Every rose tells a love story

Our garden was a “work in progress’’ when Olivier died and at his funeral I told the congregation that it would now become his memorial garden.  I shared that we had intended to add roses, irises, flowering hibiscus and deciduous trees to the eclectic planting selection of landscape designer Diana McGregor.

We had meant to choose the roses together, to be scattered throughout the garden rather than in one large patch, which I had at my earlier Belair home on Sheoak Road. But time ran out. However, we knew we wanted “Madam President”, a lush hybrid with pink blooms and a carpet rose named White Miedeland because they flowered prolifically in friends’ garden. And every time we saw a picturesque Pierre de Ronsard flowering, we stated that we would have those gorgeous blooms hanging from our archways.

Somehow it never happened until today when I sat down with a rose catalogue and chose 12 roses whose names each bore a connection to our life together.    I wanted to fulfil one small part of our plan, to focus my mind on growing plantings which would bring beauty into my life.

The first rose is named “Wedding Day’’ – the beautiful beginning of our journey together   – a spring flowering rambler from 1950 which produces masses of small fragrant white flowers . So naturally the second rose, a low bush rose named ”French Lace’’ because I wore champagne-coloured French lace on my Caleche wedding gown. Again a fragrant rose, which flowers in decorative buds in small clusters which open into attractive cream  blooms.

It was easy to choose a rose to reflect our wonderful honeymoon in the Loire Valley when I found “Comte de Chambord’’,  that idyllic fantasy chateau in the Loire, one of many that we visited in France in 2008. Its description of the fragrant mid pink tinged lilac blooms which “swirl into a profusion of crumpled petals’’ reminded me of how our love bloomed into full flower along the Loire.

The word “Dearest’’ captures my feelings for my husband and this dainty pink low bush rose from 1960 flowers in clusters and is fragrant and decorative. It will create quite a show in the garden.

A huge part of our lifestyle was our annual trip to France to visit Mammy who lived in St Remy de Provence and I could not look beyond choosing “La France”, an ancient French Hybrid Tea dating from 1869. It produces large globular blooms of silvery pin with deeper reverse and that attractive pattern of roses – petals which sharply roll back as they unfold.

Our eight years together were peppered with many magic moments, which made choosing “Magic Moments’’ mandatory. Not only does it have sentimental value, but it has an irresistible damask rose fragrance and the dainty spiral buds of lavender open to shades of deep pink. The award-winning rose is a winner in the Australian True Blue Collection.

Which brings me to the end of Olivier’s life when “Sweet Chariot’’, named after that negro gospel song “Swing Low Sweet Chariot… coming down to carry me home…’’ about dying and everlasting life, was an important choice. It allows my rose garden to reflect our full love story.

For Olivier’s funeral, I chose the theme “Amazing Grace’’
and a beautiful rendition by Judy Collins filled the chapel with sweet music and words which reflected the many God-given blessings of our life together.

So, with joy in my heart, the first one I chose actually was the bush rose  “Amazing Grace 07’’. Splendidly ice white, it was bred by Bruce Chapman of Melbourne, and Ross Roses experts believe “Amazing Grace’’ is the best white rose introduced in Australia for decades.

Yet, I didn’t learn of it in the catalogue, even though it is a feature rose there.  Friends told me of their splendid white rose in their front garden with long stems for floral arrangements and when I asked them what was its name, they told me “Amazing Grace’’ – a few days after Olivier’s funeral.

So in Spring, when the first flowers appear, I will tell visitors the story of our life through the roses in Olivier’s memorial garden.


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