I am sitting in the shade with my knees drawn up. The grass is springy under my fingers and softly prickly. Although my eyes are closed I know the sky is bright above. A breeze swirls the warm air and with it a strong scent swells. It is deep, sweet, almost spicy. I open my eyes and am dazzled by a mass of colour. All around me are the vibrant blooms of the Morwell Centenary Rose Garden. Their fragrance drifts over me like a wave. I breathe in deeply, then slowly let it go.
Morwell Centenary Rose Garden
The town of Morwell is located two hours east of Melbourne in the Latrobe Valley. The area is perhaps best known for its brown coal mines and power stations, yet it also features diverse natural beauty and strong community engagement. Twenty years ago the people of Morwell chose to establish a rose garden to commemorate the town's centenary. In 2009, it was honoured with an Award of Garden Excellence by the World Federate of Rose Societies.
The garden has been designed with accessibility in mind. Gravel paths wind through the beds, under arches and around arbours. One area has been particularly designated as a perfumed sensory garden. Over 3000 individual rose plants grow on the four acre site. Numerous benches provide places for visitors to sit and delight in the sights and scents.
Beauty and diversity
The day of my visit is a Tuesday. This is when the volunteers who make up the many Friends of the Garden are busy among the blossoms. Dressed in orange vests, they weed, water, tidy and fertilise. Several pause in their work for a chat with me. We agree the garden is a place of beauty and peace. Yet I am also fascinated by the diversity here.
It is not just the astonishing array of colours among the 400 rose varieties. It is also the assortment of forms in which they come. There are climbing, miniature, standard and bush roses. Many of these are modern cultivars but species roses also feature. These are the wild ancestor plants from which today's roses are bred.
The longer I spend here, the more details I observe. Some of the flowers are heavy with closely curled petals, but others have fewer petals and open more fully. Leaves vary from being smooth and glossy green to rough and deeply ridged with veins. I note with interest the plants that bristle most fiercely with thorns.
Meanings and memories
My mind wanders as I roam among the flower beds. The names of the roses evoke ideas and memories. Many are named after people. Characters from Shakespeare plays are found in a cascading rockery. Other names, however, hint at something more subtle. One rose is called Simplicity, but just a few beds over I find another named Complicata.
The many meanings and cultural references for roses drift in my thoughts. I recall common phrases and quotations involving roses. And I remember the roses that grew in my grandparents' garden. In my child's mind it seems like they were forever in bloom.
A moment of reflection
I lose track of time while in the garden. But eventually I realise I must leave. Close to the entrance I notice a bed planted with two varieties of rose. One is called Joy of Health, the other Joy of Life. I pause there for a moment, thinking. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then I walk away, leaving the beauty, colour and fragrance of the garden behind.