By Pauline Tonkin, PRHRiA
One of Australia's foremost Rosarians and International Rose Judges 16.6.1944 - 26.11.2022
Robert Hardman Melville, known to everyone as Bob, passed away in November 2022. One of Perth’s most respected horticulturists, Bob was just 10 when he started working with his father growing roses on his property on Mason Mill Road in Carmel, in the Darling Ranges of WA.
In 1977 Bob started his own ‘Melville Nursery’ where he earnt the reputation of being able to supply the most reliable disease resistant roses. He was certainly ahead of his time in his thinking and experimentation with growing roses. He was one of the first to introduce Rosa x fortuniana rootstock which revolutionised rose growing on Perth’s sandy soils. The roses grown on Rosa x fortuniana rootstock had greater vigour and survived better in hot dry weather and it was quickly adopted by the industry in WA.
He loved all roses but had a great affinity with old roses and grew a large range of Heritage Roses in his nursery. By 1997 a tremendous interest had grown in ‘Roses of the Past’ which encouraged him to increase the list of available Heritage Roses by over 80 varieties in his 1997-1998 nursery handbook, offering a detailed description of 250 Heritage Roses for sale. At one time he had the biggest commercial collection of tea roses in Australia.
Bob discovered the pink Polyantha Weeping China Doll in 1965 at the age of 21 years. It was noticed by a visiting American grower who registered it in U.S.A.
Discovered by Robert Hardman Melville (Australia, 1965).
Discovered by O.L. Weeks (1912-2002) United States, before 1977). Introduced in Australia by Melville Nurseries Pty Ltd in 1974 as 'China Doll, Cl.'. Introduced in United States by Weeks Wholesale Rose Grower, Inc. in 1977 as 'Weeping China Doll'.
Bob won many National and International awards for more than 50 years of service to the rose industry. His blooms have received the Australian Rose Award, the highest and most prestigious award in the industry. His spectacular floral arrangements always drew acclamation.
The Rose Heritage Café he built on his nursery in 1997 was a great addition to the fledgling tourist industry of that time in the Perth Hills and provided a valuable asset in the promotion of Heritage Roses to the public.
Locally Bob was highly regarded by the community for his generosity in offering helpful advice and donations of roses. Falls Farm’s Heritage Rose Garden benefited greatly from Bob’s interest from its beginnings in 1986. In 1999 he grew and donated 20 important Heritage Roses requested by Perth Branch HRIA to enhance the collection. The important Heritage Rose Garden at Araluen is the largest collection of Heritage Roses in WA thanks to Bob’s generosity.
He was indeed a character with his own inimitable style and will be sadly missed in the beautiful world of roses.
"Near Shady Wall A Rose Once Grew"
Near shady wall a rose once grew
Budded and blossomed in God's free light
Watered and fed by morning dew
Shedding it's sweetness day and night.
As it grew and blossomed fair and tall
slowly rising to loftier height,
It came to a crevice in the wall
Through which there shone a beam of light.
Onward it crept with added strength
With never a thought of fear of pride,
It followed the light through the crevices length
And unfolded itself on the other side.
The light, the dew, the broadening view
Were found the same as they were before,
And it lost itself in beauties new
Breathing its fragrance more and more.
Shall claim of death cause us to grieve
And make our courage faint or fail,
Nay, let us faith and hope receive,
The rose still grows beyond the wall
Scattering fragrance far and wide,
Just as it did in the days of yore
Just as it did on the other side
Just as it will forever more.