Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Camden Park Roses


The Camden Park roses are treated a little differently to other genera in the Hortus.  Most garden roses have a complex genetic background and it would be impossible to identify them with a simple Linnaean binomial.  Such roses have been given a two part name, for example Rosa ‘Ducher’, Rosa signifying the genus and ‘Ducher’ providing a specific epithet.  Some of the roses, particularly earlier introductions, are identified by a standard Linnaean binomial with author, Rosa moschata Mill. for example.  In this case the alternate name ‘Autumn flowering musk rose’ is also given.  In the standard Hortus entry this would be included as a Common Name but in Rosa all such alternate names are given as Synonyms.  There are two reasons for this change.  Firstly, many of the Latin names given to the earlier roses, and by which they are still known, would not be regarded as valid today, and secondly most roses are best known by a non-Latin name.  A few roses do have a valid Linnaean binomial plus common names but it seemed best to adopt the same convention for all.

Whenever possible I have identified and described the roses from Victorian sources, plus a few from the early 20th century.  This was necessary to identify many of them, now long lost, but it provided some interesting findings, with at least one old rose, very familiar to us today, clearly not the plant described in the early rose literature and grown by William Macarthur, and others somewhat doubtful.

Victorian references are included with each description, with modern sources only given when no appropriate old source could be found.  All references, old and more current, are detailed in the Bibiliography.

The Roses

Roses were very important to the Camden Park gardens, 297 are listed in the Hortus, substantially more than the next largest genus, Camellia with 140 plants.  The roses fall into three principal groups.

The Catalogue years – pre-1843 to 1857.  Most of these roses are listed in the Catalogue of plants grown at Camden (stated as Camden Park in the later editions), published in 1843, 1845, 1850 and 1857.  A few of the roses in this group were hand-written in William Macarthur’s own copies of the catalogues, held either at Camden Park or in the Mitchell Library, Sydney.  A few were recorded only in lists of plants sold by Camden Park nursery during these years.

The 1861 Rose List.  This is a hand-written list surviving among the Macarthur Papers held at the Mitchell Library, almost certainly a draft for a new catalogue then in preparation but never published.  In 1862 William wrote to James, his brother and partner in management of the estates: ‘I have sent the Garden Catalogue because the last printed are so disreputably inaccurate ... not half the plants inserted are now here.’  The list of course includes many roses grown earlier and included in the Catalogues or the ‘Hollinside’ list but also contains many not included elsewhere.

The ‘Hollinside roses.  This group of roses were despatched from Veitch’s Nursery, Chelsea on December the 31st, 1859 on board the ‘Hollinside’, but none survived the journey although a number subsequently appeared in the 1861 list.  Although most were probably never grown by Macarthur these roses are of great interest because they bridge the gap between the older style of rose which predominates in the catalogue years, particularly in the 1840s, and the very fashionable, largely new roses of the 1861 list.  Together the three groups beautifully illustrate the development of the garden rose in the first 60 years of the 19th century, a period when roses first became the most popular of garden plants.

The roses in the published catalogues were not categorised in any way but Macarthur grouped the 1861 roses according to type, starting with Moss roses, and in more than one case this was invaluable in determining which of two or more same-name roses Macarthur grew.  By 1861 his hand-writing had become difficult to read and I have been as yet unable to decipher a small number of roses which have not been included in the Hortus.  Others are of doubtful identification and this is clearly noted in the text. 

The hand-writing of the ‘Hollinside’ list is also a little indistinct at times but I have a high degree of confidence that most are correctly identified.

We must not forget the roses bred at Camden Park.  Although a small number, only three positively identified, they are a reminder of the vital gardening culture that existed there 160 years ago.


William Macarthur was a strong advocate of a good mix of ‘plants of ornament and utility’ in a garden and this philosophy is reflected in the plants he grew.  With the notable exception of some China roses grown as hedges, particularly around the vineyards to give early warning of fungal attack of vines, for which they are still used today, the roses were purely ornamental, and, although constituting only a small percentage of the plants grown at Camden Park, Rosa, with almost 200 entries, is the largest single genus of plants. 

The roses of the 1857 catalogue are listed more or less in the order in which they were added to the garden, with those listed in 1843 first, followed by the 1845 and then the 1850 additions.  Interestingly there were no additions to the rose list in the 1857 catalogue itself.

It is likely that many of the 1843 roses were long time residents of the Camden Park gardens, and probably Belgenny Farm and Elizabeth Farm before that.  These are predominantly species roses or their varieties (7) and China roses (7), including at least 3 of C. C. Hurst’s 4 stud Chinas, with a good admixture of others; old summer roses, Gallica, Provence, Moss etc. (6), and such early 19th century introductions as Bourbons (1) and Noisettes (3).

This mix changed only slightly with the 1845 additions, a further 3 species roses, 4 summer roses and 1 Noisette.  Newly introduced were Banksian roses (3), Hybrid Chinas (2) and the Prairie Rose from North America.  But the 1850 additions presaged a major change, from this point the old Latin names disappear, except for the odd species rose, and the new roses are almost all named cultivars of increasingly complex parentage.  There were 5 species roses, 2 summer roses, 5 Noisettes, 5 Bourbons, 6 Chinas, including Perpetual Chinas, 1 Damask Perpetual, 1 Moss Perpetual, and 7 Hybrid Perpetuals.  This latter group, more than any other, was to totally change the garden rose and stimulate the mid-Victorian golden age of rose growing.

With the roses that arrived on board the ‘Hollinside’, unfortunately all dead, this trend continues.  Excluding the roses that subsequently appeared in the 1861 list, the ‘Hollinside’ roses consisted of 1 Banksian rose, 1 Noisette, a group losing favour by this time, 2 Chinas, 3 species roses, 6 Bourbons, long-time show-bench favourites, 7 summer roses and 18 Hybrid Perpetuals.  The roses that arrived on the ‘Hollinside’ but still appear on the 1861 list are ‘Duchesse de Cambacères’, ‘La Reine’, ‘Madame Laffay’, ‘Lion des Courbats’, a rose in indistinct handwriting but probably ‘Madame Stolz’, ‘Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe’, ‘White Unique’, ‘Baronne de Wassanaër’, ‘Chénêdolé’ and ‘Ohl’.

The 1861 rose list, almost certainly drawn up for a new catalogue, contains a large number of roses from the 1857 catalogue and some from the ill-fated ‘Hollinside’, but introduces many new ones, probably purchased to bring the gardens up to date and replace those lost in the ‘Hollinside’.  But if we consider only the introductions, although they are predominantly the newly fashionable Hybrid Perpetuals (29), there has clearly been an attempt to ensure a balance of rose types in the gardens, with 13 Moss roses, including the relatively new Perpetual Mosses, 11 summer-flowering Gallica and Provence roses, including hybrids, 5 Damask roses, again including perpetuals, 5 Bourbons, 4 Albas, 7 Chinas and Teas, 2 Noisettes and 2 other hybrids.

In summary, the roses grown by William Macarthur at Camden Park from before 1843 to 1861 represent an excellent cross-section of roses grown in Europe at this time, with all major rose groups represented, and including many of the best examples of each group.  The quality of these roses is demonstrated by the 76, nearly 40%, still listed by William Paul in the 10th and final edition of The Rose Garden, published in 1903, and by the 48, almost 25%, still considered to be among the best available in 1911, fifty years later, by the editors of Les Plus Belles Roses au début du XXe Siécle

The successive Camden Park catalogues, 1843, 1845 and 1850, together with the roses intended for the garden but lost in 1859, and the unpublished list of roses grown in 1861, provide a fascinating chronicle of the development of the rose in the first six decades of the 19th century, an incomparably important period in the history of the rose, and it is clear from the date of introduction of many of the roses that the ‘tyranny of distance’ did not prevent Macarthur’s garden from being as fashionable and up-to-date as almost any comparable gentleman’s garden in Europe.