Mottisfont's rose garden
Our walled gardens are filled with heavenly fragrance and colour from thousands of roses in early summer. We’re home to the National Collection of pre-1900 old-fashioned roses, which reach their peak in June. Over five hundred varieties put on an annual display which draws visitors from all over the world.
Unlike modern species, old-fashioned roses tend to flower just once a year, so their full summer blooming is an extraordinary annual sight.
Discover varieties such as Malmaison – a sumptuous pale pink bourbon rose inspired by the Empress Josephine’s famous garden – and delicate Chinese tea roses in shades of cream, pink and red.
The light crimson and deeply scented shrub Rosa gallica officinalis was brought to England from Persia by the Crusaders, and there are other hybrids so ancient that they are prehistoric. Some varieties are so rare that it's possible we have the only stock in existence.
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 been lost.
" Few better sites could have been found for a garden of old roses than this."
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 a 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.
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.
Our new Kitchen Garden, which adjoins the central walled gardens where the famous rose collection is held. The central point of each walkway here forms an arbour decorated with four varieties of climbing rose, based on Graham Stuart Thomas’s choice of companion roses.
The Kitchen Garden also has two beds planted with eleven different types of rose, from gallicas to albas – providing an introduction to the hundreds of varieties you’ll find in the adjoining gardens.
Restoring the rose gardens - with your help
Looking after our famous flowers
Our gardeners take great pride in looking after this world-class rose garden. This dedicated team lavish care and attention on the National Collection of old-fashioned roses throughout the year. An intense winter pruning programme helps ensure vibrant summer displays.
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.