My parents-in-law came here in 2008 to help with the arrival of our first child. While they were here, they would take daily strolls around the neighbourhood. My mother-in-law is a keen gardener so she is particularly interested in the plants and trees in Altona. To her surprise, plants and trees that she has not seen flowering in China, are in full blossom here. Also plants have grown to a gigantic size here compared to similar varieties in her hometown. When we moved to Altona in 2007, we were particularly attracted to a rose “tree” in the front garden of a modest house in our street. From botany lessons, I know that roses are classified as shrubs but I never know that a rose plant can grow so big that it resembles a tree, as shown in the following photo.

9 Medford St Rose Shrub

The rose plant reached almost the height of the brick and veneer house and carried huge, pastel orange-coloured flowers on its numerous branches. The roses were so many that it looked like a giant bouquet of assembled roses. At that time (2007), the house appeared to be vacant and under renovation. Our curiosity tempted us take a peek inside the house. There were no curtains so we could see the bedroom was spartan. It appeared that an extension, probably an extra living room, was being constructed at the rear of the house.

For some reasons (perhaps weak soil foundation or unbalanced development in the wrong direction), the rose tree is severely leaning to one side such that it needs to be propped up to prevent it from further sloping. The props were apparently not working well as they need to be constantly replaced and the tilting did not ease. The owner finally decided to take a calculated risk and give the tree a major surgery. It was uprooted, pruned until it was left with an almost leafless stock and transferred to another location with new soil. This is a gamble as one will not know whether the plant will survive the shock treatment. The timing is not good since it is summer when the rose is most vulnerable to cutting.

I happened to pass by the house that day and witnessed the operation. 4-5 persons, probably from a horticulture company that the owner had engaged, were digging a big hole around the rose tree, severing the roots, reducing the tree to a manageable size before moving it to a new garden bed. This is apparently not a small operation as it took almost half a day of hard work.

Days after, the plant appeared to be withering. I was skeptical whether it would survive and pondered whether the owner had made the right decision to uproot the rose tree. Roses are however known for their hardiness and resilience. There is a great likelihood they will turn out fine even when subjected to multiple injuries. The rose plant did survive but after 3 years, it looks stunted and produces sparse, small, faded flowers bearing no resemblance to its past glory. Perhaps, it needs the attention of its owner who currently has far more important priorities and does not have the time to look after it.

Medford Rose Street 2012
The rose “shrub” overshadowed by other nameless plants