Local Governments, Roses and Irises, and Why Not?

I’m feeling very close to local government at the moment, as long as it’s someone else’s local government.

Last Monday I was in Grafton to help celebrate 150 years of local government for the Clarence Valley. I attended a reading of the original Proclamation – well part of it – followed by a Mayoral reception with plain and pumpkin scones.

I missed the opening of the Shannon Creek Dam due to my inability to follow simple, but easily misconstrued, instructions about how to find the dam. But I did make the Celebration Dinner at the South Grafton Ex-Serviceman’s Club, including the launch of a book about the last 150 or so years in Grafton.

The Botanic Gardens does have some interesting associations with Grafton. The locals made the brave decision to ask our Director between 1846 and 1896, Charles Moore, to suggest trees for their new school. Director Moore of course said the Moreton Bay Fig. He always said the Moreton Bay Fig. I gather he sent them some seedling and now the city has some lovely mature specimens of this species amid an impressive collection of park and street trees. The famous Jacarandas weren’t in flower when I was there but many of the streets – such as the one pictured above – are quite beautiful.

There is another connection, with Grafton being the death place of William Carron, a collector at the Botanic Gardens and survivor of the ill-fated Kennedy expedition to Cape York in 1848. I’m sure there are other links – they have a Grey-headed Flying-fox camp for starters.

That was Grafton. This morning I spoke about the World’s Greatest Botanic Garden (yes again, and no it’s not just Sydney) at Woollahra Council building. A very enthusiastic and interested audience, in a very scenic location looking over the harbour.

This afternoon, I joined the Mayor and some councillors from Hawkesbury City Council to watch Her Excellency Governor Marie Bashir plant the first ‘Governor Macquarie Rose’ at the Deerubbin Centre in Windsor. Her rose was then flanked by plantings from Mayor Bart Bassett and Glynis Hayne, President of The Rose Society of NSW (and Australia as it happens).

The rose was bred by Trevor Grant and will be propagated and sold by Swane’s Nurseries. You’ll remember that Swane’s was also behind the Firefigher Rose planted in Government House earlier this year. This new Rose, perhaps to become know as ‘The Governor’, will grace not only every town in the Hawkesbury City area, but also (according to today’s speeches) Hyde Park, Government House and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Today’s plantings were of course just sticks in the ground, so I can’t give you a photo of the bloom. Apparently it will be pink and perfumed and for all you rose buffs, it’s a hybrid tea.

Coming up in the new year, the bicentenary of Macquarie's reign as fifth Governor of the penal colony of New South Wales (1810-1821), the rose will be joined by a blue and white iris. Why an iris? Elizabeth Macquarie apparently had a penchant for distributing blue irises and white irises around the countryside, so a special blue & white bloom has been bred to celebrate the occasion.

We discussed at the function today the fact that both plants are native outside Australia, but then so were Lachlan and Elizabeth...