Thursday, 22 November 2018

Roses for our noses

The Parnell Rose Festival was brilliant, the Sunday weather shined for us and actually grew quite warm from a cold start. Te Atatu Floral Circle had the loveliest stand selling flowers, plants, jams and chutneys, and everyone was milling around the roses, all in bloom, in fact, so many that garden club member Bev and I were overwhelmed. I can't say I have a favourite rose, but can only say when a rose smells like a rose - that's a rose to me.

The Parnell Rose Gardens are one of Auckland's unsung garden treasures. My most favourite place to go, apart from the Domain's wintergardens and fernery, is the beautiful Nancy Steen garden which features roses amidst cottage perennial favourites such as sweet peas, geraniums, columbines, pansies, foxgloves - all in bloom. It's a very simple design of a pergola area with three borders leading to a circular space with a goldfish filled fountain in the centre, and the surrounds which has a silver and white flowered theme. Obelisks for climbing roses add height to the borders. The paths are white chip and edged in brick. There are seats to sit down and it's all very cosy and intimate garden room, almost like a bower. Very romantic. It is at it's best now so if you have the time go visit.  Then walk a way around and enter the cool palm walkway area thats shaded featuring clivia,  ferns, fruit salad plants and kawakawa.  And further afield past the tea rooms (which for some reason, are never open??) you will find ancient iconic pohutakawas with their limbs spreadeagled like spiders, perfect climbing frames for young Auckland monkeys.

Who was Nancy Steen? I found out that she was an Auckland artist and gardener who adored roses. She wrote an encyclopaedic tome called 'The Charm of Old Roses' that was a best seller back in the 60's, and she was considered a botanical expert. This was in an era where the new hybrid tea rose to prominence (excuse the pun) and rose breeders were pushing the new varieties to the eager consuming public, perfect looking roses for the vase that flowered for months on end. Ms Steen lamented the loss of the older varieties that may not have been flowering all the time or long-stemmed giants but they made up for it in charm and scent.  So she sought to catalogue and preserve the older varieties to ensure they were not lost to fad and fashion. While Nancy had her own rose garden at her place in Remuera, she was well-known and loved amongst fellow gardeners to have this garden made especially in her honour to celebrate her love of old-fashioned roses.

Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet? My thoughts are that there are some roses that don't smell sweet at all - they have absolutely no scent and must be ashamed to be called roses. So don't be fooled by just judging on outward appearances - the nose knows it's a rose.