This week has been devoted to the biennial Dunedin Northern Cemetery stocktake. I’ve been wandering around the cemetery with a clipboard, counting roses and plots and ticking items off my list. It’s a sight that has perplexed those walking through the cemetery. I’m not worried: perplexed is fine. It’s the ones that have been startled, or possibly traumatised, by us appearing with spades saying “there’s room for one more over here” that concern me. We showed them the bare-root roses we were about to plant, but they still weren’t convinced we weren’t disposing of bodies. Too much NCIS, no doubt.
The stocktake is a big job, given we have over 1,001 roses planted in the twenty-odd acres of the cemetery, but we do it to keep our mapped roses lists accurate. In the past we have organised groups of rosarians to assist in this task – and each time the the event has been rained out. We’re not talking a sprinkle of rain – which any gardener worth their salt ignores, if not welcomes – but deluges of rain, even though the day had been dry up to an hour before the event. All those stocktakes accomplished was a pulped pile of checklists.
This week has been hot, and while humid, it never precipitated down. Instead of rain, it was the scent of the roses that nearly overwhelmed me, and not just from the many blooms that are presently dotting the bushes. The Sweet Briar rose, known also as Rosa eglanteria or rubiginosa, is not get its name for its cure little pink flowers. The Sweet references the fragrance that comes from the roses foliage. On a humid day the scent travels throughout the cemetery, and is vaguely reminiscent of apples. Delicious! There are a small number of roses that were bred from the Sweet Briar that also share this trait. In the cemetery we have modern Apple Jack (1973), the ancient Manning’s Blush (1797), and Meg Merrilies (1894), one of the Penzance hybrids. The last two make huge bushes in excess of 2m tall and just as wide. The cemetery is the perfect place to enjoy them.