Seeking the roses

Published: 10 June 2019

Last update: 10 June 2019

Blog post
This blog post is written by Claire Masset, Author of 'Roses and Rose Gardens' and National Trust Guidebooks Publisher Claire Masset Author of 'Roses and Rose Gardens' and National Trust Guidebooks Publisher
Rose arbour covered in peach and pink roses, with white bench in background

We should probably start by saying that we reckon you'll find something of interest year-round in most Trust gardens; even in winter, frost adds an ethereal sparkle to grass, trees and plants. However, if you're looking for roses then early summer is the time to visit. We asked Claire Masset, author of 'Roses and Rose Gardens', to reveal her top tips for where to see these entrancing flowers around the National Trust.

" … roses are the most seductive and breathtakingly beautiful of all flowers"
- Susan Hill, author of Through the Garden Gate

Cliveden, Buckinghamshire
The Rose Garden at Cliveden has recently been recreated following the original 1950s scheme by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe – and it is a triumph. Here you can enjoy over 800 roses, artfully displayed from pale yellow through to bright orange and intense red. Arches, benches and classical statues add rhythm and structure. Unlike many other rose gardens, this one blooms from mid-June right through to September.

Apricot-yellow ‘Lady of Shalott’ blends into sunset-pink ‘Summer Song’ which merges with crimson ‘Thomas à Becket’ in the Rose Garden at Cliveden
Relax on a bench in Cliveden's rose garden in summer
Apricot-yellow ‘Lady of Shalott’ blends into sunset-pink ‘Summer Song’ which merges with crimson ‘Thomas à Becket’ in the Rose Garden at Cliveden

Coughton Court, Warwickshire
A little-know gem, the rose garden at Coughton Court is one of the finest in the world. In 2006 it received the Award of Garden Excellence from the World Federation of Rose Societies – the only British garden ever to have been granted this accolade. It covers a relatively small area but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in floral punch and masterful planting. Over 200 varieties of rose flourish here, amongst hundreds of herbaceous perennials and carefully placed annuals. At first the effect is overwhelming, but this is exactly what its creator Christina Williams intended. She did, after all, call it the Rose Labyrinth. You need to get lost in it. And the more you do, the more you enjoy it. 

The statue of Fair Rosamund in the Rose Labyrinth in Coughton Court's Walled Garden
Fair Rosamund statue in the Rose Labyrinth at Coughton Court
The statue of Fair Rosamund in the Rose Labyrinth in Coughton Court's Walled Garden

Mottisfont, Hampshire
Every rose enthusiast should visit Mottisfont at least once. Hiding behind weathered walls is one of the most enchanting gardens you’ll ever encounter. During a few weeks in midsummer, hundreds of climbing and shrub roses show off their charms in fragrant clouds of white, pink and crimson. If gardens are all about scent, spectacle and escape, then Mottisfont is the queen of them all. Within its walls are over 500 different rose varieties, many of which come from the collection of rosarian Graham Stuart Thomas, who helped save old roses from near extinction in the second half of the 20th century. 

The Rose Garden at Mottisfont holds the National Collection of Pre-1900 roses
A view of Mottisfont's rose garden
The Rose Garden at Mottisfont holds the National Collection of Pre-1900 roses

Peckover, Cambridgeshire
Roses take centre stage at Peckover, especially in Alexa’s Rose Garden. This peaceful spot was recreated in 1999 using original photographs of the Victorian garden. Climbing roses such as cream and pink ‘Phyllis Bide’ and crimson-flecked ‘Honorine de Brabant’ are a romantic sight in late June and early July, when walls, pillars and arches throughout the garden are heavy with clusters of roses, just in time for Wisbech’s long-established Rose Fair. 

The rambling rose ‘Hiawatha’ frames the end of the double borders at Peckover
Graham Stuart Thomas borders and the Orangery at Peckover
The rambling rose ‘Hiawatha’ frames the end of the double borders at Peckover

Sissinghurst, Kent
Sissinghurst is a treat in every season, but in midsummer roses are the stars of the show – and not just in the famous White Garden. They’re everywhere: ramblers and climbers clothe ancient walls; natural-looking species roses fill the Orchard; and fountains of richly scented shrub roses adorn the dreamy Rose Garden. Sissinghurst’s owner Vita Sackville-West once declared herself ‘drunk on roses’. She loved everything about them: their histories and evocative names, their fragrance and delicate beauty – and, of course, they suited her romantic planting style. 

The legendary White Garden at Sissinghurst, in its midsummer haze
A view of Sissinghurst's White Garden
The legendary White Garden at Sissinghurst, in its midsummer haze