Droughts Don’t Deter Roses

The drought has South Australians thinking about their gardens. It’s even been suggested to me (by one of the Review’s August columnists) that Adelaide’s gardens are the best they’ve ever looked this spring.

While we’re respecting the water restrictions we’re actually thinking about how our gardens function. We’re utilising mulches, installing efficient drip irrigation systems, considering fertilisers and thinking about the plants we select for our gardens. We’re planning, making changes, checking whether the changes work and making more changes. Perhaps, as a result of drought, in our gardens we are finally starting to reconcile ourselves with South Australia’s climate.

The house we moved into 18 months ago had a garden addicted to a heavy watering regime – both from mains water and bore water. When the supply was turned off, many of the plants were so soft that althought they limped through winter, they have things away altogether within a few months afterwards. I’m relieved the previous owner has never come back to see the devastation. The native trees such as the Wilga (Acacia stenophylla) survived. So did the bulbs – and so did the rose.

Of coruse the roses might not have flowered as freely or had suck lush foliage as under the previous regime, but with the competition out of the way, they demonstrated their tenacity.

I’m not going to try and run the line that the rose originates from the Middle East, although this would be convenient to explain the hardiness of many roses. In fact the origins of cultivated roses are immensely complex. There are contributions from rose species in Middle East, Eastern Asia, North America, and Europe (particularly from the Mediterranean basin). I’ll leave the analysis to a real rosarian and stick with the Shakespeare:

Wot’s in a name? – she sez… An’ then she signs
An’ claps ‘er little ‘ands, an’ rolls ‘er eyes
“A rose,” she sez, “be any other name
Would smell the same.

(Or perhaps that was South Australian’s CJ Dennis?). Australia rose breeders have endeavoured to breed for flowering and hardiness in Australia’s climate. Perhaps the best known was Alister Clark, a grazier from Glenara outside Melbourne who introduced 135 cultivars from the 1920s to 1940s. This work continues – Adelaide Botanic Gardens hosts the National Rose Trial Garden.

The roses are judged by a panel of experienced rosarians who view them and allocate points schematically, over two growing seasons. Points are awarded for health, vigour, hardiness, tolerance to pests and diseases, habit of growth, impact of the display, beauty of blooms, abundance of flowering, and fragrance.

However, Australian-bred roses are not the only roses that do well here. In our garden at home. Pierre de Ronsard, a large-flowered climber bred by Meilland in France, is ridiculously resilient growing on a north-facing verandah. A Cecile Brunner climber sprawls over a fence – the parent bush Cecile Brunner is also French, while the climber is a sport from the US.

The best advice on rose-growing will come from some of South Australia’s internationally recognised rosarians and the next opportunity to track them down informally will come through Petals in the Park on the weekend 20-21 October, in the International Rose Garden in the Adelaide Botanic Garden. The Rose Society of South Australia and Can Do 4 Kids have got together to provide a great program exploring rose culture in Australia.

Can Do 4 Kids is running the event is also presenting the Can Do concert on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 October in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. The concerts will feature Simon Gallaher and Amity Dry. Bookings as BASS on 131 256. Gates open on Plane Tree Drive at 7pm.

The Petals in the Park program will run from 10am until 4pm on both the Saturday and the Sunday – a gold coin donation is requested.

The following weekend, 27-28 October, the Rose Society has its show at the Burnside Community Centre on the corner of Portrush Road and Greenhill Road. The show runs from noon to 5pm on the Saturday, and 11am to 4:30pm on the Sunday.

Originally published in The Adelaide Review on 12 October 2007.

For more information about the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, visit the website.



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