Monday, 23 December 2013

Californian Adventure part 2.....

Continuing with my visit to California, the next stop was Sacramento Historic Cemetery. Here I was taken under the wing of Anita Clevenger who is the manager / curator of the rose garden which is within the cemetery. The rose garden section of the cemetery covers about 3 acres and has been in place for well over a decade. It started when Fred Boutin with the help and planning of Barbara Oliva planted a collection of heritage roses on empty or unmarked plots, now the number has significantly increased to nearly 500.

A great deal of the roses in here are 'found' specimens as there's nothing that these guys like more than a good old bit of rose rustling! For those of you who aren't familiar with this practice I should explain that "rose rustling" involves you going to search out old roses and hopefully bring back some cuttings or suckers. I should also say gaining permission from the land/plant owner is always advisable.  Particularly in the USA this is quite a big past time for old rose enthusiasts, whole teams of them will drive for many hours to an old cemetery, old town, farm house or similar and look for these most coveted of plants.

One morning at the cemetery Anita held a pruning class which was open to the public, and seeing as I'm keen to learn this was the perfect opportunity to watch a Master Gardener give a demonstration. I found it interesting and reassuring to see that what Anita was teaching is very much the same as what we do at Mottisfont. I was also really pleased to see that they also use pegging down as a method of growing roses, although instead of tying the canes to a peg in the ground, they attach fishing weights to end of a cane. Very ingenious.

Above is Anita in full flow during the demonstration, please don't be fooled by the sunshine because it was absolutely freezing that morning! 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Californian Adventure part 1....

After saying farewell to New Zealand and undertaking another long haul flight I landed in California, USA for the second half of my Rose studying trip. The weather was glorious with perfect sunshine and temperatures that meant I could be in shorts and t-shirt in December! I'm not trying to rub it in to all you guys in England because after a couple of glorious days California was hit with unseasonably cold weather, which meant I went from looking like this:

Quite literally over night, to looking like this:

And I have been cold ever since! However I shouldn't complain and it certainly hasn't stopped me from getting on with all the stuff I have lined up. So, I have based myself with the infamous Gregg Lowery of Vintage Gardens and I'm so grateful for the time he has given me. If you're reading this Gregg I'd like to say a massive thank you.

Gregg very kindly showed the operation they run at their Rose Nursery and I found their propagation techniques very enlightening, he even offered some advice on propagating 'Roxbughii' which has proved a bit of a problem for us at Mottisfont. I can't wait to put this new found knowledge to the test, and I'm sure David Stone will be interested to see what the outcome is too. For those of you who know about Gregg and Vintage Gardens you will appreciate how much of a privilege it has been to spend so much time with him. I made a promise not to publish any photos of the garden or nursery on the blog at his request, so you wont get to see them at this stage I'm afraid.

 For anyone unfamiliar with this place then I will give you a quick run down. For a lot of us in the UK Vintage Gardens is idolised, not only for the great rose growing climate of northern California, but for the types of roses grown and the sheer volume that they have growing in this magical place. The cataloge, or rose list produced by Vintage Gardens is vast, I have read entire books with less pages in them! So I'm sure you can imagine that being there in the flesh is like going inside Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, everywhere I looked was a rose that I had only ever read about. In one particular case a rose that I had forgotten about which stirred up great memories for me, going back to when I started my horticultural career at Wolvercroft World Of Plants many, many years ago.  

The knowledge, skills and information I have received from the guys here, isn't something that can be purchased. It is the result of friendships and people with similar interests and passions sharing their own (very personal) experiences with these ancient plants. I consider myself very lucky to be able call Gregg and Steve friends of mine.

Friday, 6 December 2013


The final leg of my time in New Zealand has brought me to Dunedin, and what a brilliant time I had here! I must firstly thank Fran Rawling for all her kind hospitality and work that she has done in preparation for my visit.

My story starts in Wylde Willow Garden (this is Fran's garden) which is 5 acres of woodland walks, native plantings, heritage roses, parkland and pond. It is quite astonishing what has been created here. The site was bare paddock when Fran and Mike first moved in and now it has been formed into one of New Zealand's horticultural gems.

For those of you who don't know, Fran is the immediate past president of Heritage Roses of New Zealand and has created this garden entirely by herself. Her husband Mike will back that up and his only job is to do the chainsaw work and mowing of the long grass, everything else is and always has been done by the lady of the house.

The garden is open to be viewed but prior booking is essential as it's very much a private garden, I have to say that I would highly recommend speaking to Fran and seek a look around as it's well worth it.

The beautiful cottage garden feel to the planting around the house really appealed to me and as many of the plants and planting schemes are shared with us back in England it felt like a home from home for me.

Dunedin Northern Cemetery

This South Island City is home to the Northern Cemetery which opened its doors (....or ground) in 1872 and was originally designed as a Victorian garden cemetery. It covers an impressive 20 acres and is the final resting place of approximately 17,700 people with the last plot being purchased in 1937.

Around the year 2000 Heritage Roses of Otago started a project to plant old fashioned roses here, this is because there were already hundreds of old roses on the site. Unfortunately they weren't being cared for as in many cases there was no family to come and tend to the plots anymore. So HRO struck up a deal with the council - they would take care of the existing roses as well as plant new ones so long as the council stopped spraying them with herbicide. The cemetery was once again transformed into a stunning garden environment.

In a lot of cases the original roses which by now would be well over 100 years old were still just about clinging on to life in the family plots where they planted in memory of a passed love one. A red rose at the head of the plot signified that a male buried there and a white or pale rose signified a female or infant.

'General Gallieni' in memory of Alexander Carson

Scots 'Double Cream' in memory of Mary Anne Harris

'Perle D'Or' in memory of the Rolfe family

The whole place was a riot of colour while I was there and it was breath taking, I think what the guys at HRO have done here is wonderful, not just the planting of new plants but the care and attention given to the existing roses as well. I should mention that they do this as volunteers! if you are ever near Dunedin then I insist you pay a visit to the Northern Cemetery.


Monday, 2 December 2013


Way down at the bottom of the South Island lies Invercargill, and the beautiful Jessie Calder Rose Garden. It lies within the Queens Park public gardens and was the result of a bequest from Jessie Watson Calder who left a substantial amount of money specifically for the creation of a heritage rose garden. It is one of the most comprehensive collections of heritage roses on public display in New Zealand and in 2005 was declared a garden of national significance.

I was greeted by Brett who is the Rosarian for the garden, and he very kindly showed me round. It was here that the fungal problem of 'silver leaf' was brought to my attention. This is a fungal disease that causes the tissue of the leaves to separate and thus produce a silvery sheen, ultimately the stem will die. I will admit that it's not a problem that I knew much about, however my knowledge on the subject has increased over the past few weeks as it seems to be quite a problem in the South Island.

As you might expect the roses were not flowing so heavily as up in Auckland or even in central Otago but the garden looked terrific none the less. I also have to say that mosses and bourbon varieties grow much better in this part of the country, which appeals to me as I'm most definitely a sucker for a good bourbon.

The Spinosissima and Pimpinellifolia roses were looking great too!