Enjoying rose gardens Down Under

What's the first thing a rose lover does when she arrives in Australia? Visit a rose garden, of course

Courtesy of Lynn Hunt
This lovely Rugosa rose named Ann Endt was seen at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia. It has disease-free foliage and can be grown as a hedge or climber.

Greetings from Down Under! My husband and I are visiting for son Sam’s wedding and, of course, I couldn’t come halfway around the world without stopping to see and smell the roses here.

My first destination was the Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney. This 70+ acre showplace was established in 1816 as the colony’s ”veggie patch.” The parcel of land overlooks Farm Cove and offers a stunning view of the harbor and the Sydney Opera House.

Friendly welcome

It’s a very relaxing place to spend an afternoon after a 26-hour plane ride. The entrance sign says: “Please walk on the grass. We also invite you to smell the roses, hug the trees, talk to the birds and picnic on the lawns.”

I made a beeline for the Palace Rose Garden, which contains about 1,800 bushes, all selected for their ability to thrive without pampering. Even though it’s fall here, the garden was full of interesting blooms, including many varieties I’ve never seen (or heard of) before -- such as the hybrid teas Fiona’s Wish and Sir Donald Bradman.

My favorite discovery was the Rugosa Ann Endt, shown in the photo above. This charming rose was named for a woman who moved from the Netherlands to New Zealand, where she established a magnificent garden and earned a reputation as a champion of old roses.

Her floral namesake displayed an unusual combination of mahogany-colored hips and cerise blooms at the same time. It also has a strong cinnamon fragrance.

More than roses

The rose garden wouldn’t top my list as the best ever, but it was fun to see, and I would guess it is quite spectacular in the Australian springtime. Beyond roses we saw begonias, camellias, succulents, herbs, palms, threatened plants, and the ancient Wollemi pine.

We also saw an amazing colony of native bats better known as grey-headed flying foxes.

More on these strange creatures later. The garden management is once again going to attempt to send them packing in early May. But I’m guessing the bats will find a way to keep hanging around.

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Lynn Hunt, the Rose Whisperer, blogs regularly at Diggin' It. She's an accredited horticultural judge and a Consulting Rosarian Emeritus for the American Rose Society. She has won dozens of awards for her writing in newspapers, magazines, and television. She grows roses and other plants in her garden on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. To read more by Lynn, click here.You can also follow her on Twitter.

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