The big pic­ture

Al­though MICHAEL McCOY isn’t re­ally a fan of roses, there are a few se­duc­tive va­ri­eties that he sim­ply can’t re­sist

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS -

There are plants that, for me, are loaded with long­ing. They’re mostly things I’ve never grown but spot­ted once in some­one’s gar­den, and have dreamt about ever since. And there are plants that I’ve grown and lost, ei­ther through ne­glect or care­lessly leav­ing them be­hind in a house move. In those cases, my long­ing to grow the plant again is for­ti­fied with guilt.

Weirder still is when I have these long­ings against my bet­ter judge­ment, like when my yearn­ings fall upon a rose.

I’m no rose fan. Ac­tu­ally, it’s broader than that. No shrub of any sort is granted re­spect, ad­mi­ra­tion or a place in my gar­den with­out se­ri­ously earn­ing it by pro­vid­ing multi-faceted ben­e­fits. Roses are one-trick won­ders. They are all about the flower. And for (al­most) no other po­ten­tial oc­cu­pant of my gar­den will the flower alone get it across the line. Roses rarely con­trib­ute any fo­liage qual­ity (with a few no­table ex­cep­tions) or shape ben­e­fit.

But I’m clearly not im­mune to their charms. Many, many years ago, be­fore hav­ing a place of my own, I was wan­der­ing through a friend’s gar­den and was stopped in my tracks by the cu­ri­ous blue-mauve colour­ing and volup­tuous clus­tered form of a great wa­ter­fall of a rose tum­bling down a re­tain­ing wall. The owner knew the name, and I never for­got it – it was a ‘Veilchen­blau’. For years that rose sat at the back of my con­scious­ness, and I knew that if ever I had my own gar­den, and if ever I al­lowed a rose within its care­fully de­fended bound­aries, that rose would be ‘Veilchen­blau’.

Ten years later, my wife and I bought our first house, sur­rounded by a clas­sic ‘Nanna-gar­den’. It was home to sev­eral Hy­brid Tea roses, which went onto the scrap heap. But there was one that looked like root­stock that I didn’t rip out. I can’t re­mem­ber the mo­ment I started to won­der if pos­si­bly, just pos­si­bly, it might be my rose. But some­how I knew it was ‘Veilchen­blau’, even be­fore it started to show colour. To this day, I can’t get my head around that par­tic­u­lar bless­ing.

Some­where in those in­ter­ven­ing years

I also came un­der the spell of ‘Gra­ham Thomas’. This is a clas­sic David Austin rose, in that ir­re­sistible cab­bagey style, com­bin­ing re­cur­rent flow­er­ing and mod­ern-rose colour­ing with old-fash­ioned rose charm. There is some­thing about its slightly egg-yolky yel­low that hon­estly makes me feel a bit dizzy as I write about it. But I’ve never bought one, and I’ve never planted one. It’s that old shrub thing again. But – and it’s a big, dra­matic, stagey ‘but’– last win­ter my wife claimed a long-for­got­ten bit of land near the clothes­line, want­ing to grow roses for pick­ing. I nudged her se­lec­tion in the di­rec­tion of ‘Gra­ham Thomas’, and one was in­cluded in the list. It’s flow­er­ing now. I’m go­ing to go and visit it as soon as I’m done with this.

One more rose, and my se­cret rose-long­ing will be fully con­sum­mated. I’m now on the hunt for ‘Madame Hardy’. We’ve been eye­ing each other off for decades, and it’s time to make a move.

Michael blogs at the­gar­

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