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‘A profusion of pink roses bending ragged in the rain speaks to me of all gentleness and its enduring.’ 

Ironically, the popularity of a dry naturalistic or wild garden is at its peak, just as we are experiencing unprecedented wet conditions from La Nina in Australia. The garden flourishes in this pre-winter stage with no frost and extra moisture. As I contemplate the garden feeling cosy, and warm inside, and view the countryside beyond, it is hard to believe it’s not Lincolnshire or other verdant, pastoral farmland in the UK, instead of the central west of NSW. The paddocks are luminous green; heavy clouds hang in the sky, and sheep graze, almost hidden in the acres of lush feed.

The garden is anything but dry and on some roses are telltale signs of fungal issues. The rosarian I spoke to recently suggested not to do anything now with roses but to let them go dormant, and any blackspot will help the roses drop their leaves in preparation for the winter rest. Roses are a tough, hardy plant that will withstand a wide range of conditions from dry, heat and scorching afternoon sun to the coldest Australian winters and plentiful rain.

My garden is relatively new, but it’s been long enough to be aware of the nature of the coveted perfect rose. Which are the ones that are far too difficult to look after and not worth the effort, which ones refuse to go along with the way we want and, of course, the must-haves; delightful, disease-resistant, bushy, upright and fragrant. As Mirabel Osler quotes in her book ‘A Gentle Plea For Chaos’

“The intransigence of roses is something we have had to accept, and now … I know which are docile and benevolent from those which are headstrong; those that are pliant from those which are pig-headed.” Mirabel Osler

Some time ago, a friend moved to an area known for beautiful gardens, and she told me when we visited and were discussing her new garden that she had removed all the roses! I was shocked and dismayed, finding it hard to understand that she refused to grow them because of the work involved, hated thorns and any necessary spray routine – organic, eco or otherwise. So she simply dug them all up. Perhaps I’ve overcompensated for her reluctance by planting so many.

 “Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”

Luther Burbank

The notion that roses are difficult to grow contradicts the truth about roses today. Research and development have vastly improved rose production resulting in roses that are strong, healthy and easy to care for. Unlike roses, in the past, rose breeders have managed to combine the sought after alluring fragrance of heritage old-fashioned roses with the ability for the roses to repeat bloom, something that was lacking in the older varieties.

As I look around the garden at the end of a wetter than usual season, the strongest, most trouble-free roses growing are the Kordes roses. Peach Profusion, Madame Anisette, Little Sunset, Tangles, Tallulah, Coconut Ice, Summer Romance, Earth Angel, Beautiful Girl, Quicksilver, Fire Opal, Lion’s Rose, Winter Sun, and Perfume Passion are some examples. All are robust, disease-free and flower continuously. This year my winter planting will include several new Kordes roses; Mango Tango, Love Affair, Thank You rose, Adorable and Spicy Parfuma, amongst others.

“A rose is an argument. It proclaims the triumph of beauty over brutality, of gentleness over violence, of the ephemeral over the lasting, and of the universal over the particular. The same rose bursts into bloom on the North Cape and in the Sahara desert.“ Alain Meilland.

What a lovely thing a rose is! 

Arthur Conan Doyle

The Kordes Rose brand was founded in 1887, in Elmshorn, Germany, by Wilhelm Kordes, who collected roses for propagation and was known as the expert on roses. His business did well, and in 1918, he moved his nursery to Sparrieshoop, where his sons Wilhelm II and Herman later joined the company. Today, Kordes remains in Sparrieshoop, Germany. The fifth generation of the Kordes family now runs the extensive breeding and marketing program that produces exceptional roses sold worldwide.

Kordes adopted a moratorium in the 1990s banning the use of any fungicide on their roses in the test gardens. There were issues, but as time went on some roses remained robust and healthy, and these roses formed the basis of today’s healthy disease-resistant varieties. The goal and modern philosophy of Kordes is to develop gorgeous flowering roses with superior technical characteristics such as; disease resistance, winter hardiness, an abundance of blooms, fragrance, and healthy dark green foliage. Add to this an ability to repeat bloom quickly, to self-clean, as in drop petals, rain-resistant so that the blooms do not ball, and be available in a variety of unique colours and shapes, with suitability for cutting and lastly will flourish in pots or containers. A heady list indeed.

“The most productive time in the garden is not spent digging and working but sitting and contemplating.” 

Kordes test their roses in varied locations around the world in different climates so that when released onto the market they have the highest potential for success for a wide range of purposes. The ADR award or Allgemeine Deutsche Rosenneuheitenprüfung is an annual prize for the hardiest, most disease-resistant attractive rose in trials in Germany. The roses are tested over three years in various rigorous and challenging criteria that began in the 1950s. Roses that do not fulfil the quality standards have their certificates removed. The Kordes company has more roses with an ADR award than any other rose breeder. Treloar’s Roses are the primary agent for Kordes roses in Australia and they are also available from Wagners Roses.

Delbard roses are another rose brand that fills my garden with spectacular roses. Testament to this is what I’ve named my ‘French Garden’ where few are missing from their range, including the Climbers, the Bordure and Couture collections. The ones I adore are the Grand Parfum range and the Painters series, with only two missing from each category. They are highly recommended and magnificent roses obtainable from Wagners Roses the primary agent for Delbards and Rankins Roses, who specialise in selling all the Delbard roses released in Australia. 

“There is nothing more exciting than having 350,000 seedlings growing that no one has ever seen before.”

David Austin Snr.

The familiar names of my favourite Delbard roses often talked about on a roseisaroseisarose are; Nahema, La Vien Rose, Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Blue Emotion, Chateau Versaille, Henri Matisse, Guy Savoy, Souvenir Louise Amade, Pink Intuition, Perfume de Paris, Belle Parfume, Grand Siecle, Chartreuse de Parme and Sour Emmanuelle. Guy Savoy was planted late in the season, and what a rose it is. Always in bloom and such a bright, happy rose that has quadrupled in size in just a couple of months and is constantly covered in buds and foliage. These magnificent roses are very hardy, flower abundantly, and give very little trouble.

“I haven’t much time to be fond of anything … but when I have a moment’s fondness to bestow, most times … the roses get it. I began my life among them in my father’s nursery garden, and I shall end my life among them, if I can. Yes. One of these days I shall retire from catching thieves, and try my hand at growing roses.” Wilkie Collins 

I am in awe of the notable rose breeders through the decades who have been part gardener, part scientist, and part historian and I admire their perseverance and patience in creating such perfect roses. I am also grateful for their expertise because without it we would not have such hardy, fragrant and robust roses to nurture and enjoy, especially in the harsh, hot dry climate of Australia. According to legendary English rose breeder David Austin Snr.

The key to successful rose breeding is having a deep understanding and intuition for which two roses might work well together.- It’s a mixture of science, skill and luck and, while you must look after the general health and vigour of the plant, it is always vital to concentrate on the essential beauty of the flower you are breeding, and try to enhance this.”

David Austin Snr.

Rosarian and a Rose breeder what is the difference? A Rosarian can be defined as -” an expert in the cultivation and propagation of roses.” Whereas a Rose Breeder is ” a rosarian who breeds a rose from a seed that resulted from cross-pollination and selection, and had the name of the rose registered with International Cultural Registration Authority – Rosa”- Australian Rose Breeders 1880-2009

A snapshot of some Australian Rose Breeders, past and present -Richard Walsh( La Fillette, Our Amanda, Miss Jane, The Governors Wife, Tahlia, Dusky Moon, Darling Charlie, Custard Cream) – Warren Millington ( Morpheus ) -George Thomson ( A Passionate Gardener, Crown Princess Mary, Elizabeth, Dame Joan Sutherland, Hans Heysen, Thank You, Wildfire) – Patrick Grant (Golden Dawn, Salmon Spray )- Bruce Brundrett ( Shirley’s Rose, The Jubilee Rose, The Opportunity Rose) John Nieuwestee, ( Amber Glow, In Appreciation, Seduction Cl) David Ruston ( had 50,000 roses in his garden said to be the largest rose garden in the Southern Hemisphere, Joyfulness Cl, Angel Face Cl, QE11 ) – Paul Hains ( Lady Endo, Governor Marie Bashir )- Alistair Clark ( Daydream, Nancy Hayward, Squatters Dream, Lorraine Lee ) – Mrs H. C. Fitzhardinge ( Prudence, Plain Jane, Governor Phillip, She bred twenty thousand seedlings in ten years) – Eric Welch ( Peter Frankenfeld Cl, Chameleon, Delicious ) -John and Sylvia Gray (  The Brindabella series of modern shrub roses) D. A. Fankhauser ( Elizabeth Fankhauser)- George Dawson,( Imp, Lady Mann, Sunny South)-  Graham Sargeant ( Gra’s Blue) amongst many many others.

Rose breeding is really a lottery, a challenge, It’s the old numbers racket. The more seeds you put in, the better chance you’ve got. After planting 320,000 seeds, you might end up with two good roses if you’re lucky. It’s 40 per cent know how, 60 per cent luck…. and at the end of the day you really do need Luck on your side,” George Thomson Willunga SA

More on rose breeders next time- David Austin, Meilland, McGredy, Jackson and Perkins, Rosen Tantau, Poulsen, Dickson, Pemberton, Bentall and Harkness.

Title quote by William Carlos Williams

All content Di Baker 2022

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