Where the roses ramble and climb

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AN informal cottage garden with well-established rambling and climbing roses set among shrubs and mature trees will open this weekend (November 7-8) as part of Open Gardens Canberra’s spring season.

Owner Alexandra Kirk says the Narrabundah garden “Rosy Bower” was originally planted by its first owner, a lady called Molly who Alexandra never met but feels she may have come to know through her legacy in the garden.

“Many of the plants were popular in the 1960s, but I don’t know if she chose them or they were given to her,” says Alexandra.

Molly’s plantings, including box maple, Spanish bluebells, a liquidambar and several varieties of roses, form the “backbone” of the garden but Alexandra has made some changes over the years.

“When I moved here in 1994, more than 30 years after Molly’s first plantings, I thought hydrangeas below the front verandah should go, along with all the mission brown paint!” she says.

“Luckily the mission brown went first and over the next few years, while concentrating on the back garden, the hydrangeas slowly grew on me.

“What I’d considered ‘old ladies’ plants’ turned out to have a charm of their own.”

Trees have provided screening in the back, creating a bit of a micro-climate and welcome shade in summer, though they’ve also created limitations in growing certain veggies, Alexandra says.

“There have been plenty of mistakes – for example, it took three goes to find the right spot for a lemon tree and even then it’s not in the recommended position,” she says.

It’s a small, freestyle garden of plants that Alexandra likes, and she says there’s no “grand plan”, but roses, like hydrangeas, have become something of a favourite.

“A handful were already here, another 30 or so have been added,” she says.

“I love Delbard roses, particularly the Henri Matisse variety which is a raspberry and white speckled colour, with the most amazing raspberry-like fragrance.”

Rosy Bower in Narrabundah will be open 10am-4pm, Saturday, November 7 and Sunday, November 8. Adults $10, children under 18 are free. Bookings essential on Eventbrite. There will be no ticket sales or memberships available at the gate. Join Open Gardens Canberra for $25 and all gardens are free for a year.

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist.

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