New Years Honors List 2021

For Services on behalf of the conservation of heritage roses in New Zealand.

Mrs Frances Joan Rawling after being awarded her QSM medal by the Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy at a reception at Government House, Wellington. May 5th 2021. Photo supplied.

Fran joined Heritage Roses New Zealand Inc. (Otago Branch) in 1997 and it wasn’t long before her outstanding leadership qualities were noticed and utilised. Since then, Fran has achieved an astonishing amount and below is the impressive list of her achievements. I will impress right from the start that all Fran’s work has been voluntary.

In her first term she and HR Otago organised the 11th International Conference for Heritage Roses in Dunedin, attended by 350 delegates. It was a resounding success and the whole event is still talked about by those who attended. Fran’s organizing skills were again put to the test when the same group organized the first National Conference in 2012. This was when I first saw Fran in action. She and her team had organized speakers both local and international, awards, garden visits all over Dunedin and amazing hospitality. As well there were workshops with different groups before breakfast and later stylish dinners with many people for Fran to attend to, but even with all this she took the time to help me clarify my intentions for the Nelson event that we were planning for the following year. As I floundered with what our aim was, she said without the slightest trace of being patronising, why don’t you make it a membership drive. Of course, how simple. Never one to beat about the bush, Fran sees what is needed, articulates it, and then actions it.

Her five acre garden, Wyldewillow in Abbotsford, Dunedin has been created from a flat paddock with such vision and dedication over the last thirty three years that when she was a member of NZ Garden Trust it was a Garden of National Significance. Over the years it was a wedding destination and is now still visited the whole summer long by bus loads of garden lovers looking for inspiration and most particularly by old fashioned rose lovers. The garden is home to countless roses growing in beds, over fences, arbours and trees and Fran has long been a collector.

An image that springs to mind is seeing the orchard in Spring with drifts of daffodils under the pink and white blossom of the old orchard trees. Fran’s flock of grey Araucana chickens are allowed to free range here and in summer they can rest in the shade of giant climbing roses that are using the old apple trees for support. There are many other beautiful vistas that Fran has created in her part of Dunedin.


Fran by the lake she created at Wyldewillow with her dog, ‘Wolf’. Behind, flowering on the mound is a silver pear. Photo Clare Haig 

Fran has collected and grown the old roses of New Zealand for many years and about 2010 she realised that there were no longer as many roses for sale in plant nurseries and that dedicated rose nurseries were becoming rarer. This concerned her as she was aware of what an important heritage New Zealand has of being a keen rose growing country from earliest times of European settlement in the early 1800s. Early settlers found that roses grew so well in NZ’s temperate climate that they planted them wherever they built to remind them of home. Roses recently released in Europe, only took a few years to arrive in New Zealand’s newly established nurseries and, for example, whole swathes of gardeners eagerly embraced the newly produced variety of French Hybrid Perpetual Roses, forerunners of today’s Hybrid Teas. At the height of their popularity there were 225 offered for sale and now one of the only dedicated rose nurseries left, Tasman Bay Roses in Nelson has only 32 of them on its online catalogue. This decline concerns Fran very much.

Roses were also disappearing from the countryside as roads were widened, pastures and old farms cleared for housing, the careless use of herbicide sprays and people had less time for gardening. Fran realised something had to be done to save our heritage of roses and fortuitously met an Otago rose lover, Murray Radka who had also realised heritage roses in New Zealand would be in dire straits if something wasn’t done. So together with Inger Gledhill and Daphne Whitfort-Smith in 2011 and Maureen Viggo in 2019 the National New Zealand Rose Register was formed. They put a call out to the rose growing regions of New Zealand to search for “lost” roses- ones no longer available in rose catalogues and people ever since have searched for and found old and rare roses and these have been propagated and planted in places where they are safe for perpetuity and will be available when rose gardens growing the roses from yester- year are fashionable again.

This is a perfect example of Fran’s vision and leadership skills. Something needed to be done to save the roses and she saw a way that it could be done and then inspired people to go chasing round the countryside often wet, muddy and scratched to find an old rose still tenaciously growing up a steep bank or under brambles. Then to take cuttings and look after them until such time as they could be planted and grown on. The plants must then be distributed to several places in case one dies- so people and places must be found who are willing to do this.

In 2001 Fran decided that the Northern Dunedin Cemetery needed restoration and thought up a plan and worked with the Dunedin, Parks and Cemeteries department to make it happen.  This has included raising money for the purchase of the roses that would have been planted originally and running monthly and quarterly working bees for the maintenance of the old roses. Fran has also supervised the cataloguing and auditing of the Green Book that lists all the ‘1001’ roses planted and their position in the cemetery. In 2016 Fran led the group  when a large, unexplained spraying incident damaged or killed 500 roses. Distressing though it was at the time, the Dunedin City Council now work very closely with Fran and her group of volunteers.

 Dunedin Northern Cemetery: Roses from left: Ghislaine de Feligonde, bright yellow is rosa harrisonii and on right Buff Beauty. Photo supplied

To promote the Northern Cemetery and Heritage Roses in general Fran has done much public speaking throughout the country to local garden and heritage groups. She has guided many tours around the cemetery for the Dunedin public and anyone interested to educate them about it being a national base for preservation and conservation of all heritage roses that have been bought into the country over the years.

In 2009 the Cemetery was recognised by the President of the World Federation of Roses as one of the best collections in the world “a garden of international significance, a jewel, in fact”, though this is yet to be formally acknowledged. However, in 2018 the HRNZI Plaque for Significant Collections was presented at the National Conference in Northland.

Fran was a teacher and so education has always been important, and Fran has dreamt up, inspired people to help and then run several seminars to inform people of diverse things like how to be a good convenor and leader of a branch of Heritage Roses and more recently one encouraging and informing the curators in charge of the old rose collections in our Public Gardens. When Fran has an idea, she has no trouble getting people on board to help. 

We owe Fran a huge debt of gratitude for her realisation that our heritage of roses from early colonial days needed conserving. Imagine New Zealand with no roses from the past. Many people might also have these thoughts, but Fran has the energy and determination to put her thoughts into action and never gets put off by set- backs.

On May 5th this year, Fran received her Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) for services to heritage rose preservation along with 13 other people also being recognised for their selfless service to their communities presented by the Governor General, The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy at Government House, Wellington. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the ceremony and it was regal and gracious as befits a Commonwealth country but also had a distinct friendly and relaxed kiwi flavour. All of us in Heritage Roses New Zealand are so proud of Frances Joan Rawling, QSM!

The Rt Hon Dame Pasty Reddy and Sir David Gascoigne host a photo opportunity for Fran’s party after Fran received her medal. 

From left: Ann Williams, Duane, Tania and Madeline Pleace, Sir David Gascoigne, The Hon Pasty Reddy, Fran and Mike Rawling, Clare Haig and Beryl Lee. Photo taken for Clare

Positions, Awards and Achievements



HR Otago Convenor




HR Otago Treasurer


HRNZI National President




NZ Representative on World Federation of Rose Societies


Leading member of National Register for Conservation of Old Roses committee











  • 11th International Conference for Heritage Roes in Dunedin 2005 with 350 delegates.
  • First National Conference for Heritage Roses in Dunedin 2012 with 150 delegates.
  • Both conferences included International and National speakers and a gala dinner and visits to both public and private gardens with old roses
  • Designed and organised a NRNZI display at Ellerslie Flower Show in Christchurch 2012
  • Seminar for National Botanic Garden staff in Dunedin 2019



  • Dunedin Railway Station
  • University of Otago St. David St
  • Waikouaiti Public Garden
  • Dunedin Northern Cemetery
  • Otago Community Hospice
  • Glenfalloch Garden
  • Colombua College Nancy Steen Garden
  • Fletcher House
  • University of Otago 150th Celebration Garden

The HRNZI Plaque for Significant Collections was presented in 2018 to the Dunedin Northern Cemetery