Roses are as evocative of a British summer, as strawberries and cream. And it’s easy to see why the rose remains the nation’s favourite flower, for beauty and scent it’s hard to beat.
Many of our rose gardens were created in the Victorian and Edwardian period 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. So whether it be a relaxing walk or a journey of discovery, you'll find 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.
Enjoy the beautiful walled rose garden, designed and planted by Lady Churchill with help from her head gardener. Although replanted over the years, it’s still full of the soft pink and white blooms of Floribunda and Hybrid Tea roses that she loved. The Golden Rose Walk, planted with 32 varieties of yellow roses, was a golden wedding anniversary gift to the Churchills from their children.
Cliveden is blooming again after the Rose Garden’s restoration. In 1959, Geoffrey Jellicoe created a dynamic yet secretive rose garden for the third Viscount Lord Astor. Unfortunately, the garden suffered from ‘rose disease’ and was replaced with herbaceous planting in 2002. Now Jellicoe’s original arches and abstract-shaped beds have been restored and reinstated with a planting design based on Lord Astor’s aspiration to create a captivating garden. 800 roses in vibrant reds, oranges and yellows have been selected to fill the garden with scent and colour from late June through to September.
Stroll through this informal garden of lovely meandering paths and glades, perfect on a summer’s day. The only formality you’ll find here is the beautiful Italianate rose garden, designed especially for the wife of Frederic Lubbock, a banker and passionate plantsman, who bought the property in 1893. Femininity pervades throughout, with swags of climbing blush pink rose ‘Cécile Brunner’ accompanying many other roses around the central fountain pond.
Don’t miss this internationally famous rose garden, usually at its best in June. Inside the large walled garden the sight and scent of over 500 varieties of beautiful, old fashioned roses in full bloom is breathtaking. The nucleus of the collection belonged to Graham Stuart Thomas, the Trust’s first gardens advisor, who designed the rose garden here in the early 1970s to house his collection. Many of these old varieties would have been lost to cultivation without his dedication and passion. The roses that flower here, full-petaled, highly scented with soft blush colours from crimson to palest pink, are once more fashionable. Look out for the creamy pink blooms of 'Adélaïde d'Orléans' smothering the wooden arches. Rose heaven indeed!
Follow your nose to the Rose Garden, which houses the treasured collection of lovely old fashioned, scented roses, brought to Nymans by Maud Messel in the 1920s. Redesigned in recent years, David Austin’s English roses have been added to the core collection and the Rose Garden is now filled with over 100 varieties, while the soft colours of herbaceous geraniums and nepeta complement the planting.
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.
Wander through intimate garden rooms, spectacular at most times of the year but in early summer you can’t miss the roses. There are lots of roses, not just in the Rose Garden but elsewhere too. Lovely, old fashioned climbers and shrub roses were among Vita Sackville West’s favourite flowers. The White Garden peaks in late June when Rosa mulliganii cascades over the central arbour, covering it with thousands of single, white, scented blooms.
Home of the famous Victorian actress, Ellen Terry, the garden here remains a romantic, tranquil retreat. She adored roses and they cover the house walls in flowers during summer, while the formal rose garden, divided into four main beds, is planted with a mixture of repeat flowering and old fashioned shrub roses, Floribunda and Hybrid Tea roses, including, of course, the pale yellow, ‘Ellen Terry’.
Enjoy this lovely garden created by one of the most influential designers of the period, Thomas Mawson, in the early years of the 20th century. The formal compartments with clipped yews, topiary, shrub borders and cottage garden flowers include old fashioned roses, beloved by the Arts and Crafts movement. They bloom alongside paths and lawns as well as in the formal rose garden. The central pergola is covered in the beautiful crimson red flowers of the climbing rose ‘Parkdirektor Riggers’ in summer.
Delight in a walk through the formal Rose Garden, established here in the early 20th century. Box hedging frames beds filled with modern bush and shrub roses, planted by the late Lady Hastings in the 1960s and 70s. 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 the Trust’s first Gardens Advisor. The herbaceous border to the north of the Rose Garden contains huge bay buttresses and a variety of summer flowering plants.