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Meet Glennis Clark, Heritage Rose grower and Rookwood volunteer

Among the hidden treasures at Rookwood Necropolis are beautiful old roses, cared for by volunteers. Among the hidden treasures at Rookwood Necropolis are beautiful old roses, cared for by volunteers.


Tell me a bit about the roses here in the rose garden in front of All Souls Chapel at Rookwood Necropolis. 

Most of them, I would say 99 percent, were propagated from cuttings taken from roses growing on graves. Grave sites were being cleared and herbicides were being used around graves so the idea was to save the roses. Cuttings were taken and the plants that were propagated were grown on in the nursery here. About three-quarters of them have been identified. The others are ‘found roses’, named after the graves they were growing on, such as ‘Agnes Smith’.


Why is the garden known as Barbara’s Garden?

Barbara May, a member of Heritage Roses, was the expert propagator for the roses. She worked as a volunteer here at Rookwood for 30 years until her death in 2015, so we call the garden after her.



How are these roses cared for?

Heritage Roses in Australia looks after them. There’s a small group of us here the first Monday of each month. We deadhead and dead wood from September to April, and from May to August we prune, though we don’t do a hard prune. The roses are never sprayed and they’re watered when it rains. So they had a tough time this summer.


It’s April now and they still look good.

A lot of them are the old tea roses, which are suited to the Sydney climate and are very hardy here. They do better here than in a cold climate. Some of the teas are a bit big for a suburban garden, but others, like fragrant pink ‘Duchesse de Brabant’; ‘Isabella Sprunt’, with lemon flowers all year; and ‘Hugo Roller’, with creamy flowers infused with pink only get to 1.5m.




What’s the best time to see the roses at Rookwood?

Many of the old tea roses are in flower all year, and Rookwood’s valuable collection of trees always looks good, but spring is the time.


Any particular spot - Rookwood is huge!

As well as Barbara’s Garden, there are old roses such as ‘Albertine’, ‘Crepuscule’ and ‘Monsieur Tillier’, growing around and over graves in the old Anglican section. There’s a serpentine canal built in the 1880s winding through it, and other Victorian garden features, as well as some grand old trees.


Like to help out with Rookwood’s roses? Call Glennis on 0409 718 890. For more on heritage roses go to


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Author: Robin Powell