China through rose-tinted glasses

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A flower loved all over the world led two North Otago women to China.
Rose-growers Verna Chambers and Alison Ludemann attended the 2016 World Federation of Rose Societies Regional Convention held jointly with the 14th International Heritage Rose Conference in Beijing from May 18 to 23.
It was not their first such venture – they went to the convention in Japan 10 years ago and are contemplating a trip to Copenhagen for the next one.
It was, however, the first visit to China for the two North Otago Rose Society members. They were impressed by how well they were treated and the splendour and scale of the rose gardens they saw.
Ms Chambers and Mrs Ludemann were part of a nine-person New Zealand contingent that included two Dunedinites. At the convention, they found they had a natural rapport with the Danes.
The opening ceremony took place at the recently built Rose Museum – an edifice to rival those created for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Roses were planted in rows about four deep around it and New Zealand flowers were on display inside.
Ms Chambers said the conference sessions were “quite scientific” and she had to concentrate.
Mrs Ludemann enjoyed learning about the importance of Asia in the development of the modern rose.
“More than half the world’s roses occur naturally in China,” she said.
There are 24,000 varieties of roses registered.
Interest in conserving genetic material was reawakening, Mrs Ludemann said.
One speaker focused on the rose as a cut flower, which is in huge demand for holidays, weddings, and households.
Climbing and rambling roses were discussed. They were considered vulgar by the Japanese, Ms Chambers said.
An Australian speaker recommended the rose garden in Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery as a “must see”.
A panel discussion on what the modern rose should be produced a different view from everyone, Mrs Ludemann said. Qualities valued included hybrid vigour, disease-resistance and a long flowering period.
Between sessions, the New Zealanders visited rose gardens around Beijing. Ms Chambers said she climbed to the top of a fairly new terraced garden covering 2.8ha and was astonished to see plantings going “on and on” into the distance.
The Great Wall was a highlight, she said. The terrain leading up to it was “very steep”, requiring an almost vertical ride in a cable car.
The women enjoyed the “magnificent” botanic gardens and being able to talk to two volunteers from the police academy who were assigned to them as guides.
The Chinese were “hospitable and considerate”, Ms Chambers said.
Back in her Kakanui garden, she said favoured the hybrid tea rose and peachy colours. She has no sense of smell, so that aspect of roses is lost on her.
Mrs Ludemann is fond of heritage roses, many of which are renowned for their perfume as well as their form.