• Lifestyle College

Take time out to stop and smell the roses....

Now that the pruning season is over, we should soon be able to see the results of our prodigious cutting!

Some of us are fortunate enough to work in places where there is a profusion of flowers – but we still don’t take enough time out to stop and smell the roses. Literally. Luckily in October month, one can’t help but be assailed by their sweet scent. From one end of the country to the other, and irrespective of whether the roses have been pampered or not, they are all flowering with equal enthusiasm, producing blooms that take one’s breath away. If you’ll excuse the mix up of sensory metaphors.

These days, one may wonder about the saying, ‘seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses’, considering the wealth of colours that are available. One of our country’s top rose producers and breeders, Ludwig Taschner, regularly unveils new varieties at this time of year, to the delight of many a rose aficionado, and we’re always glad to see hybrid teas making a comeback, being showy garden roses which provide long lasting cut flowers, prized for their classical shape and long stems. (This is actually an informal horticultural classification for this group of roses which were created by cross-breeding hybrid perpetual and tea roses, and is the oldest group classified as a modern garden rose.)

But where did they come from to start with? Well, tea roses were imported from China at the beginning of the 19th century. Some say they were called Tea roses because they have a fragrance reminiscent of tea leaves, but others have pointed out it’s because they were secretly smuggled to Europe in tea chests along with tea.

Besides the traditional hybrid tea, there is an amazing diversity of these beautiful blooms. They can be used as climbers, standards, pillar roses, spreading groundcovers, landscape roses, hedge roses, miniatures, shrubs, and mini-shrubs.

And these versatile plants aren’t just for the back yard. Roses also grow particularly well in containers, with the most effective those varieties that flower profusely on cascading or shrubby growth. (Just remember that they should be watered daily in summer and fed once or twice a month and ensure there’s good air movement as well, so make sure the container doesn’t stand directly against a wall that receives full sun for any length of time.)

With the right kind of care, roses can flower for up to 10 months of the year. But they’re really not as pernickety as people make them out to be. These are the plants that have become the preferred favourites in the drought-stricken Cape provinces, as they handled the lack of water a whole lot better than other species. However, as summer arrives, with (hopefully) lots of rain on the Highveld, bear in mind it is most important to ensure that the water in the soil stays cool. This can only be achieved by covering the soil in the rose bed with a mulch. Whatever you use – peanut shells, pine needles, crushed peach or apricot pips, lawn clippings mixed with leaves, very coarse bark chips, even pebbles, paving stones and low growing plants i.e. Alyssum ... they’re all effective – don’t leave the soil around your roses bare.

Then just sit back and smell the roses!


The largest ever rose was a pink coloured one bred by Nikita K. Rulhoksoffski from San Onofre in California, measuring approximately 84 cm in diameter. The world’s largest rosebush is a white Lady Banksia located in Tombstone, Arizona. The rose bush spreads over an arbor that covers over 840 square metres. The tallest ever recorded rose bush, which is in India, stands over 7 metres tall. And Cavriglia in Italy is the largest private rose garden in the world, having over 7,500 different varieties of roses. (And how’s this for overkill – The largest rose bouquet ever had 156,940 blooms (but there's no documentation on whether the world's largest dining table could use it as a centrepiece!).

Growing on the wall of the Cathedral of Hildesheim in Germany is the world’s oldest living rose, believed to be 1 000 years old. It even managed to survive the bombing of the cathedral in WW2. Yes, roses can live for a very long time. And have been around for a long time. There are rose fossils discovered that date back 35 million years. We thought that buying roses on Valentine’s Day was expensive, but this one takes the cake. Juliet, a 2006 variety bred by David Austin, cost 5 million dollars to breed. By the way, about 100 million roses are grown for Valentine’s each year, so you can imagine the stress that growers go through hoping that bad weather doesn’t ruin crops around the world.

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