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Roses at Red Cow Farm

Seduced by the colour, forms and perfumes of roses, Ali Mentesh has already collected some 200 to adorn the garden rooms at Red Cow Farm.

Can he choose a favourite?


Albertine' is a vigorous rambling rose that for nearly two months in spring is covered with fragrant salmon pink flowers. She's a feature around the lake at Red Cow Farm.


Roses are central to the dreamy delights of Red Cow Farm, a 2.5 hectare garden just outside the village of Sutton Forest in the Southern Highlands of NSW. Gardened by Ali Mentesh and Wayne Morrissey, Red Cow Farm is a series of 20 garden rooms, each with its own mood and linked by subtle, clever planning. And while roses don’t feature in every one of the beautiful garden pictures that have been created since Ali and Wayne bought the 1820s cottage in 1990, they are an early, and enduring passion.

The clay-loam soil and cool winters at Sutton Forest favour rose-growing and there are now some 200 roses in the still-growing Red Cow Farm collection. David Austin roses have always been favoured for their wonderful perfumes and flower forms, though recently more modern shrub roses and climbers have found their way into the garden. The criteria for nabbing a prized spot is strong growth, good flowers, whether single or double, and a wonderful perfume. Ali likes to plant shrub roses in groups of five or seven to form a really substantial shrub that has great presence in the garden.


'Princess Alexandra of Kent'


The love of roses has often called for back-breaking sacrifice: a sudden passion for the exquisite apricot-orange blooms of the David Austin rose ‘ Crown Princess Margareta’ required a revamp of the entire Monastery Garden; a stone-walled courtyard, built stone by stone by Ali and Wayne over 18 months, was all for displaying climbing roses.

So I shouldn't have been surprised that when I asked Ali about his favourite roses, he came back to me with a list of 61! Together we’ve whittled this down to highlight just a few extraordinary roses; read about them in Ali's article: Seven star performers at Red Cow Farm.


'Monsieur Tillier'


Ali Mentesh chose some roses that stand out at Red Cow Farm for their colour, perfume or habit.

Here is his top seven

Words and photos: Ali Mentesh


‘Souvenir d’un ami’

This rose should be much better known than it is. A vigorous tall grower, like many of the old tea roses the perfume can vary, depending on the time of the day and the age of the flower. Sometimes it has a very strong dry tea scent, and at others, it is sweet, with orange and lemon, passionfruit and peach overtones.


‘Jude the Obscure’

This exceptionally fragrant David Austin rose is planted on a corner in the Abbess Garden, which is a sunken garden. The fragrance really becomes trapped there. It’s beautifully complex, with guava, passionfruit, and dessert wine undertones. It flowers continuously for us, and we’ve planted about seven of them, to form a substantial shrub that gives a big effect in the garden.


‘Charles Darwin’

This David Austin rose can be a low climber if you encourage it but we grow it in a group of five to make a big shrub. The flowers are an unconventional tone of light yellow to mustard. This is one of the biggest-flowers of the David Austin roses, it repeats really well, and has a lovely fresh perfume.


‘Rambling Rector’

Planted in a semi-wild part of the garden, this one clambers along the ground and is allowed to climb up into the cherry laurel hedge and form a kind of tunnel entrance to this part of the garden. It can grow 25-30 feet in a season, and flowers with masses of single, white perfumed flowers that are followed by hips.


‘Tea clipper’

This is another David Austin rose that has been performing beautifully, with the most fantastic apricot flowers. It’s very double, with lots of petals but opens up so it’s almost lying flat. The fragrance is a mix of tea, myrrh and fruit. I have a few of them in the garden and they are all growing very strongly.


‘Apple blossom’

This rose is very good for covering sheds and climbing over walls, which it does very effectively and very quickly. The flowers are like apple blossoms, but with a bit more pink, and it has one very long flowering season. There’s a lovely soft feel to the whole plant when it’s in flower.


‘William Shakespeare 2000’

This is such a good rose, with a very deep crimson colour. I have three or four bushes together to make a substantial shrub, with Macleaya cordata behind it. The beautiful blue-grey of the foliage makes a great backdrop for many plants, and I especially like this combination. It’s very sophisticated - which I don’t always do!


Caring for Rose care at Red Cow Farm


We mulch the whole property every year in winter when the soil is moist. We normally use mushroom compost on everything, except for the roses that are only in their first season.



Mulching helps get the roses going in the spring before the first feed in September. We generally fertilise the roses twice a year, in September and then in late-January or thereabouts, depending on the weather. We use organic fertiliser, either Sudden Impact for Roses or Organic Life. If we get good rainfall, I might give them another feed between spring and summer to push them along a bit.



The once-flowering roses are pruned soon after they finish. We start pruning the repeat flowering roses as early as June, and go until September, with August the busiest time.

The tea roses aren’t pruned, just tidied. We let them form their natural shape and give them the space they need. Pruning is minimal on the climbers with strong canes too, as we want them to become substantial shrubs.



There’s lots of deadheading to do, except for the rugosas which are left alone to produce hips following the flowers, and the tea roses, which drop their flowers. I take quite a bit of stem when I deadhead.


'Meg'. Photo - Robin Powell



The watering program depends on the weather and I’m hands-on to make sure they receive enough water weekly to get on. Tea roses, for instance, will flower for 10 months for us, and handle the heat, but only if they have enough moisture. Otherwise the heat of summer sends them into dormancy.



Our location means we don’t have to spray the roses at all.

Red Cow Farm opens from late September every day until May. Check the website for details,