Skip to content

Our work in the garden at Mottisfont

A gardener holding cuttings in the rose garden at Mottisfont, Hampshire
A gardener at work in the rose garden | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The team at Mottisfont work very hard to ensure the garden is always looking its best, from delicately pruning hundreds of varieties of roses in the world-class rose garden, to producing huge quantities of our own natural compost every year.

Looking after Mottisfont’s roses

Mottisfont’s gardeners take great pride in looking after the world-class rose garden. The dedicated team lavish care and attention on the National Collection of old-fashioned roses.

The gardeners don't tend to deadhead 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. It’s during the winter that the gardeners tackle the annual rose pruning; an intense period of work which helps to prepare for spectacular displays in early summer.

Composting at Mottisfont

At Mottisfont compost-making is integral to keeping the gardens in top condition, especially the famous walled rose garden. During the winter we spread over 60 tonnes of our homemade compost throughout the rose garden and Kitchen Garden.

This will feed the soil, help with water retention, reduce outbreaks of disease and increase the natural production of beneficial fungi. We no longer use fungicide for our roses, focusing instead on natural methods of biosecurity.

Sign, wheelbarrow, container and rake encouraging visitors to collect autumn leaves for compost at Mottisfont, Hampshire
You can help Mottisfont's compost making by picking up autumn leaves | © National Trust Images/Catherine Hadler

How do we make compost at Mottisfont?

As we require very large volumes, we have adopted a rapid system known as ‘hot composting’, which means we can produce usable compost within 4–8 weeks. This way we never let our garden waste build up and we spread out the workload throughout the year.

We are able to do this thanks to a clever machine which grinds and minces our mixed green and brown waste (we generally aim to mix 60% of brown and 40% of green material). A full load in our mixer can make approximately two tonnes of compost – we aim to produce 80 tonnes in a year.

This is then piled to at least 1.2–1.5 metres or shoulder height, which ensures the heat can build up to the desired central temperature of 50° – 70°C. This temperature is ideal for decomposing the mixed waste and killing off any weeds, roots and seed.

We use an industrial cake thermometer to measure the heat in the centre of our pile. As the temperature starts to drop below 50°C, it’s time to turn the compost pile and mix it all again – with our rapid method, this is a weekly task. We turn a small batch by hand but use a small tractor for large quantities.

Help us make our compost

Our busiest time for making compost is during the autumn, when we harvest almost all of the fallen leaves from our many hundreds of trees on the estate. We use this leaf harvest to make amazing fine leaf compost, which makes our soil and plants really thrive. We even use it as peat-free potting compost.

As well as enjoying the colourful, seasonal displays from the trees, you can help contribute to our garden compost. Who doesn't love gathering big handfuls of crunchy autumn leaves? You'll find leaf bins dotted around the north and south paddocks for throwing in your harvest.

Visitors walking by the River Test at Mottisfont, Hampshire. In the distance the house at Mottisfont can be seen, with bare trees overhanging the river on this early spring day and the scene is reflected into the river.


Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help people and nature to thrive at the places we care for.

You might also be interested in

The Rose Garden at Mottisfont, Hampshire in the June evening sun. Beds filled with flowers can be seen alongside an armillary sphere, in the background, through the walled garden entrance, the low June evening sun shines across the parkland.

The garden at Mottisfont 

Enjoy every season at Mottisfont, with its ancient trees and babbling brooks, from rich autumn foliage and the scented Winter Garden, to spring bulbs and, of course, the world-famous Rose Garden.

The Rose Garden in June at Mottisfont, Hampshire

The Rose Garden at Mottisfont 

The National Collection of Pre-1900 Shrub Roses reaches its peak flowering season in early summer for a spectacular annual display.

Volunteers making charcoal at Mottisfont, Hampshire

Our work on the estate at Mottisfont 

Our work managing Mottisfont’s river and woodlands aims to create a wildlife-rich habitat, find out more about how we care for the estate.

Black cattle grazing on grassland, with trees beyond, Stockbridge marsh at Mottisfont, Hampshire

Our work in the south-west Hampshire countryside 

We’re doing lots of work to look after the countryside sites of Stockbridge Down, Stockbridge Marsh and Curbridge Nature Reserve in order to provide key habitats for rare species.

Volunteer and visitor in a golf buggy at Mottisfont, Hampshire

Volunteering at Mottisfont 

Find out how you could join us - whether you're looking to make new friends, develop skills or simply want to be part of something you're passionate about.

A child on climbing equipment in the play area at Mottisfont, Hampshire

Family-friendly things to do at Mottisfont 

From activity trails in the garden to playing pooh sticks on the bridge, there's something for every young explorer to do at Mottisfont.

A man looking down the guard around a tree sapling, in a landscape dotted with other newly planted trees

Our cause 

We believe that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. That’s why we’re supporting wildlife, protecting historic sites and more. Find out about our work.

Gardeners adding compost to the beds at Nymans, West Sussex

How to make your own compost 

Follow these simple steps to make your own nutrient-packed compost at home. Learn about the qualities of good compost and find out top tips, including how to turn your heap and build your compost beds.