Cemetery now a rose garden
It’s the perfect time to stop and smell the roses.
The burial ground below St Alban’s Church in Pauatahanui might be a who’s who of the area’s historic families – familiar names like Bradey, Gray, Flighty and Stace are interred there – but at this time of year, it is what’s happening above ground that holds prominence.
The cemetery at Pauatahanui dates back to 1856, when Thomas Hollis Stace donated an acre to the community for a burial ground. Early settlers to New Zealand brought rose cuttings with them from Britain and when a family member died, often planted a rose by their grave. The tradition dates back to the early days of Christianity.
In the latter part of last century, the Pauatahanui burial ground became overgrown with weeds and litter abounded.
As part of a Keep Porirua Beautiful project in 1991, a group of five local women spearheaded a project to clean it up and plant roses again.
Working parties have since been held regularly, with local volunteers aided by members of Wellington Heritage Roses and the Rose Society to keep the project going. Volunteers have introduced new ‘‘old’’ roses and now there are more than 160 roses in the ground and 90 varieties – many known for their strong scent and hardiness, the latter required due to the burial ground’s exposed nature.
Today, especially in early summer, the burial ground is not a sombre place but decorated in colour as the roses bloom.
Porirua City Council is preparing a brochure on the heritage roses. Biodiversity and horticulture officer Chris Freeman said as the roses come from original plantings, they are part of Pauatahanui and Porirua’s ‘‘living history’’. Visiting the site should be on visitors and locals’ ‘‘things to do’’ list, he said.
‘‘This is the time of year you want to be coming for a look. It’s fantastic up here at the moment. If you’re visiting the area, a quick walk up the hill and you’re surrounded by this history and these roses.’’
Volunteers Sharon Evans and Rosemary Patterson have given countless hours of their own time planting and liaising with PCC over current and future needs.
Ms Patterson has kept records since 1991 and says 2850 man-hours have been volunteered in that time, often by people from Kapiti and the Hutt Valley working alongside locals.
Spring time is the busiest, but plenty of other occasions are spent planting, pruning and preparing, ‘‘just to keep the place ticking over’’.
She believes there has been 130 hours spent on the roses this spring and agrees ‘‘now is the time to go [for a look].’’
Ms Evans said the roses all flower at the same time and lookgreat.
‘‘They drape beautifully over the graves, giving the place lots of character.’’
Rosy time: Porirua City Council biodiversity and horticulture officer Chris Freeman agrees there is no better time to get to the historic Pauatahanui burial ground in order to see the famous heritage roses.