Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Homeotic mutants are red - violets are blue? 

The romantic notion of giving your partner roses as a sign of your love would not quite hit the spot if you described your gift as a bunch of homeotic mutants, but that is exactly what they are. The rose itself is a double-rose and is in fact a mutant. If you look at a rose you can see that all or most of the stamens (the pollen-bearing male part of the flower) in the middle of the flower have been replaced by petals and such a thing is referred to as a homeotic mutant!

Roses in bloom in spring at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

Roses are in bloom during spring in the Palace Rose Garden at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney where 1800 roses take centre stage with a backdrop view of the Harbour Bridge.

The Palace Rose Garden was re-established just seven years ago and opened on 28 November 2006. The new Garden is set in part of the old Palace Gardens.

The Palace Rose Garden features approximately 90 cultivars which were chosen for their sustainability in Sydney’s warm, humid and wet coastal conditions. July is the best time to plant roses in Sydney and best value.

Roses flower throughout the year in Sydney with the main peaks in spring (September/October), summer (December/January) and autumn (April/May).

Conditions and tips for growing a romantic rose garden

The roses grown at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney can be grown in most places around Australia except for the tropics.

The conditions in Sydney mirror the Australian environment in general, where except for a few locations, traditional roses do not do well, especially those from the northern hemisphere. There are many hybrid roses grown in Australia and produced here to suit our climate. In most Australian cities the climate is warm and humid, especially over summer, and this favours a number of pests and diseases. 

Like horticulturists at the Garden, if you are planning to grow your own rose garden, it is important to select cultivars that are appropriate for the location and then a key element is soil preparation. You need to make sure the soil is well draining and that the appropriate nutrition is provided. Roses also need to be watered well and pests and diseases must be controlled effectively.

Roses are not difficult to maintain but fungal diseases such as black spot, rust and powdery mildew are important to control. The Garden uses effective non-chemical methods and employs sustainable horticultural practices. The parasitic rose aphid wasp, spiders, lady birds and their larvae, saw fly larvae and lace wings help to control insects.  Horticulturists also spray fortnightly with Eco-Oil, a non-toxic plant oil based insecticide and Eco-Carb, a non toxic bicarbonate-soda based fungicide. The caterpillars are controlled by spraying with Success Neo a non toxic insecticide. It is also vitally important to clean your tools to prevent disease transmission and take diseased leaves away to reduce re-infection.

By Karla Davies

Karla Davies is the Public Relations Manager at the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust. Information for the article was provided from the Garden’s Executive Director Professor David Mabberley, Deputy Executive Director Dr Brett Summerell and Senior Horticulturist Palace Garden Team Dawson Ougham.

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Photos: Simone Cottrell and Jaime Plaza