A rare English rose is taking root in Riyadh

A rare English rose is taking root in Riyadh
A clipping from the ‘Middlemist’s Red,’ has been taken from Chiswick to grace the gardens of a state-of-the-art skyscraper taking shape in Riyadh’s Al Muhammadiyah district. (Arab News)
Updated 04 March 2018

A rare English rose is taking root in Riyadh

A rare English rose is taking root in Riyadh

LONDON: From a country house conservatory in a leafy part of London to the urban garden of a Riyadh high-rise, one English rose is embarking on a change of address.
The “Middlemist’s Red,” also known as the spring rose, is the world’s rarest camellia. Just two of these precious plants exist, one at Treaty House in New Zealand and another at Chiswick House & Gardens, a stately home in England, where it has flowered every year since 1823.
It’s from this rare heritage plant that a clipping has been taken to grace the gardens of a state-of-the-art skyscraper taking shape in Riyadh’s Al Muhammadiyah district. Sky Gardens by Rafal is being positioned as a ‘rural oasis in an urban setting’ that brings a different style of living to the Saudi capital.
“There’s a new generation of ideas coming up in Saudi Arabia of having high-rise vertical communities,” said a spokesperson for Rafal Real Estate Development Company, which is behind the project. “Demand is increasing for high-end apartment living.”
Valued at SAR 1 billion, the 58-story tower encompasses 108,000 square meters of prime Riyadh real estate complete with spa, shopping mall and other luxury amenities. It’s centerpiece, however, will be this delicate flower, which is traveling on Sunday from its home of almost 200 years in the former gardens of the sixth Duke of Devonshire, to a new abode at a luxury tower block in the desert kingdom.
The journey is being chronicled by a film crew, who have flown in to capture the camellia’s migration on camera ahead of a gala dinner in Riyadh where it will be the “guest of honor,” the company said. “It’s a unique flower that’s used to living in an exceptional environment. Similarly, this tower will host exceptional clients. It’s the story of the building.”
Clippings from this plant are hard to come by and extremely valuable. Geraldine King, gardner at Chiswick House & Gardens, said that in the duke’s day, a cutting from this bush would have been worth the equivalent of £3,200. “You only find these in stately homes because only the rich could afford to buy them.”
Like many of the camellias in the 300-foot long conservatory at Chiswick House — it’s neighbor is called Lady Hume’s Blush, the Middlemist’s Red is named after the person who cultivated it in the UK, in this case a nurseryman called John Middlemist who collected the rare bloom in China in 1804.
It’s the star attraction in the ongoing Camellia Show, which attracts some 12,000 people a month, and the darling of the collection for King who is letting this cutting go on the strict understanding that it’s kept in the conditions to which it’s accustomed. “It needs shade, TLC and a little sun – they have my number if needed.”
Only five have ever been shared. “We’re quite fussy about who gets them,” she added. “The plant we’re giving to Saudi Arabia is one of the first cuttings we took from the Middlemist’s Red.” At this time of year they aren’t normally in full bloom, but the glass of the conservatory was recently cleaned, bringing the buds into early blossom. Either that, or they’ve come out to greet their new owner.