High flyer: Gardeners in south-eastern Australia are scenting and seeing the joys of ‘rose rush’ after what’s said to be, in our patch, the wettest of the past 76 years.

It’s evident in older gardens where historic roses like Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’, tea-noisette ‘Lamarque’, and tea ‘Monsieur Tillier’ have achieved size. But the species roses have delivered a particular wonder.

R. brunonii – the Himalayan musk rose – is a romper. It grows at altitudes between 900 and 2700 metres in its native range and was introduced to western botany by Danish-born surgeon and botanist Nathaniel Wallich from Nepal in 1822 when he was superintendent of the Royal Botanic Garden in Kolkata. It had earlier been described by John Lindley, botany professor and later @the_rhs secretary, who named it for Scots-born fellow botanist Robert Brown. (Brown was 27 in 1800 when appointed naturalist on Matthew Flinders’ circumnavigation of Australia. Between 1801 and 1803 he authored the identification and description of 1200 species of Western Australian flora and in 1810 published Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van Diemen, the first systematic account of Australian flora. He was said by Portuguese polymath José Correia de Serra to be ‘fit to pursue an object with constance and a cold mind’.)

R. brunonii occurs in the Himalaya and China in Yunnan and western Szechuan, from which botanist Ernest Henry Wilson introduced a Chinese form in 1908. It’s arms clothed with superb grey-green leaves climb nine to 11 metres in cultivation. @ids.dendrology treesandshrubsonline.org describes its profuse flowering ‘in corymbose clusters usually higher than wide, several clusters often united into a large compound inflorescence which on vigorous shoots of cultivated plants may be a foot (30cm) across’. These words encapsulate R. brunonii flowering in our garden. The plant, a gift four years ago from a Beechworth friend, is the ‘child’ of his town garden’s vast parent that reaches six metres into a boundary tree. With us the nipper’s now 3 x 3 x 3m…

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