Pruning, revisited

Floristry, Roses

Maybe this makes me weird, but I love pruning.  I was out there yesterday afternoon, brandishing my secateurs, and was only temporarily defeated by the hail.  Most people are scared of pruning and think they’ll get it wrong.  Wrong!  Roses are remarkably tough and resilient, and will survive a great deal of harsh treatment.  They will also reward you with abundant blossoms if you treat them nicely.  In short, roses and humans have a lot in common.

About this time last year I wrote a post about pruning called Symbolic pruning.  It summarised how to prune (briefly, remove dead and diseased material, remove crossing or inward growing branches and shorten by a third), and then I went to muse about how wonderful it would be if we could remove unhelpful habits as effectively as we can prune the roses.

I have been an epic failure on this front over the last twelve months.  No exercise program has been adhered to, let alone formulated, beyond my weekly attendance at rehab Pilates.  I do note however that I always feel better, both mentally and physically, afterwards, and I always note that I feel vastly better on a non working Wednesday, after two days of being trapped in front of the computer.

This means I am back to the eternal question.  How do I make a living?  I need a job which gives me the opportunity to exercise both my intellect and creativity, does not involve being in front of a screen and on my spreading arse all the time, and something which is comfortably over borderline poverty.  All suggestions welcome.

On the positive side, this unusually wet winter means  I now have a bounteous spring full of roses to look forward to.  I managed to control my rose purchasing this winter to only four new varieties.  Ashram, which I have admired at every rose show I have been to, and love for the thoughts of belonging and connection that its name evokes in me.  In a moment of pure homesickness for the mild  winters of my home town, I bought City of Perth.  Finally I bought two roses purely for floristry.   Julia’s Rose is also sometimes called the Brown Paper Bag rose for its unusual colouring that looks fabulous in the vase, and Soul Sister, which was marketed as an improvement on Julia’s rose.

I also transplanted three from last winter, which had sulked seriously in their original planting.  Joyfulness, Mirage and Addictive Lure have taken kindly to the move.  And when they grow up a little, I’ll be able to see them from bed.

Flowers really do make me happy.




Roses of Bridgetown

bridgetown, Roses

It’s nearly the end of my trip home and I’m glad I did my garden visiting before the temperature got to forty degrees.

I revisited one of the first specialty rose gardens I ever visited in Pinjarra. Unfortunately it was looking a little the worse for wear. Most of the first flush had passed so there aren’t many photos to share.

I travelled to Bridgetown to visit a very old friend (26 years!) who has ten acres, a veritable ark of animals and an emerging garden. She has a predilection for purple so her roses are mostly of that colour and many of the new lilac and lavender shades.

Blue for you. Photo by the author

Blue for you. Photo by the author

The Thank You rose. Photo by the author.

The Thank You rose. Photo by the author.

Blackberry Nip. Photo by the author.

Blackberry Nip. Photo by the author.

Blue Moon. Photo by the author.

Blue Moon. Photo by the author.

We also went to Forde House, right on the Blackwood River near the bridge. It has a lovely garden and its roses were quite lovely, by virtue of the milder climate in the Bridgetown area.

A bank of roses at Forde House, Bridgetown. Photo by the author.

A bank of roses at Forde House, Bridgetown. Photo by the author.

Forde House, Bridgetown.

Forde House, Bridgetown.

Unidentified rose at Forde House, Bridgetown. Photo by the author.

Unidentified rose at Forde House, Bridgetown. Photo by the author.

Happy travels. Back to reality tomorrow, but on the upside I will be reunited with the Iron Paw and my own roses.

Roses of North Perth

north Perth, Roses

One of my most beloved friends lives, quite coincidentally, on the same street where my Dad grew up in North Perth.  It was wonderful to be able to see her  for the second time in a year, and I spent a delightful afternoon lunching and then walking, checking out the gardens, and revisiting Grandpa’s house.  Sadly it’s been a rental for many years and is looking rather the worse for wear.

My grandfather's house in North Perth.  Phot by the author.

My grandfather’s house in North Perth. Phot by the author.

I’m afraid L will tell me one day it’s been bowled over a ginormous monstrosity.  I have to confess that I don’t particularly remember the roses.  I remember the common red and yellow lantana, so I suspect that these are later plantings.  When I see my uncle this week, I’ll ask him.

The most interesting rose we saw was, unfortunately, the furtherest away so the photos aren’t as close as I would have liked without clambering over the front fence.  I’ve never seem a rose with three different blooms on the same bush.  One was plain dark red, one was red striped with yellow while the other was red striped with white.

Mystery red and white striped rose. Photo by the author.

Mystery red and white striped rose. Photo by the author.

Mystery red and yellow striped rose.  Photo by the author.

Mystery red and yellow striped rose. Photo by the author.

This rose, or more accurately, the red and yellow striped one, rings bells. I beleive it might be Abracadabra, which has a bit of a reputation for instability. It is a sport itself, and this bush shows it being in two minds. I may have to acquire one!

Lots of other lovely plants in bloom too, which would never survive Canberrans frosts. Especially enjoying the heavenly blue purple of the jacaranda, and the wide variety of hibiscus.

I haven’t been home for three years, so I was we’ll and truly over due for drinking in my first sight of the Swan River last night for the headland at Heathcote. So beautiful. So lucky to grow up where we did.

The rose that started it all

Fun, photography, Roses

Meet Skylark.

Skylark. Photo by the author.

Skylark. Photo by the author.

While I’ve always loved roses, and planted many in the many different gardens I’ve had since my early twenties, its Skylark that’s responsible for this current phase, and this project of reflective roses.

I’d handed in my PhD, been out on the town drinking gallons of bubbles and crashed in a inelegant tangle of limbs, clothes and streamers, whereupon I slept prodigiously. For the next forty hours, except for the odd moment of bladder induced wakefulness, and the urgent need for Panadol, I was out to the world.

When I re-entered the world, I was bit bereft. I’d been working six days a week for years on the heavy blue tome and I realised just how much it had come to take over my life. My sister rescued me. Go and buy a new rose, she said, one that speaks to all the fun you are going to have in the future.

Skylark was the rose that came home with me that day.

She, plural, meaning the rose and my sister, got me thinking about the symbolic nature of roses, and eventually this project of a reflective/meditation deck was born. It’s given me a great deal of pleasure, and continues to do so.

The photography is really stretching me. While I had paid a photographer last summer, he didn’t finish the job and then I got inducted into the joys of licence agreements. So I have some wonderful photos of many roses that aren’t going in the deck, which I probably won’t ever use even though I paid for them.

I purchased a new camera, which was an inbetween step between a basic point and shoot and a dslr. I am not happy with it. I get better shots in close up from my IPhone. Still, it’s all good learning, and I spend time with the roses on warm summer evenings. I think I’ll buy a DSLR in the January sales. Of course I will have missed the once bloomers, so this project won’t be finished now until this time next year.

Oh well. If that’s all I have to worry about, I’m doing OK in the grand scheme of things.


Canberra, Roses, spring
Sarah van Fleet.  Photo by the author.

Sarah van Fleet. Photo by the author.

I made my first trip to the gardens at Old Parliament House this morning and photographed until the sun got too high.  I always feel renewed and soothed by a good garden, and its as if all the fear and angst that I experienced yesterday was happening to someone else.

Of course it didn’t, but its always useful to have yet ANOTHER reminder that these things pass.  As will the roses, but right now I have the anticipation of months ahead.

Fimbriata. Photo by the author.

Fimbriata. Photo by the author.

This is Fimbriata which many, including me, love for the carnation like edging to its petals.

Tonner's Fancy on a pillar in the Rex Hazelwood garden. Photo by the author.

Tonner’s Fancy on a pillar in the Rex Hazelwood garden. Photo by the author.

This is one of the Alister Clark stable of roses, Tonner’s Fancy, doing a splendid job of covering a pillar. Most of his roses are very strong climbers.

Le Vesuve. Photo by the author.

Le Vesuve. Photo by the author.

I’ve written about this rose before, Le Vesuve, in a post exploring anger and its associated emotions. I did do some follow up research on the naming of this rose, which will morph into a post, but for the moment, I am just enjoying her. If I move from the Watson garden to somewhere bigger, I would definitely give her a prominent place.

Looking forward to more dusk light treasures this evening in the species roses.

Roses for home

Belonging, Clare Cooper Marcus, Home, Roses

A few posts ago I talked about the loss of a much cherished dream, which I am still finding it very difficult to adjust to. As if by magic, a book returned to my life yesterday. I lent Clare Cooper Marcus’ House as a mirror of self: Exploring the deeper meaning of home and never got it back. This week I found a replacement copy, and each evening I have been getting cosy with it. Last night I read the chapter on location, which reminded me afresh of my attempt to find a home in a different city.

In the chapter she talks about how few people in her research were able to be OK with where they were. Most of us, it would seem, have a deep, semi conscious idea of home that is in play all the time. Its primarily affected by the place or places, homes or houses in which we spent our childhood years but we can also be influenced by a myriad of other things. I certainly have a strong image of the place I would like to call home. My Tasmanian venture was as close to it as I have come, which is why its failure felt so devastating. Lots of friends knew that was why I had gone, but very few have appreciated the depth of the sorrow that my failure to accomplish it has brought me.

Normally I would turn to a rose garden for solace, but here in Canberra in June, that’s not possible. Heritage Roses Australia posted a photo this week of a beautiful array of roses from WA, my birth state. Could be a reason to move back there, although I don’t know how I would cope with the summers anymore.

A search of Help Me Find produces a number of roses with home in the title, many of which seem to be associated with decorator magazines. One that isn’t which draws me in is called Ideal Home, or Idylle. It’s a pink blend hybrid tea bred by Joseph Laperriere in 1959. There’s also the intriguingly named Home of Time, which also goes by the name Adagio. Anne Cocker was the breeder and it was released in 1998. Its bronzey reddy tones are very bold, and might sit well next to Afternoon Delight out the front. The last rose that strikes me (there’s a play on names about to come) is Home and Family. However this rose was released in Australia under the name Atomic Blonde. Atomic, with all its imagery of exploding mushroom clouds and devastation, doesn’t strike me as a name that will produce sales. Home and Family on the other hand, well, isn’t that what we all long for? A home where we are really at home, and a family where we truly feel like family?

I live in hope…

Roses for revelation

Adoption, Diabetes, Family, Health, Roses

If only all revelations were as beautiful as this rose. Like many roses, she has multiple names. I found her by searching under the term ‘revelation’, with her full name of ‘Sweet Revelation’. She is also known as Chimene, Sue Hipkin or Hipken, and as Lady Jane Grey. She was bred by Harkness, and released in 1998. Harkness describes this rose as growing a metre high and sixty five centimetres wide, with a powerful scent and a unique bronze colour. In their catalogue, she is Sue Hipkin.

Photo by George Seguin, photographed in the Bagatelle Garden, Paris.

Photo by George Seguin, photographed in the Bagatelle Garden, Paris.

This post started because I’d had an unwelcome revelation relating to my diabetes. While researching something that I thought was entirely unrelated, I discovered that my risk of developing diabetes had always been higher because I had never been breastfed. Children taken for adoption in the secret era usually weren’t.

Add another black mark to the experience of adoption.

What really astounded me was the coincidence between this rose’s names. When I was in primary school, I would often stay at my grandparent’s house where I liked to read their old books. That was how I discovered the story of Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for a mere nine days. With ruthless manoeuvring, her parents put her on the throne following the death of Henry VIII’s son Edward in an attempt to keep Henry’s Catholic first born daughter, Mary, off the throne.

My grandparents were fiercely Protestant, or fiercely anti Catholic, and Jane’s story has been largely cast against this political background religious hatred and intolerance. This is not what struck me as a kid. I was being brought up to be irreligious, and the words Protestant and Catholic were just that, words.

Through her mother’s family, Jane had kinship with the Royal family. She and Henry VIII’s heir, Edward, were cousins. This lineage of hers turned out to be deadly. Jane might not have been beheaded if it were not for her father, in particular. His refusal to give up his ambition for power is what cost his daughter her life. It was the first time that I truly understood, with both my head and my heart, that family can indeed be dangerous.

While I was troubled and fascinated by the story of Jane all at the same time, the revelation helped me. It gave me a safe historical context to think about the purpose of families, and about how parents were supposed to behave. Not that this is a topic which I would ever have aired within my adoptive family. The subject was strictly verboten, and as the Australian research shows, those children who did not feel encouraged to talk about it, were more likely to have mental health issues later in life. So I struggled to find a way to come to terms with the knowledge that my parents had given me away. The concept that ‘family is dangerous’ that I formed after learning of Jane Grey’s fate helped me to understand that maybe the fault wasn’t with me. Just maybe, I was the innocent party instead of fault laden, defective child that I thought I was.

Was it a sweet revelation, as this rose’s name suggests? Ultimately, they both were. For the first, I feel more exonerated of the shame of having developed a chronic disease at so young an age. For the second, I remember the relief of my child self. It didn’t solve the situation I was in, and remain in, but it gave me a different, and more positive, perspective.

Roses for anger


Are there roses for anger? With a stretch of the imagination, yes.

We have Wildfire, Wildcat, Le Vesuve, Lavaglut and Typhoon. None are particularly about anger, but all suggest that more violent end of the spectrum of human emotions. More accurately, they suggest the effect of a sweeping bout of rage. We all know what Vesuvius did to Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Le Vesuve, Laffay, 1825.  Photo by the author.

Le Vesuve, Laffay, 1825. Photo by the author.

Le Vesuve, pictured above, seems too sweetly pink to really carry the weight of her name. She has an alternative name, Lemesle, and was bred by Laffay in 1825. None of the sites I have consulted have given the rationale for her name, and I must confess that I am going against all professional training and making an assumption that her name is related to Vesuvius. But in any case, while she is a lovely rose, she wouldn’t be my pick for a rose to symbolise anger.

Wildfire.  Photo by the author.

Wildfire. Photo by the author.

This is Wildfire, photographed at the Old Parliament House Garden. She is far more like it. As is Typhoon. She almost glows like embers.

There’s also Wildcat, which I’ve not seen in person but from photos she is channelling the same orange to red glow. We feel these colours when we feel angry. I know that when I am angry my body feels hotter, I have more energy. Sometimes it really is like a wave of lava. This brings me to the final rose that I have seen, Lavaglut, which I photographed at the last rose show in Canberra.

Lavaglut, on display at the Canberra rose show in 2014.  Photo by the author.

Lavaglut, on display at the Canberra rose show in 2014. Photo by the author.

Anger is perhaps the most misunderstood of emotions, reviled even. Most of us are taught to shun it from an early age, especially if we were punished for showing it. Alternatively, we learn to fear it if someone in our close circle bursts their anger upon us.

Anger is one of the four basic emotions that all humans have. Cross cultural research suggests that this is consistent across borders, and across other less well defined borders such as age and gender. If this is the case, then surely anger serves some purpose. What might that be?

I have gradually come to believe that anger has a protective function. It exists to let us know when some vital boundary has been crossed, and it means that we need to take some kind of action to restore them. I say gradually because as I grew up, I had a little of both my scenarios. Anger was not acceptable, especially from a girl, and my father was prone to outbursts that would always send me scurrying away to safety.

Recently I’ve been rediscovering my anger, and I can assure you that after more than four decades on the planet pretending that it’s not there, there’s quite a lot of it. Approaching it through the lense of rose appreciation has given me a soft entry to engaging with it. Historically I would never have chosen any of these roses to plant. I lean towards soft and gentle colours, creamy yellows and dusty pinks. I would have judged these ‘anger’ roses for being brash, vulgar or some other negative description. Really, what I was reacting to was the boldness. Anger is a bold emotion, it doesn’t shrink and bow its head and apologise for itself. Nor do these roses.

The only rose that I have currently planted that even approaches these colours is Afternoon Delight. I had noticed that with this garden I had begun to choose bolder colours, rich reds, glowing purples, stronger pinks. I find with some delight that Afternoon Delight is a prelude to a greater me, as I begin to reintegrate lost parts of myself.

I wonder what I could plant next?