It’s not often a school propagates its own rose variety, but here at Diocesan, the link to roses is significant.
Rose gardens have always had a special place at Dio and some of our varieties are more 50 years old.
The first planned planting of roses in the school grounds was in 1951 when, following the death of the founding headmistress, Miss Mary Pulling, the Sixth Form decided that as white roses were her favourite flower, they would gift some to the School to be planted in her honour.
In 1954, a student, Jennifer Harland, presented the School with another fifty rose bushes as a leaving gift. Along with the original white roses, this gift formed the basis of a collection which, until very recently, occupied the garden around the old music building.
In 1982, a memorial garden, including roses, was planted between the Chapel and the tennis courts in memory of Form 3 student Lisa Schilling, tragically killed on her way home from school in 1980.
Then in 2003, at the time of the School’s centenary, and in honour of Miss Pulling, the School had a white rose bred, which was called ‘Mary Pulling’. The rose is creamy white, decadently scented and flowers very late into the season. The rose is not available to buy, but many Dio Old Girls and former teachers have taken a cutting to their home gardens. In remembrance, ‘Mary Pulling’ roses from the first flush of the season are always cut and taken to rest on Miss Pulling’s grave in Purewa Cemetery.
Over more than 60 years, some of the roses have died and been lost, but the hard work of the current school gardeners, Deborah Sharpe and Jeremy Dixon, has maintained the existing roses in good health. This despite sometimes four or five relocations as rose beds have had to shift to accommodate different phases of campus development.
This year in November, after major building works at the School, the roses were moved to their new permanent home, the Old Girls’ Chapel Garden, where the beautiful blooms adorn the entranceway to the Chapel and the new Arts Centre. The latest relocation was a major event, planned over many months to ensure the roses were successfully transplanted.
Deborah is a keen rose enthusiast and treasures her time taking care of Dio roses. “Roses are special, and no matter what the plant looks like, the flower a rose plant produces is always perfect.”
With plenty of sunlight and fresh air, the garden includes roses from both the Harland gift and the Schilling garden along with two or three replacements and additions. Under Deborah’s meticulous planning, she plans to create a register of each of the roses in the garden, as many of the names of varieties have been lost over time.
“Some of these roses are very old, but still going strong, and this garden is important to the School. It is a very special place for us to enjoy the simple beauty of life.”