There are well over 1,001 roses in the Dunedin Northern Cemetery. About one hundred of these are Memorial Roses – roses planted as by descendants and relatives for those buried in the plots – and the remainder are roses that Heritage Roses Otago have purchased and planted, and continue to care for.
The roses chosen are those in keeping with the age of the Cemetery, which was opened in 1872. You’ll find species roses; once-flowering European roses of delicious perfume: Gallica, Alba, Centifolia, and Damask roses; the elegant ever-flowering roses of Asian extraction: the Chinas and Tea roses; and their hybrids, up to, but not including Hybrid Tea roses.
None of our roses are ever sprayed, and we never water the roses. If it rains, they are watered; in the dry they learn to put down deep roots. Once a year we fertilise the roses with – ironically – blood and bone. The great good health of our roses astonishes our visitors. Our roses grow to their full size and shape, and are truly beautiful. Sometimes there is a spotty leaf on the bush (see picture above), but really, that’s neither here nor there.
At present (January 2015) Heritage Roses Otago is in the midst of their biennial audit of the Cemetery, checking our lists of roses against the maps to update records and order replacement and/or additional roses. Shortly we will be publishing our rose lists in the ‘Green Book’, available from the Sexton’s Cottage.
The best time to visit the roses is… now! There’s always something to see, whether it is the blooms, which peak in late November/early December, the hops or rose seed pods, or the fresh green or autumn tones of the foliage.
If you are interested in working with the roses, please know you are very welcome. On-the-job training is given by our master rosarians, Fran Rawling and Ann Williams, every first-Monday-of-the-Month. Bowl up to the Cemetery and introduce yourself. The working bees run from nine til noon, and all and any time you can spare within that time is welcomed.
As you wander about the Cemetery, you will be walking through the landscape in which the Adeline books are set. The internal layout of the Sexton’s Cottage has changed since 1877, but otherwise remains the same. The Rev John’s Oamaru-stone obelisk stands opposite Ellie’s concrete obelisk. Eliza’s headstone is close by. Further up the ring road on the left is Dr Edward’s modest white headstone. Alexander Darling’s plot is in the southwest. When we first started our work in the Cemetery, there was a Sweet Briar rose planted on his grave, This has since succumbed to some unknown person’s over-zealous massacre, and is presently being replaced by a different rose.