Nymans Rose Garden contains old-fashioned varieties, modern shrubs, English Roses and ramblers. The former vary in bloom with subtle tints and delightful fragrance – many flowering just once – whereas modern shrub roses repeat-flower and are rich in colour. David Austin (English) roses combine both aspects together with disease resistance and the ramblers flower once in pendant sprays followed by hips.
With over 600 rose bushes representing 115 varieties, it's no surprise that their scent carries a long way throughout the garden particularly on a warm summer's day when the flowers are heated gently by the sun.
A rose garden was created by Maud Messel in the 1920s as part of her romantic vision for the planting schemes to surround the medieval style house. She filled it with herbs and old fashioned roses, sourcing many of the plants from gardening friends, swapping cuttings and plants from a variety of rare species. Subtle rose perfumes punctuate the air on approach, but inside the yew-sheltered garden itself, the aromas combine and grow heady and visitors can be seen chasing a particular bouquet to its source. All our roses are scented in varying degrees, but perhaps the most distinctive (and certainly most popular) is ‘Jude the Obscure’ with its powerful, almost lemony musk.
The Rose Garden beds are positioned to create a pleasing symmetry and a feeling of order, contained as they are within a tightly clipped circular yew hedge. The formality is softened however by the more relaxed and romantic nature of the under-planting, featuring leafy, floriferous and long-lasting plants such as geraniums, nepeta (catmint) and lavender; plants which give a pleasant smell when they're brushed against. Late flowering clematis and honeysuckle both grow happily throughout the summer on the tall metal columns.
The fountain at the centre of the garden, sculpted by Vivian ap Rhys Pryce, was commissioned in 1989 by Anne, the Countess of Rosse and Alistair Buchanan, the Messel family representative. Once the garden was complete, it was officially opened by Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones, Maud's grandaughter.
We remove spent blooms but leave some once-flowering roses to produce autumn hips – particularly ‘Complicata’ and the ramblers. Long new rambler growth is tied up for future use, whilst fertilising after the first flush helps repeat-flowering roses perform. We also remove and burn diseased material and trim the geraniums and nepeta (catmint) as they grow scruffy, leaving the lavender to flower.
Sit for a while on one of the benches, soak up the sunshine and breathe in the essence of summer, all the while listening to the play of water from the fountain and the birdsong from the trees in the surrounding garden.