Roses are as evocative of a British summer as strawberries and cream. And with a beauty and scent that's hard to beat, it’s easy to see why the rose remains the nation’s favourite flower.
Many of the rose gardens at places we look after were created in the Victorian and Edwardian periods when a separate garden 'room' full of roses, often animated by the tinkling sound of water from a fountain, would have been a popular place to sit on a warm summer's day.
Each garden has its own story to tell. Whether it be a relaxing walk or a journey of discovery, you'll find them the perfect place for a summer visit.
Here’s our hand-picked selection of the best rose gardens to visit:
Leave plenty of time for a summer stroll around the rose garden to appreciate the variety and beauty of the flowers in bloom. Designed by Gertrude Jekyll, the rose garden was replanted in the 1990s following her original scheme. Look out for the lovely hybrid musk roses, ‘Felicia’, ‘Cornelia’ and ‘Penelope’, originally bred in the early 1900s by rosarian and clergyman, the Rev. Joseph Pemberton.
Take a walk through the formal rose garden and lily pond, designed by famous resident Rudyard Kipling after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. The rose garden was restored a century later and is planted with three varieties of Polyantha rose; ‘Frensham’, ‘Betty Prior’ and ‘Valentine Heart’. Their small, semi-double blooms in shades of pink and red flower nearly all summer long.
Discover one of the finest rose gardens in Wales. Originally created in the early 1900s, the two rose terraces were restored in recent years. Over 1,500 plants now fill the terrace beds, including many of David Austin’s fragrant English roses, while hundreds more climbing roses smother garden walls and pergolas in fragrant blooms during summer.
Flowering from June to October, Lady Churchill’s rose garden was her favourite part of the garden at Chartwell and is filled with a mixture of soft pink and white floribundas and hybrid tea roses. The heavily scented ‘Ice Cream’ and ‘Royal William’ hybrid tea roses are some of the most popular, alongside the dramatic climbing roses around the walled garden. The golden rose walk, planted with 32 varieties of yellow roses, was a golden wedding anniversary gift to Sir Winston and Lady Churchill from their children.
Cliveden is blooming again after the rose garden’s restoration. Originally created in 1959 by garden designer Geoffrey Jellicoe for the third Viscount Astor, the garden suffered from ‘rose disease’ and was replaced with herbaceous planting in 2002. Jellicoe’s original arches and abstract-shaped beds were restored and reinstated in 2014 and nine hundred roses in vibrant reds, oranges and yellows now fill the garden with scent and colour from late June through to September.
Dunham Massey’s rose garden fell into decline during the First World War when the gardening staff was reduced. The current rose garden was opened in 2013 ahead of the First World War centenary and contains a stunning variety of roses and thousands of blooms including Rosa ‘Dunham Massey’, grown especially for the opening, and Rosa ‘Stamford’s Sanctuary’, a legacy of Dunham Massey’s wartime role as the Stamford Military Hospital. Both were created by Peter Beales Roses.
For another rose garden in Cheshire visit Lyme Park, where the Edwardian rose garden blooms well into the autumn.
Gunby’s gardens have been a favourite of many visitors over the centuries including the 19th-century poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a frequent visitor to the hall who found the gardens a major source of inspiration. Roses sprawl the walks of the walled garden filling the air with their sweet fragrance. Rest a while in one of the many spots and take in the peace and quiet and heady scents.
Over 90 varieties of rose bloom at Hinton Ampner. A highly scented collection, it’s well known for its repeat flowering, giving delicious fragrance and colour well into August: ‘One of my very favourite spots at Hinton Ampner is the bed of 100 ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ roses near the pond,’ says head gardener John Wood. ‘This hybrid tea rose, with very pale pink blooms and a deeper pink in the centre, just flowers and flowers. You can’t pass by them without being hit by the fragrance.’
Nostell’s rose garden has enjoyed a rich history, from its creation in the 18th century through to today where it offers a picturesque foreground to the Orangery. You’ll find many varieties including the National Trust rose with its distinctive pointed petals, ‘Fragrant Cloud’ and the beautifully delicate ‘Prima Ballerina’. The best time to visit is over the summer when the garden is filled with perfume and bright reds, whites and pinks.
There’s a secret gem of a garden waiting to be explored behind this elegant Georgian town house. The two acres of interesting and exuberant planting reach their flowering peak in summer. Among the highlights is ‘Alexa’s rose garden,’ named after the Hon. Alexandrina Peckover, who gave the estate to the Trust in 1943. Here you’ll find over 60 rose varieties, mostly lovely, old fashioned, scented roses which the Victorians and Edwardians delighted in. It’s easy to see why these are in vogue once more.
A summer highlight is the Victorian walled kitchen garden, transformed by Polesden’s famous society hostess, Mrs Greville, into a typical Edwardian rose garden. Designed with box-edged paths and exuberantly planted with roses, in summer the simple wooden pergolas are smothered in masses of pink and white rambling roses. Clematis and lavender complement the roses and add to the very feminine feel of the garden.
Delight in a walk through the formal Rose Garden, which was established in the early 20th century. Box hedging frames beds filled with modern bush and shrub roses, replanted by the late Lady Hastings from the 1950s to the 1970s. In summer, they provide eye-catching colour and fragrance, from the dark pink flowers of ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ to the coppery orange and yellow of ‘Just Joey’ and ‘Graham Thomas’, the latter named after our first gardens advisor.
The Argory, an 1820’s handsome Irish gentry home on the River Blackwater, boasts a rose garden which is small in size but big on colour. From late spring onwards, roses bloom brightly throughout the garden and light floral scents fill the air. A key feature of the rose garden is an octagonal brass sundial with an eight-point compass rose at the base. Test your skills at telling the time before exploring the nearby riverside and woodland walks which provide sweeping views across the estate.