Vale – Gillian Batchen

5th September 2021

Gillian joined Heritage Roes in Australia Inc. during the early days of Heritage Roses in Sydney, NSW. She was on the committee from the beginning and was one of the main instigators in the ‘Rose Rescue’ operation at Rookwood Cemetery. I believe Shirley Stackhouse wrote an article for the Sydney Morning Herald talking about the roses on graves and asking the public to join Heritage Roses and participate in the ‘rose rescue’ project. Gillian was on site to welcome volunteers and she soon had everyone taking notes, taking cuttings and working towards the goal of saving the roses spread throughout this Victorian cemetery. Gillian was not only a hard worker but a very clear and direct communicator which meant that there was never any confusion as to what was required.
Gillian had a wonderful garden high up on the edge of a cliff looking out to the ocean and even though she had a great love of a wide variety of garden plants it was the roses that were her true love. There were many types of roses in this garden including species, a spectacular Rosa cathayensis and a large number of the teas. I once asked her which rose was her favourite and she said it would have to be Comtesse de Labarthe. She also had a beautiful bush of Devoniensis which she grew from a cutting taken from her husband’s grandparents grave at Rookwood. When I purchased my first tea roses I went to, my mentor, Gillian and asked her about pruning them and her response was – “Don’t touch them for five years”. A very knowledgeable woman and again a very clear communicator. Gillian knew her roses and knew how to grow and care for them. After seeing how a true rosarian grew roses at a beachside property never let anyone say that roses cannot be grown close to the sea.
Gillian was Coordinator of the Sydney Group at the time of the development and the opening of The Rumsey Garden in Parramatta 26th August 1995. The Rumsey Garden was opened by Gillian and Councillor Hains, Mayor of Parramatta and they both planted a rugosa rose. Until recent years it was always Gillian who organised our annual pruning working bees at The Rumsey Garden. Gillian was the joint National President at the time of the Orange Conference in 2004 and was awarded a Distinguished Service Award at the WA Conference in 2006.
We will all miss this very bright lady who was a friend and mentor to many and who was very willing to share not only her knowledge but also many cuttings and other contributions from her garden.
Glennis Clark
Coordinator Sydney Group
Saturday, 20 November 2021