175-year-old 'Potato' Rose Returns to the City

16 July 2014

A 175-year-old rose that survived a long sea journey in 1840 from Britain to Wellington inside a potato is to return to the central city.

The Harris rose to be planted.

The Harris Rose joins the Botanic Garden’s heritage rose collection

On Saturday (19 July) descendants of rose lover Sophia Harris will plant two rose bushes propagated from the original ‘Harris’ rose in the Bolton Street Memorial Park on the corner of Mowbray and Bolton streets, opposite the Bolton Hotel.

 Sophia, 29, immigrated with her husband Abraham, a labourer and brickmaker, and five children ranging in age from eight years to 10 weeks aboard the sailing ship Bolton. Sophia kept the rose cutting alive inside a potato during the five-month voyage from Gravesend.

 The two bushes being planted were raised by Mary Stevens of the Christ Church Preservation Society from cuttings taken from a rose owned by a fourth-generation Harris descendant. The Harris family settled in the Hutt Valley and Sophia is buried at the historic Anglican Christ Church in Taita.

 “This is such a good thing to do to celebrate our pioneers who braved all by coming to New Zealand,” says John Daysh, President of the Christ Church Preservation Society. “The Harris rose continues to be a symbol of their cleverness, courage and faith.”

 Bolton Hotel Managing Director Warwick Angus first learned about the Harris rose during the construction of the hotel 10 years ago and has been involved with the plans to plant it nearby. The hotel has provided a plaque explaining the history and significance of the rose.

 “After learning more about Sophia Harris and the Bolton ship I was convinced that we name the hotel after the street it is located on in the spirit of independence that is the hallmark of everything Bolton,” he says. “Since then the Bolton Hotel has remained involved with the Friends of Bolton Street Memorial Park.

 “It’s a great accomplishment for the Friends of Bolton Street Memorial Park to see this rose bought back to the Capital.” He says it is important to maintain this significant heritage site and beautiful area of greenery in the CBD.

 Judy Bale, from Friends of Bolton Street Memorial Park, says they have been unable to identify the rose. “As far as we know it’s a one-and-only. It’s definitely an old-fashioned rose variety, a very vigorous grower. It’s a very pretty rose and does have glossy green foliage.”

Botanic Gardens Acting Manager Leanne Killalea says the Harris rose will form part of the garden’s heritage rose collection of 214 roses, 120 of which are different types of rose. “We are very keen to have this rose as part of the collection as it adds another valuable slice of the history of the settlers and is a significant rose to represent early Wellingtonians.”