Australia's Best Rose Gardens
Need to know where to find the best rose gardens in Australia? We've done the hard yards, and here they are. A best garden bucket list, just for you!
The Heritage Garden. Photo - Robin Powell
Come spring we love to catch a bunch of glorious gardens in the peak of their spring bloom. What these gardens all have in common is a swooningly beautiful way with roses. Here we offer just a glimpse of what you have in store.
The Heritage Garden
Walter Duncan retired from growing roses professionally to grow roses for pure pleasure in the Clare Valley of South Australia. Over the past decade Walter, and his wife Kay, have created a simply stunning rose garden full of thousands of old world and heritage roses.
The arched alle of 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' at The Heritage Garden. Photo - Robin Powell
Walter grows his roses every possible way; over arbours, along swags and up pillars. Indeed the house appears to be hiding in roses, and every view from indoors is framed by roses. Most dramatic of all is the long arbour. Decorative metal arches span the path at intervals of four metres – in all about twenty arches. Each of the arches is smothered with Walter’s favourite rose, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’.
'Souvenir de la Malmaison' in gorgeous close up. Photo - Robin Powell
An old stone cottage on the property has been restored and makes a support for the finest example of ‘Crepuscule’ that I have ever seen. This is an old, gold-toned noisette rose from 1900 and it drapes across the stone, complementing it to perfection.
'Crepuscule' growing over the sandstone wall at The Heritage Garden. Photo - Robin Powell
Trained along wires around the open veranda is the glorious climber, ‘Mme Grégoire Staechelin’, which is also known as ‘Spanish Beauty’. Its long, shapely, deep-pink buds open to clear pink, semi-double blooms with a delicious, sweetpea scent. The flowers hang in billowing masses in one enormous spring flush.
Both Nora Heysen and her father Hans Heysen loved to paint the flowers that grew in their garden at The Cedars, outside Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. The gracious old home is still owned by the Heysen family and it houses a fine collection of paintings and drawings displaying Heysen's remarkable versatility. This garden is lovingly maintained by curator Allan Campbell, who has planted the perennials, annuals, and of course, roses, favoured by the artist. It’s a romantic place. The mingling fragrances of jasmine, honeysuckle and rose are sweet and fresh. Sunlight dapples the terrace under a grape-covered pergola. Bird song echoes through the still air, and Heysen’s studio feels as if he just stepped out to have a cuppa in the garden.
The rose garden curves around the lawn at The Cedars, the home and garden of artists Hans and Nora Heysen. Photo - Robin Powell
Roses are the dominant flowers. The Heysen favourite was the pale pink, richly scented ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ . The shell-pink ‘Duchesse du Brabant’, pure white ‘Frau Karl Druschki’ and the yellow climbing ‘Lady Hillingdon’ are other old favourites. The Heysens were also fans of Alister Clark’s Australian roses. Victorian-born Clark released his first rose in 1912, and he was the pre-eminent Australian breeder through the ’20 and ‘30s. (Clark’s other great passion was horse-racing, and he was chair of the Moonee Valley Race Club, launching its most famous race, the Cox Plate.) Alister Clark roses were nearly lost after the war, but efforts by home gardeners and collectors mean they can still be a part of a rose lover’s garden. The Heysen’s favourite Clark rose was ‘Marjorie Palmer’, a fragrant pink rose with a sturdy growth habit, released in 1936.
Alister Clark rose 'Sunlit' at the Cedars. Photo - Robin Powell
Roses grow in abundance at Al-Ru Farm at One Tree Hill, where Ruth Irving gardens with an exuberance matched by her garden. Ruth is an instinctive designer; she simply started growing the plants she loved and the garden expanded from there. The results are exquisite, especially the roses. One of my favourites is ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ (France, 1987) which rambles over an arbour leading to a garden of hybrid tea roses. There must be 400 blush-pink petals in each of the rose’s fully cupped chalices. Another sensation is coppery-pink ‘Paul Transon’, which covers the pavilion. And then there is the elegant lily pool and the formal white garden reached through an archway of white wisteria and the rose ‘Devoniensis’. Pure magic!
The 'Pierre de Ronsard' arch at Al-Ru Farm. Photo - Robin Powell
When I asked Ruth how she settled on her clever colour and planting schemes, I thought she would admit to a great memory for the exact tone of flowers and foliage or a great note-taking system for marking down flowering times. Instead she said, “I simply pull the plant out and walk around with it until I find a match!”
Susan Irvine, in her book ‘Rose Gardens of Australia’, describes the result perfectly: “As everything King Midas touched turned to gold, so everything Ruth Irving touches seems to be invested with beauty. From the unremarkable cottage that, under her influence, has acquired a dignified colonnade clad in wisteria and bougainvillea, to the garden, which was little more that an expanse of grass bordered by some fine ash trees, to the collection of early oak furniture, everything at Al-Ru Farm is beautiful.”
'Gold Bunny' scrambles up a screen at Al-Ru Farm where gardener Ruth Irving does inspired work colour-matching roses with perennials. Photo - Robin Powell