Flemington Racecourse Roses

Did you know Melbourne’s Flemington Racecourse, home of the Melbourne Cup, boasts the largest public rose garden in the Southern Hemisphere?

That is quite the responsibility for any gardener. Yet ‘Keeper of the Roses’ for over 30 years, Terry Freeman knows everything there is to know about caring for of over 16,000 roses bushes.

“In a funny way we are farming roses, not just growing them,” Freeman says. “Much like everything, you put as much as you can into it. The more effort you put into your roses, the better they perform.” (3)

Terry Freeman
Terry Freeman, Flemington Racecourse Chief Rose Wrangler
Photo Credit: James Greer for Crown’s Photo Finish Exhibition

According to ABC’s Gardening Australia, the roses were initially planted in the 1960’s as a cost cutting measure, to replace the more costly and labour intensive annuals they grew in the racecourse’s own nursery.

Nowadays roses and the races are synonymous. And to ensure they bloom in the first week of November to coincide with the Melbourne Cup, takes a lot of skill and knowledge of rose growing. It is an artful manipulation of their flowering time involving ‘pruning, watering, fertilising and pest control carried out to a strict regime’. (1) A bit like a ‘rose boot camp’.

A typical schedule comprises of one pruning and two trimmings a year for each of the 16,000 rose plants. They receive a solid feed of fertiliser, an all-Australian diet of Sudden Impact and Charlie Carp, three times a year in September, late November and late January.

“The carp-based feed deposits a slightly oily coating on the leaves, deterring black spot among the roses,” Freeman says.

An additional deterrent to black spot is a drip-irrigation watering system. (3)

Plus fortunately for Terry, he has an ample and free supply of top quality mulch to aid his efforts, collected from horse manure, straw and leaves dropped on the course.

“When roses are pruned, fed and watered on schedule, they will perform under almost any condition as they are sturdy plants. Never forget, though, that nature still has the last word.” (3)

Says Freeman: “We do all we can, but we are in the hands of the elements.”

Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/1ruXnAq
Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/1ruXnAq

Flemington Rose Varieties

Flemington Racecourse’s roses are predominantly floribundas (they produce flowers in dense clusters). New roses are purchased as potted plants in December so they have time to settle in before the following November race schedule.

“We used to buy bare roots, but in the past three to four years we have been buying mostly potted plants as they establish more quickly,” says Terry Freeman.

It must be hard to have a favourite when you are passionate about roses and work with so many varieties, but according to the weeklyreview.com.au, “Freeman’s personal favourite is a rose called Grimaldi, a French floribunda with blooms that are salmon pink splashed with white. About 5000 of these roses are planted along the main driveway of the racecourse.” (3)

The Grimaldi Rose Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/1oMjxDL Jilly Bennett Photography
The Grimaldi Rose Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/1oMjxDL Jilly Bennett Photography

Love fragrant roses? Consider Chartreuse de Parme, a hybrid tea rose with deep magenta blooms or Abraham Darby, a David Austin rose with apricot/light-pink blooms. (3)

You can learn a lot from the experts on a guided tour of Flemington Racecourse, which delves into its fascinating history, including a tour of the rose gardens.


1. http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/s725180.htm

2. http://www.flemington.com.au/about-us/flemington-heritage-centre/

3. http://www.theweeklyreview.com.au/release/3273-giving-your-roses-the-flemington-touch#.VE1iQ8i4bIU


Spring Racing Carnival Floral Fantasia

With the spring racing carnival upon us what better time than to explore the world of fashionable head gear incorporating fresh flowers? Frida Kahlo was a front runner in this department with her simple yet effective use of flowers in her hair to achieve maximum wow factor.

Take a ‘leaf’ (or flower) out of these design ideas below and make a splash at the races this season…

Pretty in Pink

Carnations, hydrangea, pepper berry, roses…pretty enough to eat it!

pink floral headpiece   fresh floral headpiece

A Little Avant-Garde

Stand out from the crowd with these avant-garde style statement pieces. Fluffy chrysanthemums, gerbera daisies, roses and orchids… Rich, jewel like colours, veils and bold make up make these absolute race day show stoppers!

flowers in hair avant garde floral headpiecepink floral headpiece

Haute Couture Race Hats

Okay, the mask may be a little over the top for race day, but the exquisite incorporation of orchid blooms onto this headpiece is a standout. As are the blown roses in this ensemble designed by Philip Treacy for McQueen.

floral headpiece    Philip Treacy headpiece

Fashion Forward Frida Kahlo

Braid and loop your hair up off your face and rock those flowers with attitude. Make it bold from the blooms to the jewellery, the make up and clothing.

Frida Kahlofrida style hairpieceFloral crown

Mother Nature Hat Goddesses

Go green using succulents, twigs, roses, berries and interesting foliage…

floral race hat floral headpiece using succulents

One Flower En-Masse – One Big Statement

A dome of babies breath? I think Audrey Hepburn might have approved of this one.

babies breath race wear

These floral headpieces are pure works of art. Collaborate with Flowers for Everyone and your favourite milliner to create something that will turn heads and attract butterflies (okay, and maybe bees) this Spring Racing Carnival.

Photo sources: See Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ffeaus/innovative-floral-headwear/