The History of the VSRG SUPPORTERS ( an excerpt from the booklet by Wal Johnston)
The Victoria State Rose Garden would not exist had it not been for the Supporters Group. This is an attempt to tell their story from its origins back in 1993.
Readers are advised that to learn of the history of the Rose garden and its origins they should consult the VSRG Booklet “History and Origins of the Victoria State Rose Garden” by James Lyall Priestly OAM.
The origin of the Supporters Group was a talk and public pruning demonstration at the Melton Garden Centre (now defunct) in January 1993. The demonstrator, Mr James L. Priestly OAM (Jim) was asking visitors to sign a petition to save the Victoria State Rose Garden.
The garden was being looked after by five stalwarts of the Rose Society of Victoria, but it had got beyond their capabilities as they all resided in the eastern suburbs and were all of retirement age. The five were James Priestly, Sam Gough, Arthur Haynes, Ted Phillips, and Ern Pietsch (The Pioneers). The grass was out of control and the plants were covered in hips and deadheads.
Because of this the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, who controlled Werribee Park at that time, were seriously considering their options. Hence the petition by Jim Priestly who, as founder of the garden, had a vested interest in keeping the garden going. One visitor suggested a public appeal in the local newspaper, the Werribee Banner, for volunteers to assist in maintaining the garden.
The Banner entries are so significant to the origins of the Supporters that they are reproduced here.
WEDNESDAY 10 FEBRUARY 1993
HELP OUR ROSES
Volunteers are needed to help save the Victoria State Rose Garden at Werribee Park. Meanwhile the man who designed it wants to be allowed to finish what he started.
By Caroline Overington
Melbourne Water is considering a plan to build a two-storey rotunda in the centre of the Victoria State Rose Garden at Werribee Park.
The proposal put forward by ground staff includes fencing a section of the rose garden earmarked for an observation mound and sundial.
Areas originally earmarked for stages two and three of the garden would be fenced and used as sheep pastures.
The proposal has stunned the man who designed the rose garden, James Priestly OAM.
“Before the rose garden, visitors to Victoria would contact the rose society wanting to know where they could go to see roses. I had to send them to the Springvale Crematorium”, Mr. Priestly said. “I wrote to Premier Hamer and said it was stupid to be the Garden State without a rose garden and he said okay; make one”.
Mr Priestly designed the garden to look like a Tudor rose. The completed stage one is in the shape of a rose head with five petals separated by paths. The stem of the rose pokes out between petals B and C. (Editor’s Note - the stem actually pokes out between Petals A and E) Stage two would be in the shape of a leaf and planted with Australian raised roses.
Stage three would be in the shape of a smaller leaf planted with historical and miniature roses.
There would also be trial beds in the shape of thorns.
The centre of the rose was to be marked by a water fountain.
“We wanted a fountain, not a rotunda. We wanted something that would dribble water, something subtle and classic.” Mr Priestly said.
Mr Priestly said the rotunda would be out of place in the rose garden.
“It is supposed to be a place of peace and quiet, a place to contemplate.’ he said. “Imagine how much thinking you could get done with jazz bands playing and others on electric guitars”.
Supporters of the Melbourne Water plan say the rotunda would attract more people to the rose garden, particularly for weddings.
Money would be saved if land earmarked for stages two and three were used as sheep pastures.
Melbourne Water currently spends about $48,000 on the maintenance of the garden.
Melbourne Water is responsible for weeding, deadheading, trimming, spraying and watering the roses and pays about $48,000 a year to have this done. Summer trimming and winter pruning is left to a group of five volunteers, including Mr Priestly.
“All the volunteers currently come from the eastern suburbs”, Mr Priestly said.
“What we really want is some people from Werribee to lend a hand. Volunteers are needed to ‘deadhead’ the roses, or remove dead flowers from the plants, which encourages repeat flowering. We can teach volunteers how to dead head.” Mr Priestly said.
“All they need is enthusiasm, willingness to work and a few spare hours once a fortnight.”
Mr Priestly wants Melbourne Water to donate $40,000 of the $48,000 it spends maintaining the garden to the volunteers.
“We would put that money straight back into the rose garden” he said. “We would soon have the garden we planned”.
WEDNESDAY 17 FEBRUARY 1993
THANK YOU FOR SAVING THE ROSE GARDEN
The man who designed the State Rose Garden thanks those who want to save it.
More than 20 have volunteered to tend the plants at the Victorian State Rose Garden at Werribee Park. The man who designed the garden, James Priestly, last week called for volunteers to trim and prune the roses.
Melbourne Water, which owns Werribee Park and the garden, is responsible for weeding, trimming, spraying and watering the roses.
However, summer trimming and winter pruning is left to a group of five volunteers, including Mr Priestly. Prior to a story in the Werribee Banner last week, all of Mr Priestly’s volunteers were from the eastern suburbs. Mr Priestly wanted people from Werribee to lend a hand.
“I was very happy with the response,” Mr Priestly said. “Myself and Werribee Park, got heaps of calls”
Dozens of people also called the Werribee Banner.
Now Mr Priestly has about 10 committed volunteers but still wants more.
He believes the enthusiasm for the garden shown by locals, means his original concept for its completion might go ahead.
There will be a meeting for volunteers at 2.30pm this Sunday at the Rose Garden.