August 8, 2019

In the garden: Rose tinted friendship

Horticultural relationships grow over many decades, but one particular floral friendship has blossomed even further.

As I write this article on a perfect, sunny, late-autumn day, it’s hard to believe that, winter is — officially — just a week or two away. The recent and gladly received rains have set our gardens and, I hope, our farming areas up for what may be a normal, wet winter. 

On a visit to our National Rose Garden (NRG) last week, I was pleasantly surprised to see many of the roses still in bloom, with little sign of autumn tones creeping in. It reminded me that with an ideal growing aspect, good maintenance and regular feeding, roses are just perfect for our Mediterranean climate. Low humidity in summer virtually eliminates threatening fungal diseases, a climate much envied by rose growers in other states and other countries. 

Sitting within the NRG is the much smaller International Rose Trial Garden. This is an area where roses are sent from rose breeders around the globe for a two-year growing trial. It was set up several years ago by members of the Rose Society of South Australia and it just happens that one of the main drivers was my mate, Kelvin Trimper AM.

I have known of Kelvin and his family for many years, bumping into him at rose events, and the odd Nursery Industry function. It wasn’t until about 30 years ago that we worked together on a garden show, held at Adelaide Showground that was viewed by Queen Elizabeth II, that I really got to know him and see first-hand his passion for gardening. I then went on to see him regularly at the horticultural meetings and events. At this time Kelvin was seconded from the Education Department to assist the Delfin Group at its new development Golden Grove, a position he held for over 26 years. Part of his responsibility included the planning and planting of an enormous number of trees, shrubs and ground covers, all flourishing today, making Golden Grove a most sought-after address to live in.

Over the past years, Kelvin has held many prominent board appointments, one of which was as a board member of the Adelaide Botanic Garden and was instrumental in the development of the NRG and its environs, some 20 years ago. Many of the roses for the new garden, some 900 or so, were grown by a few members of the Rose Society of SA (including Kelvin) in the backyard of another prominent rosarian, Dean Stringer (yes, he was the North Adelaide superstar footballer!)

Born and raised in Renmark, Kelvin grew up surrounded by orchards, veggie gardens, Australian native shrubs and a host of other plants. So, with this influence and the passion for roses that his parents Eric and Myrtle had, young Kelvin developed his love for all plants. It’s his adoration of the rose that has taken Kelvin around the world, not only as a private person visiting rose breeders, organisations and garden shows, but more recently with the World Federation of Rose Societies, for which he is immediate past president.

Kelvin is currently the main organiser for the 2021 World Federation of Rose Societies Conference to be held in SA. This event will attract hundreds of delegates from around the globe, and showcase Adelaide as the true “city of roses”. It will be a massive promotion for South Australia and will include several public events, so look out for more information as it is released.

Kelvin, like many good SA folk, considers Adelaide to be one of the world’s best kept secrets, especially in what we have to offer with our parks, park lands, gardens, boulevards and street scapes to name but a few. 

Kelvin is a true home-grown Renmark boy from a family fruit block; a genuine gardener in the true sense of the word. Now living in the northern suburbs on a larger than normal block, you will find Kelvin and his wife Melanie tending to some 2000 roses (just imagine pruning those!) an orchard with dozens of different fruit trees, plus a veggie and herb garden that any top-notch professional market gardener would be proud of.

One can only guess at the hours the Trimpers spend in the garden. Both Kelvin and Mel are very organised with their time and commitments. They can often take off to visit a rose event or conference in China, Africa or Europe, as a result of Kelvin’s position as a globally-renowned rosarian. With speaking engagements, lectures and openings, he is always in demand.

The Trimper family is often referred to as “Rose Royalty” and rightly so, having had success in a countless number of rose competitions, from Kelvin’s parents, to his brother Merv, they have dominated the rose shows, here in SA and beyond, for many years. 

I have just scratched the surface of Kelvin’s busy and successful life; he is still very active in a host of business-related commitments, and many more important issues that he pursues. But how does such a busy man relax? Well, in Kelvin’s own words, he enjoys good food, good wine and good gardening. The magic ingredients? Family, friends… and roses. 


This story first appeared in the June 2019 issue of SALIFE Magazine. 

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