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Heritage roses

We have an interesting collection of roses at the Geelong Botanic Gardens. 

History of rose cultivation

The cultivation of roses as garden plants probably started with the Chinese, who were growing them in their gardens as early as the 6th century BC.

In Europe and the Middle East roses were also being hybridised, both by nature and people. Early cultivars were valued and widely used for perfume and cosmetics.

In the 18th century Chinese garden roses were imported to Europe. The hybridising of these roses with the European hybrids resulted in roses with the ability to flower more than once in a season.  This is known as repeat or recurrent flowering.  Most modern roses have this free flowering characteristic. Over time rose breeding resulted in many classes of roses.


Our roses

The rose beds at the Geelong Botanic Gardens were planted in 1995.  They are designed to show examples of various classes of roses and the changes and developments that cultivation and breeding have brought over the centuries.

Groups of roses represented in our collection are:

  • Species and their hybrids
    These plants flower only in spring, but many exhibit beautiful foliage, colourful canes (or stems) and autumn rosehips.  A good example are the Rugosa roses known for their dark crinkly leaves, disease resistance and wonderful autumn foliage and rosehips.  Gallicas, Damasks, Portlands, Bourbons and Albas are also featured in the collection; most are only spring flowering.
  • Chinas, Hybrid Musks, and Tea Roses
    These roses were bred mainly in the 19th century.  They repeat flower as they have been bred from Chinese roses which usually flower more than once.
  • Australian bred roses
    A small selection of well recognised breeders are represented with Alister Clark roses and English David Austin roses. These roses have the vigour and free flowering qualities of modern roses and re-capture the full cupped form and perfume of the old world roses.

Maintaining roses

Volunteers from the Geelong and Western District group of Heritage Roses in Australia Inc. maintain our collection of roses.  Their expertise is invaluable in maintaining the collection to a high standard.  Their tips for best results growing roses in this region are:

  • medium to heavy loam soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.
  • prepare ground 6 to 8 weeks before planting, digging in well rotted manure and compost
  • the garden bed should receive 5-6 hours of sun per day
  • feed every 8-10 weeks during the growing season with organic fertiliser or a mixture of Blood and Bone with 10% Sulphate of potash added
  • deep watering and avoid wetting the foliage during summer months. Mulch to retain soil moisture and keep roots cool
  • prune in winter to remove old canes and stimulate vigorous spring growth
  • monitor your plants for pests and diseases and take an organic approach to control.

Heritage Roses in Australia Inc

Heritage Roses in Australia Inc. was formed in 1979 and is a fellowship of those whose aim is to advance the preservation, cultivation, distribution and study of old garden roses, roses no longer in general commercial cultivation, roses of historical importance, species roses and their hybrids.

For further information refer to Heritage Roses in Australia Inc.


Victoria State Rose Garden

If you're keen to see more roses the Victoria State Rose Garden has a fabulous collection of roses. Located nearby at Werribee next to the Werribee Zoo and Werribee Park it is free to visit!





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Page last updated: Thursday, 1 November 2018
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