Where did all the roses go?

A rose is a rose is a rose… or is it?

Are the tall, proud, identical flowers we see in flower stores really what we’ve come to know and expect of roses?

One of my favourite memories of growing up was walking through our beautiful rose gardens and picking flowers to arrange for the table when we had visitors. My mother grew a wide range of  David Austins and other old fashioned roses and she would show me where to cut the stems from the bush in order to promote more growth. Thorns often scratched my hands and I wore these marks with pride, parading around with my trophy – a bucketful of sweetly scented blooms. Mum would show me how to de-thorn the stems and I’d spend the next hour or so arranging them and placing them all over the house.

Last week I had the pleasure and privilege of visiting Highbank in Lauriston – and for an afternoon I felt like I was back home picking roses with mum. Highbank is a Bed & Breakfast and rose garden operated by Tonia Todman and here she also runs cooking and interior design classes for small groups.

Tonia has been supplying Victorian florists with David Austin and Hybrid Tea roses for the last 3 years and her roses grow outside in all conditions. Her roses are all chemical free and while she is the first to admit it isn’t easy, it’s proof that this is possible on a small scale commercial basis. With the sweetest fragrances, voluptuous heads of petals and stems lined with thorns they are not your average flower-store bloom, but what they lack in uniformity they more than make up for in character and charm.

Highbank roses

Some of the many treasures at Highbank

I truly love working with garden roses when creating a special gift or a bride’s bouquet – their shades, sizes and fragrances vary greatly and they bring a sense of a simpler life when arranged for the table or a wedding. I couldn’t leave empty handed so out came the snippers as we made our way through the rows. Two buckets of roses later I was proudly sporting the battle scars of another successful adventure – and in the coming weeks I’ll be sharing some of my creations from this inspirational afternoon.