For 3 weeks, Ann Speight and I travelled the length of Aotearoa/New Zealand from Invercargill in the South as far as Kerikeri in the far North. Ann is convenor of Heritage Roses Southland and recipient of the Pratt Family Scholarship 2019-20 awarded yearly by HRNZI to further research of both national and international interest into an aspect of heritage roses. Ann’s topic was the old roses of Otago.
We held talks in 12 different heritage rose growing regions and were generously hosted by convenors who organized meetings for their members to get together to hear Ann’s talk and to take part in discussions led by me on such topics as attracting new, younger members, whether people still wanted a hard copy Journal, what a future national Executive would look like, the rare roses we are growing from cuttings for distribution and whether members would be keen to attend a conference. There was a lot of lively discussion and some interesting ideas put forward. It was most rewarding.
Ann’s talk which covered the history of the roses she had found, the excitement of find them in out of the way places, her family ties to them and how she propagated them garnered much engagement and people commented they would like to hear the talk again- right away. This also stimulated the discussions and confirmed that Heritage Roses NZ is in good heart right around New Zealand.
To keep this enthusiasm going we need to get together, so in November 2022 we are going to have a conference in Wellington based at Silverstream Retreat in Upper Hutt. Early days as yet, but I am putting together a conference committee and more details will start emerging soon.
Save the date of the w/e November 25-27th 2022 for the HRNZ Wellington conference.
Back to the tour- of course there were so many highlights but a few are – Fran Rawling’s garden Wyldewillow in the frost, visiting the Jessie Calder garden in Invercargill and meeting the young curator, the Central Otago scenery and tales told by an original HR member of the early days when taking cuttings was the way roses were spread, a packed meeting in Winchester (Ashburton and South Canterbury groups) where we totally rearranged the décor to show Ann’s slides, and the number of illustrious members who attended the Christchurch meeting.
We had a break in Nelson, though that included our meeting here and taking Ann to visit Tasman Bay Roses where they were preparing to dig the ordered bare-rooted roses to send all round the country. Ann had never been on the ferry from Picton to Wellington and we had the most perfect crossing. Wellington had the biggest attendance at their meeting and it was a thrill for me as my 18 year old grandson was in the audience! Visits to Pauatahanui and Taita Burial Grounds showed heritage roses in what I consider one of their most natural settings. As Wairarapa and Manawatu regions had attended the Wellington meeting, Ann and I flew to Hamilton where we hired a car and were able to visit the theme gardens at the Hamilton Gardens. Wouldn’t it be marvellous to show case heritage roses here in a garden dedicated to the women of the Early Settlers!
With our hosts in Whakatane, Liz and Chris Sides there was 3 days of rosy talk and wanders through their magical property which showed heritage roses growing naturally and contributing to a healthy biodiversity of soil, insect and bird life- my current obsession.
At our meeting in Papamoa with the Bay of Plenty branch, there were again members from the early days who contributed with their tales of the general excitement that the founding of HRNZ generated among old rose lovers and also conversely what was the cause of the fashion of no longer growing roses but using hard landscaping with so called easy care – flax, rocks and gravel.
The drive I was most dreading – through Auckland across the Harbour Bridge to Northland was now upon us but thankfully it stopped raining, was a Saturday afternoon and though busy was not alarming! We even got to Nova Podgora, the home and garden of Olga and George Yuretich in daylight. Our wanders through Olga’s collection of old roses again showed how brilliantly they add to a healthy environment. Highlights of Northland were seeing members who I have met before and visited their gardens at the 2014 Pilgrimage and the 2018 Conference, visiting Kemp House and the stone Store environs at Kerikeri and spending time at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
And finally Auckland- a real buzz for all sorts of reasons. The members were so generous with their organisation of a trip out to Ayrlies where we had morning tea with Bev McConnell and her team, visits to the Nancy Steen Gardens, St Stephens Cemetery, Kinder House and Ewelme Cottage. We heard tales of gardening for Nancy Steen from Martin Keay and felt an enthusiasm for HRNZ that I wasn’t really expecting. All in all a marvellous tour and so many thanks have to go to Ann for agreeing to undertake it and to the HR National Exec for agreeing to fund it.
On May 13th, Clare Haig and I set out on our Heritage Roses tour of New Zealand. The aim of this tour was for Clare, our president, to meet all the regional groups to discuss the future of Heritage Roses, and I would give my talk on “Old Roses of Otago” which was the topic of my Pratt Family Scholarship project 2019.
We started our 23 day trip in Dunedin, then went to Invercargill, Cromwell, Winchester, (South Canterbury & Ashburton groups), Christchurch and on to Nelson. It was good to have a break and catch our breath at Clare’s place in Cable Bay for a few days.
We had a very calm beautiful day to cross to Wellington on the ferry, which I had never done before. There was a couple of spare days there, so our husbands Dave and Hugh were able to join us for a mini break before we flew to Hamilton. Then we travelled on to Whakatane, Papamoa, Whangarei, Kerikeri and back to Auckland.
Clare and I shared the driving and we travelled 978 km in the South Island, and 1,001 km in the North Island with no speeding tickets!! Google Maps on our phones proved invaluable finding venues and billets.
We stayed with some great people in their lovely homes, and enjoyed a big range of meals on the way. One of the highlights of the trip for me was a visit to Ayrlies in Auckland amongst numerous others. There were only two technical issues where there were no photos to go with my talk, but it didn’t seem to matter too much.
Various people asked how I went about propagating the roses I found. I do this either by semi hardwood cuttings, (Jan-Feb) in a mixture of two-thirds pumice, one-third peat in a mini plastic tunnel house under a misting system that waters the pots four times a day for a minute at a time. These cuttings still have their leaves on.
If this doesn’t work, I will have another try from March onwards at hardwood cuttings. These are just inserted into a pot of potting mix and left outside for the winter. A mixture of patience, trial and error is required!!
Thank you to all the regions for having us. It was great to meet so many rose lovers and see more of our beautiful country.