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Published August 6th 2016
Take me to a time of long ago where the roses bloom
Rose bushes sit dormant over winter. To look at some of them you would think they are dead. Then suddenly at late winter huge long new canes appear, then the darling buds of Spring, giving us hope that warm weather will be here again soon. One place to see very special new Spring roses is in the Barossa Valley in South Australia.
With the early settlement of the Barossa Valley in South Australia, German immigrants brought grape vine clippings with them wrapped in soil and wet calico cloth. After surviving the long sea journey of around nine months, the cuttings were planted in their new home in Australia in the early cottage gardens of the first Barossa villages and farms.
Barossa Old Rose Repository is at Angaston, South Australia. Image by Out and About.
In Europe, the tradition was to place a rose bush at the end of each row of grapevines. This was because the first signs of disease on a rose was similar to the powdery mildew type disease of grapevines. If disease was spotted on the rose bush first they could take measures to save the crop of grapes. The practice of a rose bush at the end of the rows is still seen around the Barossa today, but with modern pest control the tradition is nowadays used for aesthetics and nostalgia. So roses played an important role in agriculture as well as bringing memories of the old country and making a beautiful new garden.
New purple growth bursts with new spring buds. An old rose at the repository. Image by Out and About.
In colonial times many rose plants from Europe were brought to new States of Australia. With the introduction of new varieties, and some early Australian bred roses more became available for sale. As time went on, mail order plant catalogues stocked rose varieties that have all but disappeared from nurseries today. This is because the rose may have not been a good seller or it was superseded by new modern varieties that stood up to disease or had a longer flowering season, which became better sellers. There are not many roses that were around over a hundred years ago that are still available today.
The huge rambling roses at the Barossa Rose Repository. Image by Out and About.
Heritage or old fashioned roses are categorised as those who were bred prior to the late 1800s when the first hybrid teas was introduced. The ones that survived grew wild at abandoned farms and by road sides. The hybrid teas were a new era in rose cultivation, and most of the modern roses you see today are these.
Many old roses have been found at cemeteries as it was often the custom to plant a rose bush on the grave of a loved one. One such rose was discovered in recent years at a grave at Blakiston, near Nairne in SA. The very old rose had survived from the early days of the cemetery which began burials in 1847. It grows very large and has a trunk like a tree so it had endured the elements. It has been rescued and re-named Octavius Weld after the name on the grave of where it was found. This rose and a few old favourites are still for sale today at specialist rose nurseries. Interestingly, this is near Handorf which was also a town populated by German immigrants.
The path into the garden is planted with salvias and hardy plants. Image by Out and About.
There are people who have become heritage rose enthusiasts around Australia. Of you would like to know more about heritage roses there is a club; The Heritage Rose Society Some have tried to keep these old varieties alive however many were lost in recent droughts. In the Barossa region, there is a dedicated group of rose lovers who have collected some of these roses and decided to make a collection of old roses found around the Barossa Valley.
Old roses were located on farms and vineyards, so plant cuttings were taken prior to vineyards being ripped up to make new plantings. These cuttings grew into small shrubs and were planted to make a special heritage old rose garden, which is located in Angaston. These roses are not neat little modern shrubs like you see in rose beds in parks. These are the wild rampant huge bushes of days long gone. Their ancestry came from the wild rambling roses of Turkey, Persia and China.
Huge old posts from an old Barossa barn that fell over in a storm were donated by a farmer and used as a support framework. Old chains were nailed across the beams for the wildness of the roses to clamber over. The roses include varieties of bush, ramblers and climbers.
They have now grown so big from when they were first planted a few years ago. They get a trim every now and again, but mostly they are left to grow wild and free as they did in the past. Some of these roses would be ancestors of those first roses that made the long journey by ship to Australia. When a rose is unidentified and all steps have failed to find her rose family, she is given a new name, with the initials ROR after it, meaning 'renamed old rose'.
The rambling roses hanging on old chains. Image by Out and About.
Most of the roses here are once flowering only, which means they will not flower again over the summer or in the Autumn flush. Some will flower again but the best time to see them is in the Spring to early Summer before the heat comes and frizzles the flowers. To get here park in the main street of Angaston and walk down the lane by the side of the Village Green. Or drive down the lane as there is parking at the rear, toilets and a green space near a little creek.
Murray St Angaston. Turn here for the rose garden. Image by Out and About.
The Village Green community space in the centre of Angaston. Image by Out and About.
The Rose Repository is only a small area. When you arrive you may be taken aback and think is this all there is. However, the true rose lover will revel in this rose bower and want to examine each leaf and flower jewel. Make your visit a part of a visit to the Barossa. I pop in and sit here in this living museum every Spring. The early blooms here show us the warm weather has begun, heralding the beginning of flowering season everywhere. This beautiful and almost secret sanctuary in the centre of Angaston is a living museum of the Barossa's past, growing wild and free, preserved for another 100 years or more.