Roses have charmed the world over the ages, and have long been associated with love and beauty.
The ancient Greeks and Romans identified them with the goddesses of love – Venus and Aphrodite. Christians identified the five petals with the five wounds of Christ. The red rose became a symbol for the blood shed by the Christian martyrs, and later was associated with the Virgin Mary. Today they still appear to be the main floral expression of love.
The Botanical Gardens, next to the Emmarentia Dam, have a magnificent display of about ‘4500 scented treasures.’ On a less extensive scale, but equally magnificent is Mary Rose Court, the Rose Garden at the home of Sheenagh Harris – Johannesburg’s ‘Lady of the Roses.’ Laid out in formal style on what was the tennis court, it contains some 400 rose bushes comprising nearly 60 varieties. When in full bloom it is a palette of colour, and heavy with fragrance. Is there anything quite as lovely as the mystically pure fragrance of the rose – the velvet sensuality of the red, the fresh dawn from the yellow, and the clear simplicity of the pink. Coupled with the perfection of the bud, unfolding its tightly packed petals in perfect order, the rose is indeed a miracle in nature.
Sheenagh’s parents, Jack and Mary Wise, were both very keen rosarians, involved with the foundation and running of the national and international societies. Sheenagh became active in these areas after their death. She has recently been elected the President of the Federation of Rose Societies of South Africa – made up of some 13 local societies with over 1500 members – and has now been elected the President of the World Federation of Rose Societies, until 2012. This is a great honour for Sheenagh, for South Africa and for Johannesburg, and shows the respect in which she is held.
This new post will involve her in extensive travel internationally. One trip will take her to Adelaide, Australia, to unveil a statue honouring David Ruston, described as ‘the most eminent rosarian in the world.’ She will also be responsible for organising and running the World Convention in Johannesburg, in 2012, which will involve over 400 visitors.
Sheenagh is an accredited rose judge, and has taken groups of fellow rose lovers on tours within the country, as well as overseas to Glasgow, New Zealand, Japan, France, and Australia. She still prunes professionally for about 60 days every year, working from 09h00 to 18h00, and beyond. In 2008 Sheenagh was awarded the Zoe Gilbert Merit Award, and in 2009 the President of the Rose Societies award.
Full of energy and vitality, Sheenagh’s face lights up even more when you get her onto the subject of roses. I asked her if she had a favourite and, after thinking about it, she said, ‘No.’ There were just too many that she loved. In reply to my question about the easiest roses to grow she had no hesitation in naming the ‘Iceberg’ and the golden-yellow ‘South Africa.’ Preparation is all important – start with a hole one metre square and one metre deep. And a thumbnail instruction for pruning? Get rid of the three Ds – Dead, Diseased and Decadent [old].
A close friend said that she has a wonderful capacity to keep in touch with family and friends, and to keep them in contact with each other. She is fondly referred to as ‘the Matriarch’ – respected for her high standards and frankness, and loved for her love and friendship.
Consider the fragrance that you leave behind – does it also inspire?