When I heard Ruston’s Roses was on the market my first thought was how this unique collection could be saved in case the new owners have no real interest in the roses and just want to use the property in some other way. Now it has been sold there is more confidence in its future but I cannot feel anything more than what is its future even under new ownership.

David’s collection has been his lifelong crusade started when he was just a boy planting a few roses in the family orchard. Over the years it was my father Deane and the Rumsey family who helped David create this outstanding collection. Deane and Roy were keen rosarians and started importing many old roses into Australia. They also were Australian agents for two of the world’s best breeders at the time with Kordes and Meillands.

When any new introduction made the market both Deane and Roy donated a plant for David’s Collection which quickly saw more property needed to house the roses. It then became a matter of course for ALL introducers to send a plant to David to add to the collection so roses imported by Ted Treloar, Bruce Brudrett and the Sawnes brothers also made it to the collection.

Few know how David’s interest in roses started. As a young lad David would visit Mag Story who taught him about roses and got his interest in the subject going. For those who don’t know Mag Story was the daughter of George Ross, the originator or Ross Roses. Two iconic names with a strong connection in roses.

Over the years David’s collection increased to a point where nearly every rose in Australia was located at the Renmark property. In its peak over 5,000 varieties were housed there climbing along all fences, drooping into the water channels and planted in any spare space not in production with fruit.

But times do change and Ruston’s has been placed on the market. But will any person or company have the total dedication to grow all these rose varieties with many having no opportunity to create an income for the owner. For just the collections sake no one would want it as the collection.

To keep the Ruston Collection together at one location seems impossible. Who would have the interest to preserve all the varieties, have the land to house them or the finance to maintain with no return?

But this leads me to the next question. What varieties will be saved or more importantly what varieties SHOULD be saved even if this person or location was found?

For me I classify the collection into 4 main areas.

  1. Heritage Roses – Here we have a collection of varieties brought into Australia and grown and enjoyed by rose enthusiasts around the country. With these roses we have history with the very beginnings of various old roses in this collection. I estimate around 600 old roses are in Australia in this part of the collection. Currently Heritage Roses are undertaking moving different family groups around the country so this Heritage Roses Collection is now lost for visitors.
  2. My second part of the collection is History. Many roses in this collection are rare and valuable for historical reasons. Once they are lost it will be impossible to find again as few are found in sales centre or gardens so the plant as Ruston’s is really the last chance. The majority of roses in this part of the collection are Australian developed. Australia does have a rose hybridising history and around 200 varieties have been introduced in this Australian Collection. Others to save are first introductions from breeders such as Constance Spry, The Reeve, Red Coat or Charles Austin from Austin’s. We can also see Delbards, Guillot, Harkness, Poulsen, McGrdey and other breeders of note whose first introductions are significant in historical sense and to see how far these breeders have come in their development of new roses.
  3. I consider any rose still on the market at present worth saving. If a grower still lists it on their growing list there is interest in the gardening community so interest can see these roses saved. Generally the roses still on growers lists are healthy, good for Australian conditions, good flower form and easy to grow. I would estimate around 1,000 varieties would fit into this group.
  4. The rest. When I subtract what should be saved from the full Ruston list there are many roses that are not covered.

So what happens to all these roses I have not identified as needing saving? To be honest should they be saved or more accurately should many of them even have been introduced.

Any breeder of note will always be harsh on their roses and only select their best to enter the market. But there are many breeders of lessor note who think ‘their baby is beautiful’.

In new roses we also see many varieties which are great in their country of origin but do not perform as well when they are exposed to the challenges of Australia. After a very short number of years we see roses which have great reports or awards in overseas countries never seen on the market again.

Ruston’s Roses has been an attraction South Australia and Australia should be proud of with one persons passion which has seen the collection created, maintained and expanded. I cannot see anyone who will continue his legacy in its current state so it is unfortunate to say the Ruston Collection is in its final stages of life.


Created   7/2/2019