Thursday, 30 October 2014

First Rose

My first rose in a few ways.
My first flower of `Souvenir de la Malmaison’, planted where I can reach in and easily take a whiff of the delicious tea rose fragrance. (More of this famous rose later.)
The first year my roses are growing well – a wallaby has breached the garden fence only once in the past 7 weeks (and counting). She ate about 5 roses down, and 2 are not recovering from nearly 10 years of this treatment (and who can blame them?) but others are taller than ever before with buds the icing on the cake. Two flowers are blooming! Many other garden plants are finally growing. It’s all very exciting.
So the first of my first real rose season, I think.
(I didn’t grow roses until I was into my 40’s and found the English roses – with their scents of `honey and musk’, or `English Rose myrrh fragrance' or `old rose fragrance with hints of honey and almond blossom' and realised roses were special.)
Until this year I’d only David Austin roses, those shrubby long-blooming old-fashioned looking roses with fragrances out of this world. For some reason I bought Rosa `Souvenir de la Malmaison’ this winter, the famous bourbon rose, very full and quartered, palest of flesh pink, and fading as the flower ages. (I blame Diggers at Cloudehill; the rose simply leapt into my basket. True story.) Named for the rose garden of Napoleon’s Empress Josephine who collected every rose known to Europe at that time – he had instructed his army to look out and collect new roses as they set about their nefarious business. Yesterday the first bloom appeared; beautiful, fragrant, like an oasis in a desert.
In my sun and sky bed, the yellow roses are also growing happily at last bar one, on the edge, obviously eaten just too often over the years. I really am hoping that they’ll grow above the deep blue Salvia `Anthony Parker’ this year – a mix of uneaten roses and, perhaps, trimmed salvias. The salvias looked great through June and July so they are staying for now, even though they are a bit big for this site (and constant trimming sounds like work that, frankly, just won’t happen). If the salvias are too big, at least the newly planted 2 Rosa `Graham Thomas’ will definitely rise above and behind the row of salvias (as one would expect with a name like that).
At last I am learning about roses, too. Pedigree, cultivation, and, what’s more, taking catalogue information – even pictures - with a grain of salt. It’s more expensive than buying rose bushes bare-rooted in winter, but getting them in a pot can mean getting a plant with a flower the exact shade of colour you want (yes, I am fussy) and there’s a great place along the road between Monbulk and Silvan to do this, and maybe The Perfumed Garden in Mt Martha and one or two other good places, too.
A good range is needed to find that perfect plant with the right height and the perfect colouring (and long flowering)...and then the garden will sing.

Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design and garden writer who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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