Country diary: the bloom of a new love
A new summer romance is blooming for Wendyl Nissen and it’s all thanks to the influence of a popular Kiwi singer.
Iseem to be having a rather intense love affair with roses in my garden, which I blame firmly on Hayley Westenra. Years ago my husband wrote a biography of the highly acclaimed singer, so when I was at the garden centre casually sniffing roses – as I like to do – and came across one named after her, I bought it for my husband as a homage. He has written 10 biographies, and while I’m not sure if roses have been named after any of his other subjects, like Willie Apiata or Paul Henry, if they were, I would buy them too and plant a rose garden of remembrance just for my husband.
When the Hayley Westenra rose came home, I didn’t really have anywhere to plant her, so she went in by the shed – a rather grim area that I thought could do with some cheering up.
She flowered up there briefly last summer, but I missed the blooms as I was overseas at the time. When I arrived back, all that remained were some dropped petals scattered at her feet.
Then we started building the hen house next to the shed and it became apparent that Hayley would have to find a new home, as she was in the spot where the nests were destined to be.
So I cleared a patch in the flower garden, which until then had been overtaken by easy-care daisies and geraniums.
Well, Hayley loved this spot and set about producing the most perfect roses. The buds start out as apricot tinged with crimson on the edge of the petals, then when the rose opens it is absolutely huge and frilly and slowly changes to a delicate pink. But the best bit is the smell; it is beyond heavenly – it is just, well, divine. For the past few weeks I have had a Hayley rose in a vase by my bed and am immersed in a cloud of scent from dusk until dawn. I will often stir in the night, have a sniff and collapse back into a deep, happy roseimbued sleep.
It prompted me to buy another Hayley Westenra. Then I bought a climbing Old Blush, and this has totally covered our guest cottage, which also has two carpet roses. I now just need someone to paint me a Miss Marple type of sign saying “Rose Cottage”.
I’ve also returned to the flower garden full of daisies and geraniums and cut everything back to make room for another 10 roses. Don’t ask me what they are called, as the names meant nothing. I was only interested in two things: colour and scent. I have deep reds, delicate apricots, a lovely lilac, some whites (one with a pink centre) and a few pinks. I went for a variety of colours but the one thing they all had to have was the words “strong fragrance” on the label. I don’t see the point of having a rose in the garden unless you can smell it too.
Anyone who knows me well is aware that if there’s a perfume for sale with rose on the label, it is mine. I spend far too much money on the very expensive rose damask essential oil to drip into my bath and I make my own laundry powder, scented – you guessed it – with rose.
Prior to this obsession, the only interest I had taken in roses was a poem, The Sick Rose by William Blake, which was in a collection of poems I was given at my high-school prizegiving. I remember this because it was the only prize I ever got, rather generously given by my English teacher, Miss Hall, who had somehow found room in her list for my “highly commended”. It was a prize which I did not really deserve, as I was not a dedicated student by any means.
My nana grew a wonderful climbing rose, which I’m pretty sure was an Old Blush like mine. I have a gorgeous picture of her in the doorway of her cottage, surrounded by masses of rose blooms. So I suppose my Rose Cottage was inspired by her.
As I write this, I have just come in from the burgeoning rose garden, having decided that in the winter out will come the daisies and geraniums and in will go another 10 roses… perhaps even a couple more Hayleys.
I am immersed in a cloud of rose scent from dusk until dawn...