Patsy Durak’s Rose Garden

On a recent visit to Perth I was lucky enough to be recommended to visit a garden that will go down as one of the “Best Garden Days Out”.

Patsy Duraks Garden

The back garden of Kareela

This is not a huge tourist trap garden, but a specialist rose garden lovingly created and nurtured by Patsy Durak in the Gooseberry Hill region of the Perth Hills.

In 1988 she and her husband Ian Kirton bought Kareela, the old Archbishop of Perth’s house and promptly went about demolishing the existing garden to build a totally new one dedicated to roses.

Floribunda Rose Aspirin

Floribunda Rose Aspirin

They had such success that they then purchased the house over the road to extend the gardens even further.  Today Patsy looks after over 900 rose bushes spread over the two properties.  They include fabulous collections of Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas, Climbers, Delbart and David Austin English roses.

Roses Radox And Carson

Floribunda Roses #1. Radox Bouquet #2. Violet Carson

Her dedication is apparent at every turn with all plants kept in tip-top condition – yet she manages to do this without spraying, just by being diligent in removing any signs of disease or infestation immediately and following best practice in garden hygiene.

Floribunda Rose Magic Fire

Floribunda Rose Magic Fire

She ensures all plants are promptly dead-headed (e.g. around 40cms worth removed) to minimise plant energy wastage, and regular fertilising plays a vital role as well in maintaining plant vitality – a healthy plant is less likely to succumb to infections or infestations.

Hybrid Tea Rose - Helmut Schmidt

Hybrid Tea Rose – Helmut Schmidt

Our visit was not perfectly timed, being at the end of one of the most scorching summers in recent memory, followed just days earlier by heavy rain and blustery winds – so the plants were not necessarily at their peak.  But if these blooms are considered a touch below par then I cannot imagine how good it would be to arrive on a perfect day.

David Austin English Rose Heritage

David Austin English Rose Heritage

Patsy donates a portion of the small entrance fee to the Cancer Council and in doing so has created excellent value for visitors.  There is a delightful shop at the entrance selling many of her unique products and she also serves wonderful Devonshire teas on the splendidly shady Old Colonial verandah.  But there’s also something extra useful you’ll not find in many open gardens – she has labelled most of the plants so if you like a rose you know what to look for in your local garden centre.

Patsy Duraks House

Devonshire teas served on the verandah.

The gardens are open every Sunday between 10am and 4:30pm from October through to May.  But she will, if possible, open up for you if you call in advance to request access on other days of the week.

Hybrid Tea Rose Lovers Meeting

Hybrid Tea Rose Lovers Meeting

The Perth Hills enjoy a mediterranean type climate which is ideal for growing roses due to the hot and dry summers.   But perhaps its the combination of ideal climate and dedicated gardener that makes Patsy’s garden such a delightful place to visit.

Grandiflora Rose Tournament Of Roses

Grandiflora Rose Tournament Of Roses

Here’s her website to help you plan your visit:-

Author: Bob Saunders (

Australian Native Christmas Trees

As a native northern European I was brought up with fir trees at Christmas time.  Even though Prince Albert imported the idea from his native Germany to make him feel more at home with Queen Victoria in London, the Brits embraced the concept quickly.

Then because of Britain’s huge global influence at the time, the concept of decorated Christmas fir trees (Abies or Pinus) spread far and wide.

Now in the southern hemisphere we celebrate Christmas (which is also the summer solstice) with a symbol of German mid-winter. It is a notion that has always puzzled me as no matter where you are in the Southern part of the world, there are wonderful natives that are in full bloom – celebrating in their own way the height of the summer season.

Now I’m no Grinch – so people should do what they feel represents their roots best, but for me, here are two of my local favourites at the holiday season.

Ceratopetalum gummiferum

Ceratopetalum gummiferum – NSW Xmas Bush

The NSW Christmas Bush starts off with creamy coloured flowers in November that turn a bright red around Christmas time.  Early settlers cultivated it as it reminded them of the red berries of the English Holly and their homelands.  Admittedly it is a bit ordinary looking the rest of the year, but it is worth having one around just for the 4-6 weeks of glorious blossom as we approach high summer.

Corymbia ficifolia

Corymbia ficifolia – red flowering gum

The Red Flowering Gum on the other hand hasn’t been cultivated domestically so much in the past due to its unreliability of colour and size but is gaining in popularity now thanks to more compact and predictable varieties becoming available through hybridisation and grafting.

The Eucalyptus genus has had a rather tumultuous time recently being split into three groups, which still confuses many people brought up with the simple, all encompassing Eucalypt.

The wonderful Angophoras get their own genus, then some remain as Eucalypts while the rest become Corymbias.

Both Corymbias and Angophoras are terminal flowering – that means they hold their flowers at the end of the branches unlike other Eucalypts that produce flowers within the leaf canopy.  If the flowers are bright then they make an even more spectacular display if they are terminally located.  Most of the current offerings of Red Flowering Gums found in garden centres across Australia are a cross between the Corymbia ficifolia which originates from southwest WA with Corymbia ptychocarpa from northern Australia.

One way or another, these two spectacular flowering shrubs/trees herald the coming of summer, holidays, family fun and general good times – and that’s definitely something to celebrate.

Author: Bob Saunders (