get diseases?  We must always be mindful of the valuable input and assistance by Parks people in helping us to maintain the garden, in spite of the financial restrictions imposed on them.

Let me give you a very irreverent look at our two most common fungal diseases, and some means of overcoming them, strictly according to Wal.  

 Black Spot:-  A fungal disease which is spread by spores and affects the leaves of susceptible plants, leaving black spots which slowly cover the whole leaf, turning it brown and usually causing it to drop off.  In very heavy infestation the bush can be defoliated.  All treatment must be done when the foliage is just starting to appear and should continue every week. By the time you notice the black spots appearing on the leaves of your favourite bush, it is usually too late to do anything about it.  You can remove the affected leaves; you can pick up every leaf that has dropped to the ground (University of San Diego has produced “evidence” that the spores die when the leaf dies on the ground); you can spend a fortune on the most poisonous fungicides available (and most commercial products are); you can rip out the bush and select a cultivar that is black spot resistant; or you can use Wal’s magic mix, described later.

On a different note, I have been reading up on the dreaded black spot.  There are literally libraries of information on this disease.  The most interesting thing that I found in several references was that pathogenic fungi, such as blackspot, are genetically variable and multiply rapidly so that they are capable of evolving new strains or races.  For example the Houston Rose Society quotes “The slightest mutation of the fungus impedes the effectiveness of the fungicide treatment by camouflaging the product’s target.  Fingicides with single-site modes of action are Rose Pride (Funginex) and Green Light Systemic Fungicide.

Genetic mutation of fungi is more common than we think.  There are 54 known variations of blackspot fungus in North America and these variations or “races” of the disease are frequently geographically specific. Roses resistant to one race of blackspot fungus may prove susceptible to other races of the disease.”

For this reason, many of the “experts” recommend changing the nature of your spray every time.  For example one Canadian rosarian states “spray every week with alternative fungicides having as active ingredients triforine and chlorothalonil; these substances have different properties which because of this prevent the fungus developing resistance.”  He goes on to say that he believes that the air remains polluted by blackspot spores.

  It is known that the spores splatter for incredible distances when hit by a drop of water, hence the old wives’ tale about not watering the foliage.

Powder Mildew:-  Usually first noticed on the leaves as a white powdery film, it can quickly spread along the stems and will affect the flowers, particularly the new buds.  It is spread by spores, usually in high humidity conditions. It is one of the reasons why old wives advise never to use overhead watering, at sundown. I don’t quite know what you do if it rains at that time. Some cultivars are more susceptible to powder mildew than others.  The longer term volunteers will remember Cream Dream, which only lasted one season.  Such cultivars were planted at the end of grapevine rows.  When the cultivar showed signs of powder mildew, the vintner knew it was time to spray his vines.  

Fungal Disease Spray Cure:-  I believe that any spraying regime should be effective on four levels; safety to the environment; safety to one’s self; low cost; and effective.  The following mix for the home garden has been trialled for many years, and if used regularly (Forgive me, for I don’t), will meet all the requirements mentioned. Those who have used it regularly claim that they have a complete absence of fungal diseases even in seasons when this problem was fairly prevalent.  The principle behind the spray is to coat the leaves so that the spores cannot attach themselves to the leaf. 

During the growing season from September to April, every seven to ten days, mix the following brew and spray all the foliage, front and back, stems and near ground of your roses. Use no other fungicide.

In five litres of water, stirred well (I use a Hill’s 5 litre pressure sprayer)

  • 3 teaspoons of sodium bicarbonate
  • 30 mls canola based or water soluble oil
  • 3 mls cheap washing up detergent

Another cheap method for the home garden is to take ½ litre of full cream milk, mix with 5 litres of water and spray for all you are worth.  Not very practical for our garden?

 In addition, about once a month, give each plant about 5 mls of potassium nitrate to give good strong vegetative (leaf) growth, but be aware that this may well be to the detriment of a good floral display.

Wal J 7th March 2018


Middle of April and we stop deadheading.  About fifty days later the bushes will give us their last blooms.  Then we look for a period of dormancy where nothing seems to happen.  This does not apply to our volunteers.  We still need you for all the myriad of maintenance jobs, which we hope will be completed before we start the pruning season in mid June.

In cold country climates, dormancy is an essential part of the life cycle of roses.  The bush defoliates, reducing the possibility of damage due to freezing.  The cell sap begins to thicken aiding the stems to withstand the cold.  In extreme climates, rose lovers have to cover their plants with straw or even dirt to ensure they do not freeze to death.  Imagine in the wilds of Canada, bending your standards over and covering the heads.

There is one school of thought that states you are wasting your time having a period of dormancy.  Their claim is that modern roses have the genetic make-up that makes the rose continue to bloom right throughout the year.  One of these years we will have to experiment to see if this works, but try telling that to the people of Norway.  Twenty-five years of experience in our garden says that we need a rest period for our roses (and our volunteers).

As I said before, we still need your presence at the garden to help carry out all our maintenance.  Keep coming, please. (April 2018)


The prime reason for mulching our garden beds is for water retention and to keep the soil and roots relatively cool during hot weather.  Ideally each plant should have a minimum of a bucket full of water a fortnight. Then to keep the water contained, you need to mulch.  

Many gardens use inorganic mulches such as stones, pebbles or gravel to a depth of 30 cms.  Water can penetrate these mulches and be retained below the layer of stones, but hard inorganic mulches add nothing to the soil.  Other inorganic mulches such as weed control matting or shadecloth can be used but these encourage shallow root systems, stifle oxygen intake and again, add nothing to the soil.

It is better, in my opinion, to use an organic mulch, which will help in keeping the roots cool in summer, and in breaking down, will enrich and improve the soil structure.  The addition of organic material can greatly improve water retention and fluff up the soil.  Working these products into the soil can add more texture to keep the soil loose allowing roots to grow more effectively.  

However, it is important to understand the process of breaking down and what this does to the soil.  Let us look at the more common mulches available to us.

Wood chips should never be put on when fresh and green.  The heat generated in ageing the chips will burn the roots and canes of the rose bushes.  The breaking down process robs the soil of nitrogen, which must be replaced. Pine bark is acidic and will alter the Ph of the soil as well as robbing the soil of nitrogen.   If  the shredding process is very fine, the pine bark will act in reverse of what we want, by clumping and forming a solid barrier which the water cannot penetrate.

Grass clippings to a depth of about 3 cms will work except that the breaking down process will lower the Ph.  Too heavy a coating will generate heat and burn the roots and canes.  It can also tend to go mushy and useless.  It will blow away in the wind and unless composted, will cause a real weed infestation.  Similarly, stable manure will cause the same problems as grass cuttings.  Note   Avoid Pony Club manure – you don’t know what they have been fed on.

Pea-straw and Lucerne hay are popular mulches, but both will blow away in high winds, both run the risk of weed infestation – Peas in the case of pea-straw; Lucerne in the case of its hay.  If you have a tree which sheds its autumn leaves, pile them up, run them over with your mower, compost them and you have one of the best mulches there are.

Grass clippings, stable manure, pea-straw, Lucerne hay and autumn leaves are good soil conditioners as well as mulch, if gently dug in and if you are prepared to fight any possible weeds.  

Sugar cane mulch is available commercially, and I suspect it will have the same effect as Lucerne hay.  I have not used mushroom compost, but suspect that, if you can afford it, it would be very valuable as it has already been composted and would add fluffiness and enrichment to the soil.

Our good friends at Neutrog, have introduced a “biologically activated, nutrient rich, weed free, absorbent, super mulch”  which they have named WHOFLUNGDUNG.  I believe it has a pungent aroma which may deter some people from using it, but it sounds like a winner.  

 Wal J 3 Oct 2018


When you have been dealing with roses for some time, it is easy to forget that many people may not be familiar with the terms we throw out with gay abandon.  Today I will look at some of the terms that are applied to modern roses and try to define them.

1.  Hybrid Tea (HT).  The original breeding to obtain an Hybrid Tea rose was to cross a Hybrid Perpetual Rose with a Tea Rose.  This was to give the new breed the Tea perfume, with the long-flowering of the Hybrid Perpetual.  The early HT roses tend to have a single flower on each stem.

2.  Floribunda (Fl) or Cluster-Flower.  As the name implies, these roses have many blooms on the one stem.  Usually, the flowers are smaller than the HT.

3.  Polyantha.  These roses are usually bred from multiflora stock and produce bunches of small flowers on the end of stems.  The leaves are usually smaller than Floribundas and the growth pattern is towards long lax canes.

4.  Climbing HT (HT Cl).  Most climbing HTs are mutants of bush HTs, which retain a climbing habit.  They invariably have strong inflexible canes and hate going downhill, so we keep them going up or at least horizontal.  Some varieties will not grow long canes suitable for festoons, but are suitable for pillars – hence are called Pillar Roses.

5.  Ramblers.  Many of the ramblers originate from the Wichuriana class.  They have very flexible canes with vigorous growth and can be trained to go in any direction.  Many are suitable for weeping standards, although most are once-flowering.

6.  Standards.  The standard “Standard” is three feet.  The nurseryman grafts the required cultivar on to a rootstock stem at the required height.  Coming in many sizes, there is a tendency to call anything over 5 feet, a ‘weeping’ standard, although many of the cultivars do not weep.

7.  Shrub Roses.  A comparatively recent term which has crept in to describe a rose that has been cross-bred from a HT back to one of the Old Roses, such as a Rugosa. 

8.  Ground-cover Roses.  As the name suggests, bred to cover the ground.  Many are bred by Meidiland and are tough, and excellent for purpose.

9.  Minature, Dwarf & Patio Roses.  Again, the name tells the reason for breeding.  There is no real difference between the three categories except to the breeder.



The main part of the Victoria State Rose Garden, is in the form of “A Tudor Rose”.  We work in this section on a regular basis, and so really ought to know what a Tudor Rose is.

In 1989, Lola Porter bred and named a rose, Tudor Rose.  It also grows in drawings, stained glass windows, stone and crowns.
It is a political emblem that originated to celebrate the union of the House of Lancaster and the House of York after the series of battles known as the War of the Roses.  We are talking of the second half of the 15th century, when Henry Tudor of Lancaster became Henry VII and married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV.
Legend has it that the red rose of Lancaster was the Apothecary Rose, and the white rose of York was Alba semi-plena.
The Tudor Monarchs were Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I.
The War of the Roses was really a series of battles between the Houses of Lancaster and York for the right to put their contender on the throne of England.  The period of the War was from 1455 to 1487.
The name “War of the Roses”, came from the fact that each House chose a rose as their symbol.
The House of Lancaster chose Rosa Gallica Officinalis, The Apothecary’s Rose.  This rose originally came from “the Land of the Saracens” to Provins in France when Thibault Le Chansonnier returned from the Crusades.   It is said that Edmond of Woodstock, the youngest son of Edward I of the House of Lancaster, was sent to Provins, a town south of Paris, which at that time was a part of the English realm, to quell a riot.  He brought back the Apothecary’s Rose to England long before the War of the Roses.
Legend has it that the streets of Provins were overcrowded with Apothecaries shops and that each shop had Rosa Gallica Officinalis planted outside.  Officinalis is Latin for “of the shop”, and this rose was famous for its use in many “medicinal” purposes, including “electuary of roses, conserves both moist and dry which is more usually called Sugar of Roses, Syrup of Dryed Roses, Honey of Roses, Distilled Water of Roses, Vinegar of Roses, Ointment of Roses and Ayle of Roses: and the rose petals dried which is of very great use”.
The House of York chose Alba Semi-plena as their emblem.  The Romans had introduced this rose to England during their invasion, so it was well known and liked.  This rose is one of two roses cultivated at Kazanlik, Bulgaria for the production of attar of roses. (The other is Kazanlik or Rosa Damascena Trigintipetala).


We are all aware of the way fashions change and what was good last year is now outdated.  So it has been with roses. 

When the hybrid teas and floribunda roses came on the market back in the mid 1800s, there was a rapid move towards them.  The old roses were out and no one was buying them.  A rose nursery is in the business of making money and will not stock items which are unpopular and will not sell, so their growing fields and catalogues deleted the older varieties.

Recent times have seen strong and growing groups identifying and rescuing these old roses from old homesteads, backyards, cemeteries and roadsides.  They are often referred to as “Rose Rustlers”.  If they can, they identify the roses and get them back into commerce.  If not commercially viable, then they arrange to have specialist gardens adopt the roses and create a pool for future use.  If the rose is not immediately identified, it is given a study name (always shown with double quotation marks) and is usually referred to as a ROR – Renamed Old Rose.

Where we have the garden space the VSRG is assisting in the saving of these rare roses, so that the world pool is not lost from any single disaster.  A current example of potential loss of rare roses is the pending sale of Ruston Roses in Renmark.  David Ruston had set up a special area within his Nursery for the preservation of many rare roses.  Now there is a team of volunteers taking cuttings and budding as many of these as they can before the new buyer’s embargo runs out.

See one of the Heritage Team to take a walk and see some of these rare beauties in our Garden.  


The first roses to bloom in our garden in the spring are the banksiae family.  There are four cultivated forms of this rose. The wild or species form is r. banksiae normalis which has single white flowers and is usually thorny, called in China, Mu Xiang Hua, which means Wood Perfume Flower.

There are two theories as to when and where r. banksiae banksiae came from China to England.  One theory is that rose hunter William Kerr sent it from China in 1796. 

The second theory is that it was sent from Canton to King George III’s garden at Kew in 1807.  Both agree that it was named by William Kerr after Lady Dorothea Banks who was married to Sir Joseph Banks, who was then director of the Kew Gardens, a founder of the Royal Horticultural Society, and a friend and companion of the well-known Captain Cook who went out on a sail and bumped into a little island in the south seas.

Leaving aside the arrogance of the plant hunters who renamed the roses, the Chinese grew this rose for some thousands of years as Mu Hisiang (Grove of Fragrance).

Let us talk some more about Lady Banks (Dorothea Hugesson).  She married Joseph Banks in 1779 after his return from Australia.  She was 20 and he was 36.  It appears not to have been a very exciting marriage, as she merely went to join him and his sister in their London house.  They had no children and she seems to have been kept in the background.  It also appears that they had plenty of time to devote to eating; she weighed 60 kg (9 st 6 lbs) in 1781, and by 1794 she had reached 88kg (13 st 12 lbs).  Still she was no real competition for her sister-in-law (Sarah Sophia Banks) who hit 90kg (14 st 3 lbs) the same year, to say nothing of her husband who ended up at more than 108kg (17 st). 

Back to the roses. All the cultivated forms are thornless, perfumed, evergreen and very vigourous.   r. banksiae banksiae is a cultivated white double rose, more commonly known these days as r. banksiae alba plena.  Its double-golden cousin, r. banksia lutea, and its single sister, r. banksiae lutescens were common cultivated garden roses in China. R. banksiae lutea arrived in England in 1824, and its single sister, r. banksiae lutescens, reaching there via Italy in 1871. 

Wal J Oct 2019


Around the time when the Angles, Saxons and Jutes had stopped arguing about the colour of woad they would paint for the next battle, Confucius wrote that the Emperor of China had over 500 books on roses.  The Chinese in general were not overfond of roses, preferring Chrysanthemums.  This did not stop them from cultivating roses, nor from their nurseries selling them. Of interest, the Chinese grew their roses in pots.

In the temperate and sub-tropical areas of China, the Chinese developed a class of roses which ultimately became known as Tea Roses.  These were a twiggy bush.  The high centered flowers were on thin stems which caused them to droop, and a variety of perfumes.  They also had a wide range of flower colours and were repeat flowering.  Most had r. gigantea in their breeding. 

Tea roses were poor performers in the cold English climate, so lost their popularity very quickly.   However, the flower and perfume attributes made them popular with European breeders who crossed them with roses from the Class of Hybrid Perpetuals, producing our modern Hybrid Teas.

  China was closed to all foreign visitors during the early 1800s, the only port available being Canton.  So the plant hunters of Europe would source plants, including roses, from the Canton Nursery of Fa Tee or fossick through the fodder brought into their barracks for their animals. It would be interesting to know whether the Fa Tee Nurseries labelled their plants in 1808, and if so, what they were called. These would then be shipped to Europe via Calcutta. They would go in pots, or with soil at the roots, sewn up in cloth or hessian or in special glass cases known as Wardian cases.   

At Calcutta, the Botanic Gardens, under the care of Dr William Roxburgh from 1813, received them and cared for them until they were considered fit for onward transport.  But this did cause some confusion.  Since Calcutta was in Bengal, the English called the China roses Bengal Roses and the Tea roses were regarded as descendants of r. indica on the wrongful assumption that they originated in Calcutta, Bengal, India.

  Now, the question is, how the Tea roses got their name!!! Was it because, as some claim, that the roses had a tea scent “like the smell of a newly opened tea chest?  Or from being associated with the tea being shipped on the fast East India Tea Clippers? (not likely as the Clippers only started doing business in the mid-1800s).  Or, was it because many of them came from the Fa Tee Nurseries?

Wal J Nov 2019


Each year we replace at least five beds of roses. Our Selection Committee has the glorious job of selecting the new varieties that will go in.  They have the choice from the Trial Beds and they have read all the literature (most of which is sales pitch, and bears no resemblance to the final result) and make a choice. The choice is based on height, vigour, colour and best mass display.  They then sell their choices to Council and we get to enjoy the result.

 Imagine if you are in Europe in 1596.  A French nurseryman, Gerard, produces a catalogue for your selection.  It lists 16 roses (and 225 carnations and 437 tulips).

 By 1800, catalogues have increased to 100 varieties, because of the start of importation of China roses and crossbreeding from them.  In 1814 Empress Josephine claims to have a complete collection of 250 roses in her garden at Malmaison.  Du Pont, a famous Belgian rose breeder, offered his collection of rose hybrids to the Palais Luxembourg, and by the 1850s they had 1800 different species and varieties.

 Then there was an explosion.  Botanica Encyclopedia of Roses., published in 1998 lists 7000 varieties.  Modern Roses 12 of 2010 lists over 30,000 roses by registered names, with about 3000 new registrations each year.

 Doesn’t our Selection Committee have an easy choice?

 However, let us not get too excited by all this European stuff.  When  Gerard produced his famous catalogue in 1596, the Chinese had been growing roses for centuries.  About 500 BC, Confucius wrote that the Emperor of China had over 600 BOOKS about roses.


All gardeners know that cultivated plants are developed, either by chance or plan, from wild or species parents.  So it is with the rose family, which has a particularly rich selection of species from the northern hemisphere.  Remember there are no roses native to the southern hemisphere.  

There are generally considered to be about 125 different species – 95 from Asia; 18 from North America and the other 12 mainly from Europe. Each species may have quite a deal of variation in its features due to free hybridization in the wild and the area (soil) in which it developed.  Many, taken from their native territory, became pests and even declared noxious weeds.  An example if r. multiflora which is noxious in many American states, covering whole hillsides like blackberries.

Within the group of plants known as roses, there are a number of tribes which contain roses of similar botanical features. A potted version of these tribes are; 

GALLICANAE •••  From Europe, they are distinguished by upright growth, thin needlelike prickles and, when on their own roots, many sucker rapidly.  Once flowering in pink, beetroot red and purple slate tones.

CANINAE •••  The Dog Roses from Europe have a very untidy growth pattern and are well armoured with needlelike prickles.  Flowering in summer only, the flowers are single and pink to cream.  They produce an array of hips in autumn, which the birds distribute, spreading the plants far and wide.

PIMPINELLIFOLIAE •••  The Scots or Burnet roses from Europe are generally compact and twiggy, well armed with thin thorns and hard bristles.  Spring flowering in usually single form in yellow, cream, white or pink.  The hips are usually very round, shiny and black.

INDICAE ••• Most of the roses from China fall in this tribe.  Many, if not most, are cultivated forms taken into gardens centuries ago.  Their growth is twiggy and dense with large soft leaves.  The flowers typically, hang their heads and the thorns are sparse, but hooked and strong.  Repeating flower colours range from soft yellow to pink and crimson.

SYNSTYLAE •••  This tribe is the climbers, five of which are worthy of special mention.  Musk roses gave the first tendency to recurrent flowering in the Old European roses.  r. wichuraiana is vigourous and a rambler which produced the Dorothy Perkins type.  r. multiflora gave the Floribundas their large heads of blooms.  r. arvensis is little known in Australia, but produced the Ayrshire tribe of roses.  r. sempervirens was known by the Victorians as the Evergreens, and produce large clusters of blooms.  Examples in our Garden are Felicitie et Perpetue and Adelaide d’Orleans.

CINNAMOMAE •••  A ‘catch-all’ tribe covering species which don’t fit elsewhere.  The tribe have not been used to any extent for breeding purposes, but there are some fine roses in the group, such as the moyessii,  and rugosa.  These are renowned for their hips.

CAROLINAE •••  A tribe native to North America including r.virginiana, r. nitida, and r. foliosa.  Most of the tribe enjoy wet ground and mild shade.

Several species are quite distinct from the main stream of the above, almost to being regarded as ‘borderline’ Rosa.  The banksias, laevigata, bracteata, roxburghii and stellata are in this tribe. 


rosa laevigata. A species hermaphrodite rose, native to southern China, Taiwan, Laos and Vietnam.   Latin for smooth or polished, meaning the glossy leaves. This rose has been naturalized for over 200 years in many parts of Georgia, Florida and Alabama, USA and has been adopted as the State flower of Georgia.  Its familiar name is Cherokee Rose, but is also known as Snow-White Rose, Rosier Blanc de Neige, Rosa nivea and, in China as Chin Ying Tzu (Golden Cherry) because of its hips.

The flowers bloom in the early spring and are 6-10 cm in diameter, fragrant, with pure white petals and yellow stamens. In favourable conditions a second flowering of this hardy plant will occur . The flowers have a clove-like fragrance. The flowers are followed by bright red and bristly hips, 2-4 cm in diameter. 

Facts About laevigata

  •  The flowers are densely arranged along the length of the canes that form garlands of blossoms on the plant.
  • The plant is a climbing shrub, scrambling over other shrubs and small trees to heights of up to 10 m. 
  • The evergreen climbing rose produces long, thorny, vine like canes that form a mound 10-12 ft (3-3.7 m) in height and about 15 ft (4.6 m) wide. 
  • It is often seen sprawling across adjacent shrubs and other supports that it employs to climb to even greater heights.
  • The flower has antibacterial, anticholesterolemic, astringent, carminative, depurative, diuretic properties. The flowers are used in the treatment of dysentery and to restore hair cover.
  • There is a layer of hairs around the seeds just beneath the flesh of the fruit. These hairs can cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract if ingested.
  • The plant is excessively thorny and generously supplied with a vivid green leaves. 
  • The stem is also very bristly. 
  • In Chinese medicine, the rosehips are used for male sexual ailments. 

 In 1838, the Cherokee people who had not moved voluntarily from their lands were forced to march to the west, so that the settlers and miners could take over the territory.  No better symbol exists of the pain and suffering of the “Trail where they cried” than the Cherokee Rose. The mothers of the Cherokee grieved so much that the chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the mothers’ spirits and give them strength to care for their children.  From that day forward, a beautiful new flower, a rose, grew wherever a mother’s tears fell to the ground.  The rose is white, for the mother’s tears. It has a gold center, for the gold taken from the Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem that represent the seven Cherokee clans that made the journey.  To this day, the Cherokee Rose prospers along the route of the “Trail of Tears”.


A climbing floribunda, bred by Delbard of France in 1966.

 In the very early 1970’s Ted Treloar of Portland, imported three plants of Altissimo from Delbard-Chabert of France.  Three was the maximum number of growing plants the regulations allowed, and regulations being regulations, he was required to send them to the Plant Quarantine Station at South Yarra.  The treatment they received there resulted in one dying, a second almost so, and the remaining plant barely surviving.  

 When the quarantine period was over, the plants, including the dead one, were returned to Portland.  Ted decided that the only hope of rescuing anything would be from the sickly third plant. But he reasoned that it would need a warmer climate than Portland to have any chance of survival.  Hence he sent it to David Ruston at Renmark with the request that David do his best to try and save it if at all possible. This David managed to do in a fashion, the plant throwing one small new shoot.  

 From this shoot, David was able to send Ted a piece of budwood about half a hand-span long.  Ted took this and budded up some understocks from which all plants of Altissimo in Australia are descended.  So all you Altissimo admirers and growers, give thanks to Ted and David.

rosa gallica officianalis.


Apothecary’s Rose


Common Provins Rose

Double Red Rose


Old Red Damask

Provins Rose

Red Damask

Red Gallica

Red Rose of Lancaster

Rosa gallica duplex

Rosa gallica maxima

Rosa gallica officinalis

Rosa gallica plena

Rosa gallica var. officinalis Ser.

Rosa gallica var. plena Regal synonym

Rose de Provins

Rosier de Provins ordinaire

 This rose of many names is thought to be the once ‘red damask’ and it was the one most often used as the apothecary rose. 

 Its ancient history may perhaps start with such a rose depicted in a Minoan fresco dated at between 1500 and 1600 BC, which is believed to have been the gallica rose. 

 Its modern chapter takes us to the Crusades.  This rose originally came from “the Land of the Saracens” to Provins in France when in 1240 Thibault Le Chansonnier returned from the Sixth Crusade bringing back the “Rose of Damas and a piece of the true cross”.

 It is said that in 1279 Edmond of Woodstock, the youngest son of Edward I of the House of Lancaster, was sent to Provins, a town south of Paris, which at that time was a part of the English realm, to quell a riot.  It is alleged that he brought back the Apothecary’s Rose to England to become the Red Rose of Lancaster.  This became the Lancaster house symbol during the War of The Roses in the fifteenth century between the Houses of Lancaster and York.

 Legend has it that the streets of Provins were overcrowded with Apothecaries shops and that most shops had Rosa Gallica Officinalis planted outside as advertising.  Officinalis is Latin for “of the shop”, and this rose was famous for its use in many “medicinal” purposes. 

 When Marie Antoinette stopped at Provins overnight in 1770 on her way to marry the Dauphin (Later Louis XVI), the townspeople prepared for her a bed made entirely of gallica officinalis rose blossoms. Its perfume is still famous today and is one of two roses cultivated at Kazanlik, Bulgaria for the production of attar of roses. (The other is Kazanlik or Rosa Damascena Trigintipetala). 

 It was among the prized plants brought to America by the Pilgrims, and it naturalized readily in the New World.  Its long underground shoots make it almost impossible to eliminate once established.   


You all know that my primary interest is in Heritage roses, but I try to remember that there are many fine tales to be told about modern roses also, so today’s story is about one very well known modern rose

 Just before the Germans occupied France in 1942, Francis Meilland had bred a rose, which he named after his mother, Mme A. Meilland.  Her given name was Claudia, but in those days the ladies of the house were always known by their husband’s name.  It has a very convoluted breeding being (George Dickson x Souvenir de Claudius Pernet) x (Joanna Hill x Chas. P. Kilham) x Margaret McGredy.  He was proud of his breeding so sent cuttings to his agents in Germany, Britain and Italy. Then war came and he lost track of it due to other worries.  Someone took a cutting of this rose to the USA, which is very surprising as the Americans were, and still are, paranoid about any plant material from other countries.

Meilland’s Italian agents called the rose Gioia (Joy).  The Germans named it Gloria Dei (The Glory of God).  The Danes called it Beke; and the Norwegians called it Fredrosen.   The Americans released the rose in 1945 and called it Peace.

Australia procured the rose from France after the war, so we originally called it by its original name, Mme A Meilland but the nurserymen found it sold better as Peace, so changed the name to suit.

As a sideline, Australia had bred its own Peace rose in 1902, to commemorate the end of the Boer War.  The breeder (finder) was Piper of whom little is known.  This yellow tea rose is a sport of one of the Nabonnand roses and to distinguish it from the other Peace, it is known as Peace 1902

The climbing sport is extremely hardy and vigourous in the right climate and has the same flowering characteristics as the bush form.  

Chicago Peace is another of several sports of Peace, and was found (bred) by Johnson of the USA in 1962.  Johnson had his nursery in Chicago, so called the rose after the location.  How uninteresting!!

Chicago Peace also has an Australian connection in that the climbing sport was discovered and introduced by Allen Brundrett in 1978.  Allen was a good friend of this garden and had his nursery at Narre Warren, until urban spread forced him to sell out in 2005.


Imagine yourself in Europe at the end of the 17th century.   All your roses are pink or white , once blooming with strong canes, little perfume and good foliage.  They are not popular, being used for medicinal purposes by beldames and monks.

Then, starting in 1790, four roses arrive from China which will alter the rose world.  All four are repeat-flowering, dwarf in nature, with twiggy growth and demonstrably different foliage and perfume.  They became known as the “Stud Roses”.  Three of the four are hybrids.

Note that it is extremely difficult to pin down dates and places of introduction of these roses to the European scene


First on the scene was Old Blush.  (See Redoute’s Roses Pages 32/33)

Classified as a China rose, it’s flowers are pale pink,  semi-double, cupped to flat, with twiggy growth.   It has at least 19 other names, but we’ll stick with the most common one.  It has been a common garden rose in China since at least 1752 when it was claimed to have been brought back to Upsala by a ship’s doctor for his friend, the botanist and father of plant classification, Carolus Linnaeus. 

There is some controversy over its first appearance in Europe, as it is also claimed that, in 1792,  Sir George Staunton, secretary to Lord Macartney, and enthusiastic gardener, found the rose in a Canton nursery and shipped it back to Sir Joseph Banks who was director of  the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.  In 1793, a Mr Parsons grew the rose in his garden at Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, presumably from cuttings or seed provided by Banks.  This is where it gets its name Parsons’ Pink China.  

The French were the main rose breeders at this time and they were quick to use the repeat-flowering attribute of Old Blush in creating the modern roses.  It is a parent of the Noisette family through its cross with Old White Musk and  a parent of the Bourbon family through its cross with Autumn Damask.

It is in the Heritage Border near the Turnstile.


Next to arrive on the European scene was Slater’s Crimson China.  This rose also has more than 20 synonyms.  Again, a Chinese garden rose since at least 1658, it is a low growing bush, twiggy growth, with deep red single flowers, which bloom continuously.  It has little or no fragrance.  

This is the non-hybrid of the four stud roses, being propagated commercially by Gilbert Slater of Knot’s Green, Leytonstone who imported it in 1792.  By 1798, the French, who dominated hybridisation at the time, were using it as breeding stock to produce repeat-flowering, true red roses.  There are different roses on sale under this name and a fair bit of controversy as to which is the “right” rose.  

It is in the Heritage Border, near the first small gate.


 Number three on the European scene was Hume’s Blush Tea-Scented China.  (See Redoute’s Roses Pages 42/43)  This only has a dozen synonyms, but it was originally called r. indica odorata then later r. indica fragrans.  It is of interest to compare the rose we have as Hume’s Blush Tea-scented China with the botanical portrait left to us by Redoute back in 1803.

The Fa Tee Nursery of Canton is known to be the source of this rose and it was named for Sir Abraham Hume of Wormleybury, Hertfordshire, but the rose was only his by purchase.  It was bought for him in 1810 by an agent of the East India Company who was posted to Canton.

  It is said to have survived arduous conditions upon importation, with only 1 in 1000 plants surviving first the voyage from China, exposed on the ship’s open decks, and then in an English blockade of French ports during the Napoleonic Wars. 

It is in the Heritage Border, near the double gates.


 The last of the Stud Roses was Park’s Yellow Tea-scented China.  The original rose is described as “pale sulphur yellow, small shrub that rebloomed, set hips and had only a moderate tea scent”.  It is thought that this rose was extinct over 100 years ago.  The rose in commerce today as Park’s Yellow Tea-scented China is creamy white, once-flowering, strongly tea-scented and does not set hips.

In 1823, the Royal Horticultural Society sent John Damper Parks out to China, primarily to collect good varieties of chrysanthemums.  He returned the next year with the chrysanthemums, but also with the yellow Banksian rose and a bright yellow tea rose, which was named after him. 

I often wonder why the original rose is still in the listing of the Stud Roses, as it does not appear to have any progeny.

The rose in commerce as Park’s Yellow Tea-scented China is in the Heritage Border near the double gates.

Old Rose Terms : STUD ROSES

    - Up to mid 1700's , Europeans had the choice of pink or white roses which were once flowering. Then along came the plant hunters with their finds from China. Four of these were known as the stud roses, because they introduced new colours and repeat flowering for breeders to take advantage of.
PARSON'S PINK CHINA -repeat flowering
SLATER'S CRIMSON CHINA which brought repeat flowering &
a true red.
HUME'S BLUCH TEA-SCENTED CHINA which introduced repeat
flowering & a pale yellow.
PARK'S YELLOW TEA-SCENTED CHINA which brought repeat
flowering & a pale yellow.    


Two weeks ago I spoke of the sub-genera Hulthemia and the one rose which fitted this section – r. persica – and after more than 200 years the breeding programs which produced, amongst others, Eyes for You.

Today, I’ll take you on a short journey to another  sub-genera – Platyrhodon.  Platyrhodon means ‘flaky bark’ in Greek

 The interesting thing about all the sub-genera is that the roses classified therein are far from your average rose.  Platyrhodon is no different.  There are only three forms in the section – rosa roxburghii, rosa roxburghii normalis and rosa roxburghii plena.  The first two are wild or species roses, while the third, rosa roxburghii plena has been a cultivated rose in China for centuries and is known as ‘hoi-tong-hong’.  None of plant growths look like the roses we are used to and the only real difference between the forms is the flower – two singles, one white, one pink, and a double pink.

 rosa roxburghii is also known as Burr rose; Chinquapin Rose; or The Chestnut Rose.  It is unique in many ways.  The pink, single flowers open from peculiar mossy buds at irregular intervals throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn.  Then the hips form.  These are bristly and globular, resembling chestnut burrs.  The canes are pale and brown with flaky bark, and the ferny looking leaves are divided into many small leaflets – as many as 15.  Have a look also at the peculiar thorn presentation, where two thorns, side by side, protect the new cane growth. 

 William Roxburgh was the assistant surgeon to  the East India Company when he came across a plant of rosa roxburghii plena in a garden in Canton in the early 1800s.  He sent it to the Botanic Gardens in Calcutta and it eventually found its way to England in 1820.  At that time the Opium Wars were on and foreigners were excluded from the interior of China, so the wild forms were not “discovered” until the late 1800s.

 The hips have been distilled and used as an anti-oxidant.  They are edible and I am told that they have a sweet/sour taste.  I am also told that they are used to ferment wine.

 rosa roxburghii has not been used for any breeding program that I am aware of, nor does it appear to have cross-bred, so it remains true to type even after all these years.  It is a fascinating plant and well worth a short walk to the Heritage Border to see our specimen of r. roxburghii plena.


There is a little group of plants under the sub-genera of Hulthemia which was regarded as “not true roses, just like donkeys are not true horses”.   Originally there was only one species in the group, rosa persica.  This was found in the area of ancient Persia – between Iran and Afghanistan, a hot dry desert-like area.  In its home environment, rosa persica sends out underground runners.  It is an unattractive plant  (weed-like) with thorny rambling branches and would unnoticed except for its distinctive red blotch at the base of the petals. Its discovery is credited to Andre Michaux in 1784.

  Seeds were taken back to France, but it was not until  1836 that a hybrid was bred – rosa berberifolia hardii   (aka r x hardii) – by Julien Alexandre Hardy.  The success in crossbreeding with a true rose led to the Hulthemia classification being changed to Rosa Persica. Because the early hybrids were infertile and unattractive hybridisation was slow and not very successful.  In the 1970s and 1980s, Joe Cocker and Jack Harkness collaborated to try and produce new varieties.  

Jack Harkness (UK) bred four,  including Tigris and Euphrates.  Euphrates was believed to be completely sterile (later found to be incorrect) and Tigris had a low level of fertility.  Each had the red centre but the whole breeding line was extremely prone to diseases such as black spot,  all were once-blooming and almost all were sterile.

After the death of Joe Cocker, Jack Harkness bundled the whole program up and let it out to open forum.  Different breeders using different programs and working independently in the early 2000s  produced a number of new hybrids which are commercially available.  

In the USA, Ralph Moore produced Persian Autumn, Persian Flame, Persian Light Persian Sunset and Persian Peach.  Jim Sproul of California has developed the Eyeconic series of Lemonade, Pink Lemonade, Melon Lemonade and Pomegranate Lemonade. Because of quarantine restrictions, none of these are legally available in Australia.

In the UK, Chris Warner bred Tiggle and Tingle, both of which were released in South Africa as Tiger Eyes.  Peter Harkness released Persian Mystery, Alissar, Princess of Phoenicia and The Sun and The Heart.  

The German, Jan Diedag Janssen created Persian Butterfly and the Dutch grower, Peter Ilsink, developed the lovely series, Babylon Eyes which were released in Japan.


Peter James  of the UK bred Eyes for You and Pejamigo – released in Australia as Bowral’s Rose.  Eyes for You has been planted in our Garden in the round bed in Petal A.  Make sure that in November you visit the bed and admire the results of more than 200 years of cross-breeding The modern Persica hybrids are comparatively disease resistant and repeat flowering, and are also more fertile so we can expect to see more EYES in the future. 


In 2015, some of our members travelled to Lyon, France to be at the 17th World Convention of Rose Societies.  Lyon has a special place in rose history as we will see.  

 The British National Rose Society, consisting of professional nurserymen and wealthy clergymen, was founded in 1876 and new rose varieties were often introduced at its rose shows.  In 1879  an ex cattle breeder and farmer, Henry Bennett, displayed 10 roses with named parentage, which he called  “Pedigree hybrids of the Tea rose”.  

Henry Bennett deserves a place in the Rose Hall of Fame as he had applied the principles of cattle breeding to rose hybridisation.  He carefully recorded the crossing of Tea roses with Hybrid Perpetual roses.  Up to this time, the introduction of new roses depended on natural cross-pollination or the unrecorded pollination of parents by breeders.  The seed parent would be known, but not the pollen parent.

 In 1880, Henry Bennett was invited to Lyon to address a meeting of the highly influential Horticultural Society of Lyon on the status of the Hybrid Teas. Francois Lacharme of Lyon had already contributed to the new class and in 1859 had introduced Victor Verdier which he believed to be a cross between Jules Margottin a Hybrid Perpetual and Safrano a Tea.  Note the date – 1859.

 As a result of his meeting, the French announced the creation of a new class of roses – the Hybrid Teas.  After that, breeders began to list some of their roses in the new class.  However the British National Rose Society would not acknowledge the new class until 1893 and in 1897 they classified La France as the first Hybrid Tea, even though it was not introduced until 1872 and its parentage was completely unknown, being a seedling found by the Frenchman, Guillot, in a patch  at Lyon-Monplaisir.  Lyon really does have an affinity with roses, doesn’t it?  Let the argument continue, but La France is universally accepted as the first HT. (It is in the Heritage between the first small gate and the double gate – a scrawny little rose if ever there was one.)

 Let me come back briefly to Lyon and its association with roses. It involves a Frenchman who became known as “The Wizard of Lyon”.  His story deserves more time than we have at present so we will journey there another time.  The man in question is Joseph Pernet – Ducher and he earned his title with a rose named Soliel d’ Or, a Pernetiana, which is a class of roses named after the man.


Born in Lyon, Joseph Pernet was apprenticed to the nursery trade under his father, Joseph Pernet fils, at age 12.  He was at the 1880 Horticultural Society of Lyon Meeting to hear Henry Bennett on the pedigree breeding of Hybrid Teas.  At that time he was rose foreman to the widow of Antoine Ducher, a highly respected Lyon rose grower.  She bred Cecile Brunner, introduced by Joseph in 1881 after her death.  

In 1881, Joseph Pernet took over Mme Ducher’s interests in the nursery and shortly after married her daughter, Marie, assuming, as was the custom at the time, the name Pernet-Ducher.

He started a HT breeding program producing roses such as Mme Caroline Testout, Mme Abel Chatenay and Antoine Riveire, the latter generally presumed to be the parent of the Ophelia family.

Back in the 1880’s the dream was for a repeat-flowering, pure yellow rose.  All agreed that pure yellow had to come from one of the species of which the finest yellow was (and is) rosa foetida (Austrian Yellow).  The problem was, this rose was notoriously low in polen potency, so nothing was coming of it.  Pernet-Ducher perservered and finally got some seedlings from Antoine Ducher, but the seedlings showed little promise and were once flowering.

He planted them out in a border as a curiosity and forgot them until a visitor asked to see them. To his delight, Joseph noticed a self-sown seedling bearing small double blooms of a distinct orange-yellow.  He had stumbled on to a basic principle of plant genetics called “skip a generation”, and had also given the world its first repeat-flowering golden coloured rose.  He named it Soliel d’Or. It was later classified as a new group of roses – the Pernetianas.

He continued his breeding program until the early 1920’s.  Tw were named in memory of his sons, killed in action, but they never gained popularity and seem to have vanished.  He also bred Rayon d’Or, an ancestor of Peace.  He also bred two yellow climbers, but they held no interest for him so he did not register them.  In 1923 he was induced to introduce one of them -  La Reve as a competitor to Pemberton’s hybrid musks.  It remained in a garden in Gloucestershire where it became known as Hidcote Yellow but was comparatively recently changed to Lawrence Johnston.

In ‘Modern Garden Roses’, Peter Harkness wrote “not only yellows, but also salmon, flame and apricot roses flowed from Pernet-Ducher’s nursery, earning him the well-deserved soubriquet, “The Wizard of Lyon””.  Wilhelm Kordes I called him “The Grand Master.  For all of you who love yellow roses, thank Joseph Pernet-Ducher for his persistence. 


Last week Ted and his team planted the rose Lubra in the Australian Leaf.  It is a Hybrid Tea rose bred from Ophelia and Alistair Clarke’s Black Boy.  It was bred by Mrs Olive Rose Fitzhardinge and released on the market in 1938.  Lubra does not refer to any particular aboriginal maiden.  The name alludes to it being a darker and more elegant descendant of Black Boy.

 Mrs Fitzhardinge came from a wealthy New South Wales family and started breeding roses in 1920.  She was the first Australian to patent her work.  Patents were the precursor to Plant Breeders Rights, protecting the plant and its name.  (PBR came in in 1987).  She bred twenty thousand seedlings in ten years of which only 12 were satisfactory.  With changing fashions, only four of the 12 are known to be in existence and two of these are in danger of extinction.  The four are Warrawee, Lubra, Prudence  and Lady Edgeworth David.

 We have Warrawee as well as Lubra in the Leaf.  Warrawee was named after the gated suburb (and society) where the Fitzhardinges lived from 1917 to 1937.  All Sydney North Shore suburbs had aboriginal names and Warrawee was originally only a railway station.

 If you wish to see Lady Edgeworth David you will have to go to Bacchus Marsh where the rose is in the Maddingley Park, Nieuwesteeg Heritage Rose Garden, collection.  At present the only known plant of Prudence is held by John Nieuwesteeg at Yellingbo in the National Plant Collections Register of significant Australian rose cultivars. Appointments only.


If you wish to know more about Mrs Fitzhardinge, I suggest you google her.  There is a very good Wikipedia article there.  An interesting lady.


Joseph Pemberton (1852-1926) was a typical English “Gentleman” clergyman. He spent his spare time with his roses, growing, exhibiting and breeding.  He would cart his blooms all over the country to shows, with the help of his gardeners, Mr Spruzen and Mr J.A. Bentall. He saw the need for producing a “small man’s” rose – a rose which would grow and produce quantities of blooms with little trouble and without the high maintenance given by head gardeners. This, coupled with the need for splendid fragrance, lead him on from one hybrid to the next, raising from 5,000 to 10,000 seedlings annually.

He started his own classification of roses, “The Pembertons”, but to do this he retired from the ministry and started his own nursery with the help of Jack and Ann Bentall. He introduced his first Pembertons, Danae and Moonlight in 1913 as Hybrid Teas.  Because of their musk perfume, he changed the classification to Hybrid Musks and they have retained this grouping to this day.  

As a group they are strong growers that can be trained either as climbers or as a relaxed bush.  The flowers are semi-double, fragrant and borne on clusters on the end of long stems.  They repeat well after deadheading.

Within the group, there are seven surviving which bear female names.  One can assume that his classical education would have lead to their names as he was unmarried, living with his sister Florence.  These seven are known as Pemberton’s ladies.  They are:-


Cornelia – apricot pink, double flowers

Clytemnestra – lemony-white, semi-double flowers

Danae -  bright yellow, semi-double flowers

Felecia – rich pink, very double flowers

Francesca – apricot-yellow, semi-double flowers

Kathleen – clear pink,single flower

Penelope – creamy-pink semi-double flowers


We have all bar Clytemnestra and Danae in the Heritage Border.

One must be aware that when taken from their native Essex, UK, the “ladies” can be quite rampant.  For example, the English literature tells us that Felecia will grow about four feet high and four feet wide.  Put her in an Australian garden and she will easily grow ten feet high and spread her wings along twelve feet of fence without even trying hard.  Must be something to do with the free and easy climate??

Rev Joseph Hardwick Pemberton deserves a place in our roll of people who have made a difference to the Rose World.  This was recognised by the UK National Rose Society by awarding him the very first Dean Hole Medal.


THE AUSTRALIAN LEAF ..... a little History

Fifteen years ago, the Victoria State Rose Garden’s southern boundary was a fenceline running from the small gate in the fence between the Mansion and the Garden, through what is now the centre of the Leaf, to the double gates leading to Parks reserve.

 Stage Two of the Garden was approved in 2000 and work was started in setting out the layout of the Leaf and Bud.  It was fortunate that Mr James Priestly was still fit enough to assist in this setting out so as to see his dream coming true.

 As this effort was coming to fruition during the Australia Bicentennial celebrations, a plan was formed to stock the 50 beds of the Leaf with Australian roses. A Centenary of Federation Grant was successfully applied for to complete the task.

The selection criteria was that as far as possible, roses would be selected on the basis of :

  • Year of introduction – to be from 1901 to 2001
  • From as many states of origin as possible
  • From as many Australian breeders as possible.

A small team was set up to select and source the roses.  Not an easy task, as many Australian roses have not remained popular.  For example, in 2000, from a list of over 600 known Australian roses bred, over half of them were no longer available.  It gets worse – of about 50 new varieties introduced each year in Australia, only about 10 per cent are still on the market five years later. AND all of our rose breeders are amateurs.  Even our most prolific breeder, Alister Clark, released his roses through state rose societies, so that he did not lose his amateur status as an exhibitor.

Also, many roses with Australian names are in fact bred overseas and renamed for our market.  But the task of selection was a lot of fun, particularly sourcing the roses.

Our earliest rose is Penelope Tea, bred by John Williams of Queensland in 1906.  Six women are represented – Olive Fitzhardinge of NSW;  Marguerite Parkes of NSW; Myrtle Robertson of NSW;  Connie Ryan of WA;  Lillia Wetherley of Tas; and, Sister Mary Xavier of Tas.

New South Wales was represented by Eric Welsh, Frank Riethmuller;  Queensland by Fred Armbrust, John Williams and Eric Long;  South Australia by George Thomson;  Tasmania by R. Watson;  Victoria by Alister Clark, Ron Bell, Bill Allender, Jim Priestly, Ian Spriggs, Bruce Brundrett, George Dawson, and Laurie Newman;  West Australia by Peter Gibson.

We never did find a breeder in the Northern Territory. 


When the planners started the VSRG rose planting, they had a colour scheme in mind.  This colour plan has been negated over the years, but there are vestiges of it left.

 I am going to give you the plan as I remember it, but would be quite happy to have input from the longer serving members where my memory has broken down.

 Firstly there was no colour plan for the beds within the Petals, only the intention that the taller roses would be in the outer beds, leading to small bushes in the center.  There was to be a fountain in the center, where the large Gazebo now is.  A power line runs down the center of avenue A/E to work the pump – but now serves the power points in the gazebo.

 Let’s start with the arches and avenues.  

The Arch and Avenue of Petal A/E were yellow, with Climbing Peace on the Arch and Friesia on the standards.

A/B was red, with Altissimo on the Arch and Marlena on the standards.

B/C was orange with Bettina on the Arch and Caid on the standards.

C/D was pink with Evangaline on the arch and Bridal Pink on the standards.

D/E was white with Pascali on the arch and Frances Phoebe on the standards

 There were only five varieties of weeping standards throughout the Tudor.  They were 

Dorothy Perkins



Happy Times

Sander’s White

Of these, only Dortmund was repeat flowering. 

 Again, the festoons were within a colour plan.  Petal A had pink and pink. Petal B had pink and white.  Petal C had huge tree like Cecile Brunner . Petal D had red and red. Petal E had mauve and red(crimson).

 Then there were the tripods.

Petal A was yellow, reflecting the Arch and avenue A/E, but as there were very few yellow Pillar Roses, orange  was also used.  There was Sutter’s Gold and I can remember Mrs Sam McGredy being on another, but cannot remember the others.

 Petal B was red, reflecting the avenue A/B. Featured here was Danse de Sylphes, Paul’s Scarlet.

 Petal C was white, with Summer Snow and Iceberg featuring heavily.

 Petal D was pink, with Handel and Titian.

  Petal E was the left-overs.  It had a mixture of Bettina, Iceberg, Masquerade.  It was originally meant to be white, but the original crew felt that the white suited better in Petal C, so they used what they had left over to fill the gaps in Petal E.



Do you ever wonder how, in the 1800s, they got the roses from China to England in sailing ships?  The Plant Hunters and missionaries frequently bought them from Chinese nurseries (the first Tea rose came from the Fa Tee Nurseries near Canton in n1808) and shipped them to England via Calcutta. They would go planted in tubs, or with soil at the roots, sewn up in cloth or hessian or in special glass cases known as Wardian cases.   

At Calcutta, the Botanic Gardens, under the care of Dr William Roxburgh from 1813, received them and cared for them until they were considered fit for onward transport.  But this did cause some confusion.  Since Calcutta was in Bengal, the English called the China roses Bengal Roses and the Tea roses were regarded as descendants of r. indica on the wrongful assumption that they originated in Calcutta, Bengal, India.

It would be interesting to know whether the Fa Tee Nurseries (and similar) labelled their plants in 1808, and if so, what they were called.  We do know some of the Chinese names nowadays; r.odorata was known as Fun Jwan Lo; r. banksia was Mu Xiang Hua (Wood Perfume Flower); and, r. laevigata was known as Chin Ying Tzu.

Now, the question is, how the Tea roses got their name!!!

 Was it because, as some claim, that the roses had a tea scent “like the smell of a newly opened tea chest?

 Did they get their tea scent from being associated with the tea being shipped on the same Tea Clippers?

 Was it because the roses were shipped in the fast Tea Clippers of the East India Company?

 Or, was it because many of them came from the Fa Tee Nurseries?


Sappho, the Greek poet, called it “Queen of Flowers” in about 600 BC, but to the Arabs it was a masculine flower.

Romans used it extensively and gave us many terms
-sub-rosa – when a forum discussion was to be kept secret a rose was displayed in the Senate
- ceiling roses – a favourite pastime of the Romans was to have a net filled with roses above the partying guests, and let it loose during the feasting.

Said to be one of the causes of the downfall of the Roman Empire because much of the arable land was given over to the growing of roses, due to demand.

Early Christians saw it as a symbol of paganism, orgies and lust, but that changed and about 400 AD the church adopted rosa alba rose as its symbol.

Before long the rose was elevated to become a symbol of Christianity and especially of the saints. Most of the local roses of the time were five petalled and pink. The reddish rose, rosa gallica officianalis, was used to symbolize the blood and agony of the crucifixion of Jesus; the five petals representing his five wounds. The rose emblem is still to be found in churches everywhere, particularly in the form of the Rose Window of stained glass. Many headstones in graveyards have stone blossoms carved on them. This is actually a pagan practice harkening back to the burial customs of the Greeks and Romans, who dressed their dead in rose wreaths. But that is another story.

 The rosary supposedly dates from the 12th century when Saint Dominic invented this new kind of praying. Legend has it that Dominic, worn down by months of unsuccessful evangelizing of the Cathars of Eastern Europe, fell into a troubled sleep and was visited in a dream by the Virgin Mary. She gave him a string of beads to aid him in his devotions, explaining that the beads were made from the kneaded petals of roses growing in her heavenly garden. But the flaw in this legend is that rosary beads did not appear until a century after Dominic’s death and even then the oldest beads we have from Dominican monks were carved from wood.

There are rosaries from the Carmelite nuns at the convent of Avila, Spain, an order that, since the Middle Ages has been continuously making rosaries using an obscure medieval method.   The petals of rosa gallica officianalis were dried, mixed to a paste, rolled into beads and allowed to dry, then strung onto fine thread.  These were expensive, so the commoners would take rose hips and thread them on hempen thread. 

Monasteries were a refuge for roses. It was a must that at least one monk be well versed in botany and familiar with medicinal and healing virtues of plants.  It is important to remember that the rose was in the herb patch at the monasteries.  The monks (and usually a local beldame) became the local herbalists and they developed a range of rose oils, balms, rosehip syrups and smelling salts (nosegays).  They even used the thorns for bloodletting. But that is another story.

 The War of the Roses (1455 to 1487) was really a series of battles between the Houses of Lancaster and York for the right to put their contender on the throne of England.  Each of the Houses used a rose as part of their heraldic symbol.

 The House of Lancaster had The Apothecaries Rose (rosa gallica officinalis).    This is a dark pink/red rose.  It is said that about 1260, Edmund of Woodstock, the youngest son of Edward I was sent to Provins, a town south of Paris, then part of England, to quell a riot.  He brought The Apothecaries Rose back with him.  Legend has it that the streets of Provins were crowded with apothecaries’ shops, each of which had the rose planted outside as advertising.  Officinalis in Latin means “of the shop”. This rose is famous for its many medicinal purposes.

 The House of York had chosen rosa alba, a white rose, as their emblem.  The Romans had introduced this rose to England, (Albion to the Romans) during their invasion, so it was well known.

 The marriage of Henry Tudor (Henry VII) and Elizabeth of York in 1485 finally united the factions.  They chose a rose from a bush bearing flowers that were red, white and red/white, entwined within a crown.  Legend has it that this rose was rosa damascena versicolor (York and Lancaster).  This would be an ideal ending except that although this rose does have this colouring, it was not known in England for another 300 years. But that is another story.

 There are many legends and stories behind the names of roses and each country and culture has developed their own. For example, in Turkey it was (and I believe still is) an act of sacrilege for a Muslim to tread on a rose petal. This stems from their belief that the rose was born from the sweat of the prophet Mohammed.  If a Turkish lady was unmarried at her death a sculptured rose surmounts her tombstone.

 In Italy, fully open roses are not given as a gift because death will befall a relative of the recipient. Also in Italy, a black rose was given as a gift to a member of the mafiosa to advise them that they were to be executed.  In Scotland a white rose blooming in the autumn foretold an early marriage.  In Morocco rose amulets were worn as protection against the evil eye.

In China, at the time of Confucius, the Chinese extracted oil of roses from plants grown in the Emperor’s garden.  The oil could only be used by nobles and dignitaries.  A commoner found in possession of the oil was put to death.

 Every rose has a story behind it so there are thousands of tales to tell.  I have given you a very small sample of some of the folklore of THE ROSE for your enjoyment.

Wal J 2015 



Mutabilis has been a cultivated rose in China for thousands of years.  It is a China rose. When following its history in Europe there are some conflicting claims.  One source says it was first recorded in Europe in 1894 and that its origins were unknown.  Another source states it first came to the attention of botanists when it was given to Henri Correvon of Geneva by Prince Ghilberto Borromeo in 1934.    This source claims that it originated in the Prince’s garden at Isola Bella.  

 It is also known as “The Butterfly Rose” due to its flowers. They start off a yellow/peachy colour, turn pink, then red and end up crimson. So from a distance the bush looks as though it is covered in butterflies.

 In our climate it easily grows to a metre high and wide, and is ideal as a hedge.  You don’t have to prune it, nor deadhead it.  Get out the hedge shears and trim it to the shape you need.  About every three years, put on a suit of armour and remove all the dead wood, which has accumulated in the bush.

  In Italy Mutabilis is known as “Tipo Ideala”, pronounced Teepo E-Deh-alle, meaning the ideal type. It has little perfume, but then butterflies do not need perfume.  It is very hardy and has been compared to a woman – “fit, strong, assertive, shapely, well-rounded and aggressive”. You do not need to fuss with her, just stay out of her road. She can handle herself very nicely and will put on quite a performance for you.  All you need to do is give her the most basic care, then watch her grow.

 If you have a spot in your garden for a plant that will give you flowers all year round, is very disease resistant and doesn’t need a lot of attention, you cannot go past Mutabilis.


On March 27th, 1986 - Easter Thursday a car bomb was detonated in Russell Street, Melbourne.  A Victorian Policewoman died as a result of extensive burns sustained during the bombing.  Thirty years ago, Angela Rose Taylor was the first Victorian policewoman to be killed in the line of duty.  She was 21 when she died four weeks after the bombing.

On the 21st August 2001 her parents, Marilyn and Arthur Taylor, planted the rose named after her in the Federation leaf.  Only one plant was available at the time, but we have since filled the bed.  The rose is a living memorial to a policewoman who paid the ultimate price for providing law and order in our community.  

Mr. Smith of Mooroolbark bred the rose.  It is a seedling of Hannah Gordon. Softer in colour with excellent fragrance and very healthy growth.  It’s growth pattern is odd. It could be said to be a medium bush, but every now and then it will throw up an extra long cane.  We are never sure what to do with these.

The rose, Angela Rose Taylor, is one of many “charity” roses, with a portion of the sale price going to benefit the Victorian Police Blue Ribbon Foundation.



Apothecary’s Rose


Common Provins Rose

Double Red Rose


Old Red Damask

Provins Rose

Red Damask

Red Gallica

Red Rose of Lancaster

Rosa gallica duplex

Rosa gallica maxima

Rosa gallica officinalis

Rosa gallica plena

Rosa gallica var. officinalis Ser.

Rosa gallica var. plena Regal synonym

Rose de Provins

Rosier de Provins ordinaire

 This rose of many names is thought to be the once ‘red damask’ and it was the one most often used as the apothecary rose. 

 Its ancient history may perhaps start with such a rose depicted in a Minoan fresco dated at between 1500 and 1600 BC, which is believed to have been the gallica rose. 

 Its modern chapter takes us to the Crusades.  This rose originally came from “the Land of the Saracens” to Provins in France when in 1240 Thibault Le Chansonnier returned from the Sixth Crusade bringing back the “Rose of Damas and a piece of the true cross”.

 It is said that in 1279 Edmond of Woodstock, the youngest son of Edward I of the House of Lancaster, was sent to Provins, a town south of Paris, which at that time was a part of the English realm, to quell a riot.  It is alleged that he brought back the Apothecary’s Rose to England to become the Red Rose of Lancaster.  This became the Lancaster house symbol during the War of The Roses in the fifteenth century between the Houses of Lancaster and York.


A wichuraiana hybrid, semi double blooms, slightly fragrant, crimson-maroon with light yellow anthers and blooms in clusters of three or four.

Bred by Captain George C. Thomas of the USA in 1914, and released to the public by Bobbink and Atkins  and A.N.Perkins of USA.  It was originally named Shafter, but was officially re-named on 4 June 1919 at a meeting of the American Rose Society.   Many rose growers in the USA still refer to the rose as Shafter.  It has been extensively used as a rootstock in the USA and Australia, due to it very vigourous root growth. It became unpopular in America for a while as it was believed that it was the cause of rose mosaic; i.e. it was felt that a gene in Dr Huey was causing the mosaic to appear on the grafted rose. 

The only information I can find on the gentleman it was named after comes from the book “The Old Rose Adventurer” by Brent C. Dickerson, which quotes Dr Robert Huey as writing

 “I purchased a home and 2 acres of ground in 1877 and began to try and grow roses. There was then little reliable information to be had and the flowers that resulted, compared most unfavourably with the illustrations in the catalogues, while the plants would die by the dozens.  Persevering, I finally met with success, and knowing that many others were thirsting for knowledge, I began writing and talking of my experiences and how my difficulties were overcome, thus doing a sort of rose missionary work.”  

Any of you who have bought roses on the basis of a catalogue description would know his feelings.

Where he was born, or lived is a mystery.  What was he a Doctor of?  Was he a Rosarian in his spare time or did he devote a lifetime to it?   Dr. Huey died on 12th March 1928.



r. davidii.  Father David’s Rose.  Father Armand David (1826 – 1900)was a French missionary, zoologist and botanist.  He was one of many missionaries to China who collected plants (and other specimens, including Pere David’s deer)and sent them back to Europe.  (We don’t have it)

r. forrestiana. The Scot, George Forrest, (1873-1932) was responsible for the introduction of many Chinese plants, including a goodly number of rhododendrons. The rose that bears his name is one he collected from the wilds of West Yunnan in 1818.  He also collected r. mulliganii from the same area in 1817, but we do not know who Mulligan was, for sure. (We don’t have it)

 r. fedtschenkoana. Named for Russian botanist, Olga Fedtschenko who discovered it in 1875 in Turkistan.  The Fedtschenko were a remarkable family.  Alexis was born in Irkutsk on Lake Baikal and made a three year collecting expedition with his wife Olga.  After he was killed climbing in the Alps, she brought up their infant son, Boris to be a botanist and together they pioneered the botanical exploration of Central Asia and the Pamirs. (It is in the Heritage near the second small gate)

 r. fortuniana. The Englishman, Robert Fortune (1813-1880) was sent to China by the Royal Horticultural Society to “plunder the nursery gardens that protected their plants behind high walls and locked gates”.  The rose named after him was found in a garden, near Shanghai, in  1850 – supposedly a cross between r. banksiae and r. laevigata.  (It is in the Heritage near the turnstile)

r. helenae.  Ernest Henry ‘Chinese’ Wilson (1876 – 1930) was sent to China in 1899 by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew but they had no money so his trip was paid for by Vietch & Sons, one of the greatest Nurseries in Britain.  In 1906, he was sent again by Arnold Arboretum a part of Harvard University in Boston to  Central China. In 1907, he discovered  and named after his wife the rose we know as rosa helenae..  (It is on the fence in the Heritage to the left of the Turnstile)

 r. hugonis.  Named after Reverend Hugh Scallan (Father Hugo) (1851-1928) an Irish Catholic missionary in China, who sent seed of the rose to Kew Gardens in England in 1899.  Plants from that original sowing still bloom there today.  (It is in the Heritage near the second gate)

 r. moyesii.  It was discovered in China in 1890 by Ernest Wilson and he named it after his friend  Reverend James Moyes,(1876-1930) a missionary with the China Inland Mission. It is believed that the Rev Moyes accompanied Wilson on some of his plant hunting trips. (Moyesii Geranium is in the Heritage along the far side)

rosa soulieana.  Named after Father Jean Andre Soulie (1858-1905) a missionary and botanist with the Paris Foreign Missions Society to China and Tibet.  He found it on the rocky hillsides of western Sichuan and sent seeds back to France in 1896.  He was murdered in Tibet. (It is on the fence in the Heritage to the left of the turnstile)

r.wichuraiana. Named after Dr. Max Ernst Wichura, (1817-1866) German lawyer and botanist, who discovered the rose in Japan in 1861 and sent a living plant back to Berlin. ( It is on the fence to the left of the turnstile)


Mme Caroline Testout.  HT, Joseph Pernet-Ducher 1890.  The lady who gave her name to this rose, Caroline Testout, was a very fashionable French modiste. Planning to open a London branch of her business, she decided that what was required was a trademark – and opted for a rose whose elegance, scent and colour would be linked with her name. She persuaded Joseph Pernet-Ducher, the wizard of Lyons, to let her have full rights to one of his new roses, to be called ‘Caroline Testout’. (Language of Roses) The rose became extremely popular in the USA and in 1905 half a million plants were installed along the streets of Portland, Oregan to mark the centennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

 The roses parents were:

 Lady Mary Fitzwilliam. HT. Henry Bennett pre 1880.  A granddaughter of William IV, king of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Hanover.  She was a lady-in-waiting to the German court of Saxe-Coburg.  She died in 1929 at the age of 83.


 Madam de Tartas.  Tea. Bernede, France 1859.  I cannot find  who Madam de Tartas was.

 Mme Caroline Testout is in the Heritage Border section He and Lady Mary is in Section Hc

 Wal J Mar 17 


Do we have any English born here?  Let me tell you of an unfortunate rose which had a name change.  Elina. HT bred by Dickson UK in 1984.  In the United Kingdom it carried the rather unfortunate name of Peadouce, a brand of babies nappies. 

Henri Martin.  A Moss rose by the nurseryman Laffay of France.  Not many of you would recognize the name “Henri Martin” but all of you would recognize a symbolic statue he was instrumental in having built. He was a Frenchman born in St Quentin, in 1810. A Mason and socialist, he started his life as a novelist.  He is best remembered for his monumental Historie de France in 19 volumes.  He also became, later in his life, deputy and senator for Paris.  In the summer of 1865 he gathered with a group of other Masons and with a young artist named Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi at the home of the then famous author Edouard Rene de Laboulaye.  At his meeting de Laboulaye proposed the idea of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to America.  But the proposal lay dormant during the end of the reign of Napoleon III and the Franco-Prussian war.  Bartholdi visited America and made arrangements for the presentation of the monument on the 4th July 1876, the centenary of the Declaration of Independence.  Henri Martin was in charge of collecting money for the statue.  Meanwhile in the USA, Joseph Pulitzer was collecting money for the pedestal.  With the funds running low and the technical challenges the enormous statue presented, this vision was only realized in 1886.  This was three years after Henri Martin’s death.


It is with sadness I advise that Peter Cox died on the 16th June 2018.

Members of the VSRGS first met Peter Cox in 1999 at Phillip Sutherland’s nursery Goldenvale, Benalla when Peter was launching his  book “Australian Roses”.

This was the first ever attempt at producing a list of these roses and Peter put enormous effort into it.  Of course, like any such book, it was out of date as soon as the ink was dry but this does not take away this valuable resource.

Peter was a twin and born a pom.  Engineer by profession he came to Australia in 1965, working at Port Kembla.  He became a dairy farmer and part time gardener and then moved to Thirdmere in NSW to start a nursery.

Peter and his wife Kate ran the nursery, specializing in species roses before switching to Australian roses.  Like many of us he became hooked on heritage roses and at one stage was Co-President of Heritage Roses in Australia.  He was also an amateur artist.

When it was proposed that NSW HRiA run the 1995 Conference at Orange, Peter volunteered to grow in pots a plant of each species rose available in Australia.  These were to be displayed at the conference venue.  As it was most unlikely that they would all be in flower for the three days of the Conference, Peter volunteered to produce botanical paintings of each of the roses.  Successfully, each potted rose had the painting alongside it at the conference.

At the end of the conference plants and paintings were donated to the Orange Botanic Gardens.  The 56 paintings are reproduced in Peter’s book “Species Roses”.

Peter Cox died at the age of 92, but his legacy will live on.

Our condolences go to his wife, Kate, and their family.

Wal J Jun 2018



David Austin Snr was born in 1926 as the son of a farmer and began his working life as a farmer.  He has always lived and worked in Shropshire, England.

In the 1950s on a part-time basis, David set out to create repeat-flowering old style roses.  He felt that “the Old Rose Flower had a charm and beauty that was quite different to that of hybrid Teas”.  He wanted shrubs of grace and beauty in a variety of sizes, with good foliage, capable of producing flowers of all shapes in a range of colours and fragrances.  Only then did he want to consider the more practical aspects of reliability, toughness, disease resistance and freedom and regularity of flowering.

 To do this he went back to the Old Roses such as gallicas and crossbred them with modern hybrid teas and floribundas.  He calls these “English Roses”.  In his own words “English Roses are in fact new “Old Roses”, if I may be forgiven for the apparent contradiction in terms”

 His first release was the cross between the Gallica rose Belle Isis and the floribunda Dainty Maid.  This was introduced jointly in 1961 by Sunningdale Nurseries and Roses and Shrubs Ltd of Albrighton (no mention of David Austin).  The rose was Constance Spry, a once flowering pink climber – in the Heritage Border Section HB>  The lady in question was a famous pioneer of flower arranging in the 1950s and 60s.  

 From that point on there was an explosion of creation by breeding and crossbreeding and it continues today with the next generation of Austins.  Many of the roses are named after characters from English books and plays.

 He married the sculptress, Pat Austin and they have a daughter and two sons.  His son, David  and daughter Claire are both engaged in the business.

 David Snr is the founder and head of the firm of David Austin Roses of Albrighton.  At Albrighton there is a display rose garden of nearly two acres with over 700 different varieties.  In strategic places throughout the garden there are fine examples of Mrs Pat Austin’s sculptures.  Visitors are always welcome.

 The Bud at the VSRG was gifted by David Austin Roses.  When visiting the BUD, you will see alternative names on the bricks.  To meet legal requirements, roses that have been patented are allocated a unique nomenclature so that it will be identifiable anywhere in the world.  For example Mary Rose is AusmaryAbraham Darby is Auscot.

Wal J 20 Jan 2016


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