Alice Spenser-Higgs
3 minute read
24 Aug 2013
8:00 am

Rose amongst the thorns

Alice Spenser-Higgs

Should you be in search of perfumed roses, the single biggest collection in Gauteng can be found in a most unexpected area.

The Nizamiye Masjid (Mosque) in Midrand.

Amidst the warehouses and office blocks of Midrand, and alongside the Gautrain track, is the Nizamiye Masjid (Mosque), the first Ottoman-style mosque in the Southern Hemisphere.

With its four minarets rising heavenwards above a magnificent dome, it has changed the Midrand skyline, and become something of a tourist attraction.

Starting at the gates, some 2 000 roses are planted around the entire Masjid itself, at the school, in front of the clinic (built at the request of Nelson Mandela), and as a long border in front of shops that includes a Turkish restaurant and delicatessen.

Right now, the recently pruned roses are just sticks in the ground, but from the first weekend in October and for the entire month, it will be a show of roses in a multitude of colours.

Rose lovers need not hesitate. All visitors are welcome and are made to feel welcome by members of the community who act as guides though the exquisitely decorated courtyard and worship area with its stained glass windows, hand painted dome, and marble columns.

The roses were all supplied by Ludwig Taschner who was specifically asked by the funder and founder, retired Turkish property developer, Ali Katircioglu, to supply fragrant varieties.

The request is not unusual, says Taschner, because fragrance, along with water and shade, are characteristics of Islamic gardens. He has supplied roses to mosques throughout Gauteng over the past 40 years.




Nizamiye Masjid rose garden

The planting scheme as the Nizamiye Masjid is as colourful as a Turkish carpet and features all well-loved fragrant roses: “Double Delight”, “Duftwolke”, “Mr Lincoln”, “Oklahoma”, Bewitched”, “Memoire”, “Garden Queen” and “Just Joey”. Most are hybrid tea roses.

When Taschner received the order, he provided a planting scheme that grouped similar colours together but “Uncle Ali” as the founder is called, preferred to mix up the colours.

Grouping vibrant colours together, and then repeating them every few metres has brought liveliness to the rose beds.

“Uncle Ali” has an unerring eye for colour and it is worth noting his combinations; they will work in a small garden where one only has space for a group of five or seven roses. (picture)

“Gülilah” – inspired by Turkish folklore (Pic of pink rose)

One of the strongest growing roses at the Nizamiye Masjid is called “Gülilah” which Taschner named because its incredibly sweet scent reminded him of a story from his childhood.

According to Turkish folklore, says Taschner, a shy young girl, Gülilah would often hide behind a huge rose bush. One day as she emerged from her hiding place covered with the fragrant rose petals she met up with a wealthy young rose grower who was as enchanted with her as with the rose perfume. They married and lived happily ever after.

The rose “Gülilah” is an Eco Chic shrub rose, with glowing pink, old fashioned blooms and grows into a huge arching shrub. Its growth is reminiscent of Rosa damascena (Damask rose) that, together with Rosa gallica and Rosa centifolia are grown in Turkey for rose oil (Attar of roses) and rose water.


colour combo


Roses of Turkey

The link between Turkey and roses is an ancient one. About 25% of all rose species are native to Turkey. In Turkish, the word “Gül” means Rose and is one of the most popular names for girls. A gulistan is a rose garden.

Down the centuries the people of Turkey have gathered the rose hips for making jam, marmalade and fruit juices as the hips contain vitamin C as well as vitamins A, B³, D and E. They also dry the hips and roots for tea.

In Turkish culture rose oil (Attar of roses) is a symbol of love and beauty. Besides using it for skin care it is also valued as a mild sedative and anti-depressant.