Mottisfont's rose garden

Colourful, climbing roses in bloom across a rose arch in the gardens at Mottisfont, Hampshire

Our walled gardens are home to the National Collection of pre-1900 old-fashioned roses, which reach their peak in early summer. Unlike modern species, old-fashioned roses tend to flower just once a year, so their blooming season is an extraordinary annual sight.

The main rose displays are now over for another year, though some repeat-flowering varieties will continue to bloom throughout August. There's still plenty of floral colour in the walled gardens from the deep herbaceous borders which line the central pathway.

We know that some of you were unable to see our roses flowering this year. We've created this video so that you can experience the peak display from home - and we hope to welcome you back next year.

Video

Take a tour of a rose garden

We're excited to start welcoming you back to your favourite gardens when the roses are in full bloom. But we realise it may still be a while before many of you can experience the summer colour at your favourite gardens. With that in mind here's a video tour of the walled rose garden at Mottisfont in Hampshire, which has roses dating back to before 1900. Louise Govier, the general manager at Mottisfont, talks about her favourite blooms and reveals the rich history of this magical garden.

Looking after our roses

At this time of year we get many enquiries about why we don’t tend to dead-head. The gardeners don't tend to dead-head these unique roses, which is a surprise to some visitors. Most of the old-fashioned types only flower once a year, and afterwards produce ornamental fruit or ‘hips', which, as well as brightening the garden in autumn, provide local birds with an important source of winter food.

The team remove the spent blooms of the repeat flowering roses by cutting the stem back to a healthy new bud which will encourage them to keep flowering.

A gardener's dream

Created by Graham Stuart Thomas - one of the most important figures in 20th-century British horticulture - in the 1970s, our walled gardens were chosen to house many varieties that may otherwise have become extinct.

" Few better sites could have been found for a garden of old roses than this."
- Graham Stuart Thomas, An English Rose Garden (1991)


With an artist's eye and consummate knowledge, Graham Stuart Thomas designed a garden that would combine roses with a mix of perennials to give a season-long display.

A gateway set in sunny rose-covered wall leads to the first rose garden, with deep box-lined borders full of rambling and climbing roses and clematis trained on the high brick wall behind. The main paths crossing the site converge on a central round pond and fountain, surrounded by eight clipped Irish yews.

Either side of this historic central pathway are two deep herbaceous flower beds boasting many of Graham Stuart Thomas’s favourite perennials, chosen for their structure, scent and wide colour palette. These are packed with plants chosen for their structure, scent and wide colour palette.

Herbaceous borders fill our walled gardens with colour
The herbaceous borders of the walled gardens at Mottisfont, Hampshire
Herbaceous borders fill our walled gardens with colour


Agapanthus, geraniums and peonies mingle with pinks, lilies, phlox and nepeta. The centres of the borders are a mass of soft blues, pinks and whites, whilst stronger yellows, oranges and dark pinks draw your eye along the length of the border.

Long borders brim with plants chosen to complement and underplant the roses. They also extend the season, providing colour, shape and scent before the roses bloom and after their petals fall. In June the roses are accompanied by striking spires of white foxgloves.

The northern section of the walled garden, with its wide paths, is deliberately planted with a 'cool' colour palette to provide a counterpoint to the central rose garden.