Now, it is time for the promised post on Ruston’s Roses and the Renmark Rose Festival! David Ruston is a big name in the rose world! He has been President of the World Federation of Rose Societies and has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for services to floriculture (1984) and England’s highest rose award, the Dean Hole Medal, given to him by the Royal National Rose Society in 1994. He is held in such high regard that there is even a statue of him in Renmark! Having heard about him for years, it was wonderful to finally visit his garden in Renmark, South Australia, in the 3rd week of October, 2014, during the Renmark Rose Festival, as part of our Old Rose holiday.Ruston’s Roses
70 Moorna St. Renmark, South Australia
Open 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm, except for Good Friday and Christmas Day
Just 5 km from the centre of town and covering 27 acres (11 ha), Ruston’s Roses is Australia’s largest rose garden with 50, 000 bushes of 4000 different rose varieties, including Species Roses; Rugosas; Old European Roses – the Gallicas, Damasks, Centifolias and Mosses; Bourbons; Teas; Noisettes; Hybrid Musks; Hybrid Perpetuals; Hybrid Teas; Floribundas; Miniatures and Ground Covers; and David Austin and Delbard Roses. Since October 2005, it has been home to the National Rose Collection and also has a large collection of Tea Roses, perfectly suited to the warm dry climate of the Riverland region. The first two photos below show the native vegetation along the Murray River in this area and the 3rd photo was taken adjacent to Ruston’s Roses. Renmark is situated on the Murray River and while much of the Mallee vegetation is scrubby and dry (see above photos), the abundance of irrigation from the Murray allows lush productive gardens, not just for roses, but also citrus, grapes and almonds. Here is a map of the location of Ruston’s Roses taken from their official brochure:David’s father, Cuthbert Sowersby Ruston, was a soldier-settler from England, who bought 30 acres of land in the Riverland with a friend in 1919 and proceeded to develop a commercial fruit orchard, which supported the two families. In 1924, he planted roses around the family home, as well as Lombardy Poplars, Melias, a Norfolk Island Pine and a Lemon-Scented Gum, all of which still shade the house. In the late 1920s, he planted more roses: Mme Jules Bouché, Lady Hillingdon (photo below), Rosa laevigata and Hybrid Tea, Constance, for David’s grandmother, Constance. In all, his father grew 300 rose bushes, including many Teas: Devoniensis; General Gallieni; Hugo Roller; Lorraine Lee; Mrs B Cant; Mrs Herbert Stevens (photo below) and White Maman Cochet. David was born in 1930. He worked on the family property and started to plant roses along the open irrigation channels, in fact anywhere he could find a spare bit of land! Gradually, he removed vines, established trees as backdrops and windbreaks for the roses and planted more roses for the cut flower trade. He started Ruston’s Roses in 1968. By the mid 1970s, the entire 11 ha had been converted to roses within a garden setting with large trees and shrubs and hundreds of iris (700 varieties from Bearded Iris to Louisiana Iris and the largest collection of Spuria irises in Australia), as well as daylilies, watsonias, criniums, agapanthus and clivias. The 1990s were a particularly busy time with the cut flower trade, but the drought and increased competition from West Africa and South America greatly affected the business at the time. Looking to retire, David sold the business to his niece and daughter of his twin brother, Anne Ruston, and her husband, Richard Fewster in 2003. They instigated a modernization program of the horticultural practices and in 2004, introduced a ‘No-Till’ regime, along with state-of-the-art computerised irrigation and fertigation systems to replace the prior flood irrigation. All pruning is now done by machine. In 2005, the Ruston’s Roses Visitor Centre was opened and now caters for over 10 000 visitors from around the world each year! It includes: A fully licensed café for morning and afternoon teas, lunches and dinners, and functions for up to 200 people, including weddings and conferences; An information desk; a wonderful gift shop with lots of rose-related merchandise from books, beauty products and gifts (photo of the beautiful rose cake plate and cake fork set we bought from there) to local gourmet produce and arts and crafts like Dudley Siviour’s corrugated iron sculptures (last photo below of a kangaroo and sheep); Floristry and cut flowers for sale; and for the men:
A Classic Car display of vintage and historic racing cars, including MGs (4th photo, yellow), a Citroen (3rd photo, yellow), an Amilcar (a rare grand Sport Surbaisse, seen in 2nd photo below, red), a Ford, a Zeta (one of only 28 ever made), a Bradfield, a Scootamota (the first motor scooter), a Lotus Mk VI 1955, a Lotus Eleven 1958 and a Lotus Elite 1961. See: http://www.the-lowdown.com/ruston-roses-private-collection/ and http://www.rustonsroses.com/images/BarossaVisitsRustons.pdf.Outside is a brightly painted Massey tractor (the first vehicle my husband ever drove at 8 years old, though his tractor certainly wasn’t as pretty!!!);
A rusty old horse-drawn lucerne mower for making hay; And some delightful rose-coloured glasses, through which to view the garden! This delightful artwork was made by Helen Burgemeister and is titled ‘Looking at the World Through Rose Coloured Glasses’. I loved the Climbing Graham Thomas (1st photo below on the left of the walk) and Troilus (2nd photo below) in the David Austin Walk, a tribute to the many David Austin Roses planted for their cut flower trade. In fact, Ruston’s was the largest cut flower grower of David Austin Roses in Australia! Each year, the property supplies 50 000 dozen roses (600 000 stems) to florists in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, as well as 400 000 buds of grafting wood to Australia’s nursery industry.We had a wonderful day exploring all seven rose patches of the garden, as seen in the map above from the official brochure. We started at the old homestead, where David still lived when we visited in October 2014. I loved the entrance path! Here, the garden is delightfully informal, blowsy and overgrown, with lots of colour and areas of sunshine and dappled shade. I love the way he grew annuals in pots to provide instant mobile colour in bare patches. The old packing shed beside the house was covered with a native frangipani in full bloom on the left and rampant honeysuckle on the right of the photo below. We were able to get an excellent overview of the property by climbing the lookout tower. There are six flushes of blooms each year, with a nine-month flowering season from early September to the following Winter. This lovely golden rose is the Polyantha Rose, Lavinia Evans. It would be a beautiful venue for a wedding (1st photo below)! The beautiful metal sculpture near the wedding lawn in the 2nd photo below is titled ‘Lifeless Planets Surround Us. Let’s Not Make Earth Another One’ and was made by Tony Hanes. I particularly loved the National Tea-Noisette-China Collection with lots of old favourites (like Noisette rose, Alister Stella Grey in the photo below) as well as many different types of Tea Roses, which were new to me. Here is a list of the roses held in this section: http://www.heritage.rose.org.au/hriai-tea-noisette-china-collection and http://heritage.rose.org.au/sites/default/files/Renmark%20Tea%20bed.pdf and http://www.heritage.rose.org.au/sites/default/files/Renmark_Plant_List_by_Class_.pdf. You can read more about this wonderful rosarian and his garden in his book: ‘A Life with Roses’ by David Ruston 2011. See: http://www.heritage.rose.org.au/publication/life-roses.
Renmark Rose Festival
Renmark is known as Australia’s rose capital! There is even a Renmark Rose, which can be found in front of the fountain and is featured on the Rose Drive pamphlett. The Renmark-Paringa Council has compiled a list of its 53 public rose gardens, which form the Renmark Rose Drive and Walk. Each bed is mainly planted with a single variety of rose, the name of which is noted, along with its family, in the brochure. The council maintains over 3500 rose bushes at a watering cost of $100 000, though recycled water is used for the majority of beds. The Renmark Rose Festival was the brainchild of Eithne Sidhu, who collaborated with David Ruston, to run the first Rose Week in 1994 to attract tourists to the region. They were certainly successful! Now in its 23rd year, it has become a major regional event in South Australia and the largest festival of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, attracting thousands of visitors and contributing significantly to the region’s economy. Held over 10 days in the 3rd week of October each year, it includes numerous activities in both Renmark and surrounding areas like Loxton. It is a very interesting area. Founded in 1887, Renmark is Australia’s first and oldest irrigation settlement, had the first houseboats on the Murray and the first community hotel in the British Commonwealth (The Renmark Hotel 1897), still operating as a community hotel today. Festival activities include: tours of the historic Olivewood Homestead; river cruises on the Murray on the steamer PS Industry 1911 (photos below); a fair, market stalls and a ball; champagne breakfasts, suppers and high teas; visits to wineries and breweries; a scarecrow competition; a mystery bus tour; art trails, displays and workshops by local quilters, woodworkers and egg shell carvers; floral displays and flower arranging workshops and a lantern festival on Nardoo Lagoon at the end. There are also a large number of private gardens, open to the public over the festival. We visited three wonderful gardens, all totally different! The first was owned by Donna and Danny Hoffman, who had a vast horticultural knowledge and a superb one acre formal garden over 20 years old. He grew Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Miniatures, David Austins and other old-fashioned roses, along with a wide variety of salvias, succulents, established trees and conifers. I loved the driveway edged with mature climbing roses. The next garden belonged to Alan and Fleur Carthew, who developed a one acre informal garden on a sand ridge bound by citrus and avocado trees (background of 1st photo). The garden is 55 years old and has only had 2 gardeners. The Sprekelia (Jacobean Lilies) and Alstroemeria (Peruvian Lilies) at the front entrance were a picture (photo 1). I also loved the exuberant display of modern Shrub Rose, Sally Holmes, beside the white statue of the reflective girl. It contains large established trees, an orchard, chooks, exotics and natives, including Kangaroo Paw (photo 1), Leucospermum (photo 2), Grevilleas (photo 4), Callistemon (also known as bottlebrush, surrounding the metal goat sculptures in the 3rd photo), Banksias, and many roses. I have already discussed our final garden, Bed Rock, developed by Chris and Raelene Schultz on the site of the old drive-in in Loxton. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/11/08/favourite-private-specialty-gardens-part-2-dry-climate-sustainable-and-small-gardens/.
Loxton and Surrounds
We thoroughly enjoyed exploring this area! Here are some of the places we visited en route to Bed Rock.
Bella Lavender Estate
19 Dalziel Rd Glossop
Open Monday 10 am to 4 pm; Wednesday to Sunday 10 am to 8 pm; Cloed Good Friday; Christmas Day and Riverland Fire Ban days
A wonderful spot for lavender-lovers! 2500 plants of twenty different varieties are grown on the property, their essential oil distilled and incorporated in a range of their own beauty products: soap, hand and body lotion, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, floral water, massage oil, arthritis cream, insect repellent and lip balm, which are sold in the shop along with wheat-bags, sachets and other gifts like lavender mugs and china. They have a fully licensed café, where we ate wood-fired pizza for lunch overlooking the farm. There is also mini-golf and a playground.We drove down to the river, where Daisy Bates camped for four years from 1936 to 1940; And we visited Wilabalangaloo, a lovely old property donated to National Trust as a Flora and Fauna Reserve by Janet A Reiners (1895 – 1990). Here is a map of its location from the official brochure and photos of the entrance and the old sandstone house with Aleppo Pines (Pinus halepensis) and Lemon-Scented Gums (Corymbia citriodora).Wilabalangaloo Nature Reserve
Old Sturt Highway, 4 km NE Berri
Open Dawn to Dusk. Closed on Riverland Fire Ban Days. Free.
Situated on the western bank of the Murray River and covering 92 ha of mallee country, it’s a fascinating landscape with a 1 km stretch of 30 metre high sandstone cliffs 3 to 6 Million year old, known as the Loxton-Parilla Sands.Oxidation of iron over the centuries has produced the red, yellow and brown ochres, which give the property its aboriginal name Wilabalangaloo, meaning ‘Place of Red, Yellow and Brown Stones’. Its a perfect home for Welcome Swallows.There is a self-guided interpretive nature trail and a clifftop viewing platform. See: https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Wilabalangaloo-Nature-Trail.pdf. There are over 80 indigenous plant species and a huge variety of wildlife, especially birds. We took lots of photos, including:
Sacred Kingfishers surveying their kingdom; Zebra Finches, who were diving in and out of their huge nest; Whistling Kites, soaring overhead, the air filled with their plaintive cry; Rainbow Bee-Eaters, looking for insects; Shelducks dabbling;Pelicans cruising;And Stumpy-Tails (also known as Shinglebacks or Two-Headed Lizards) sunbaking! I just loved the colours of the vegetation and landscape: the reds and ochres; the blue-leafed mallee and old River Red Gums; the silvers of the saltbush and bluebush; and all the coloured lichens. It is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Next week, we return to the last of the posts about garden books: Garden Books: Inspirational Gardens and Stories Part Three, after which the book posts will start exploring our natural history library.