The Rose Garden at Mottisfont
The walled garden at Mottisfont is 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. After an early flowering, we've now reached the end of rose season for another year. Some blooms remain on walls and arches, complemented by companion planting.
Pruning and deadheading
We don't tend to deadhead our unique rose collection, which can be a surprise for 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.
For repeat flowering roses the team remove the spent blooms by cutting the stem back to a healthy new bud which will encourage them to keep flowering.
The beauty of the garden
Over 500 varieties of rose bloom in Mottisfont’s walled garden at its peak. Discover varieties such as Rosa ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ – a sumptuous pale pink bourbon rose inspired by the Empress Josephine’s famous garden – and delicate China and tea roses in shades of cream, pink and red.
Ancient varieties include Rosa ‘Gallica Officinalis’, a light crimson and deeply scented shrub brought to England from Persia by the Crusaders, and the highly scented ‘Quatre Saisons’, an autumn damask which was grown by the Romans.
Plan your visit
Flowering just once a year, the blooming season of this unique collection of roses attracts thousands of visitors. Here's some information to help you plan your visit at one of our busiest times of the year:
- Most of our visitors tend to arrive between 11am and 2pm. If you arrive at 10am you might find the grounds a little quieter, or if you arrive after 2pm, there’s still time to enjoy all that Mottisfont has to offer.
- If you have the flexibility, a weekday visit is generally quieter than a weekend, even during school holidays. If you can only visit over the weekend, Saturdays are usually less busy than Sundays.
- Please note that we charge peak admission between 10am and 3pm from 29 May - 2 July. Standard admission applies from 3pm onwards, including evening openings. National Trust members, Art Fund members and under 5s visit for free.
Making your way through the Rose Garden
The first walled garden is our recently revived Kitchen Garden, where two beds of 11 types of rose provide a modern introduction to the hundreds you’ll find beyond.
Walkway arbours are decorated with four varieties of climbing rose, based on Graham Stuart Thomas’s choice of companion roses. Hedging of Rosa rugosa ‘Rubra’ leads you into these arbours, mirroring the entrance to the central garden.
In the central garden, you’ll find 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.
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.
A gardener's dream
Created by Graham Stuart Thomas – one of the most important figures in 20th-century British horticulture – in the 1970s, Mottisfont’s walled garden was 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.
Taste the roses
Pop into the café to try Jude's rose flavoured ice cream, as well as a range of other delicious flavours.
Take a virtual tour of Mottisfont’s Rose Garden
We know that not all of you will be able to visit during the rose season, so please enjoy this video tour that we made in 2020 when the gardens were closed. Former General Manager, Louise Govier, talks about her favourite blooms and reveals the rich history of this magical garden: Enjoy highlights from Mottisfont’s Rose Garden
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.
We make compost in vast quantities at Mottisfont, keeping the soil healthy and ensuring the garden, including the famous rose collection, is looking its very best.
Explore Mottisfont’s diverse estate, traversed by the crystal-clear River Test, and south Hampshire countryside sites of Stockbridge Down and Marsh and Curbridge Nature Reserve.
Explore Maud Russell’s 1930s neo-classical interiors, in an 18th-century house with medieval origins and enjoy changing art exhibitions in the spacious gallery.
Discover Mottisfont’s eight centuries of history and transformation. From medieval priory to the 18th-century structure, housing Maud Russell’s stylish 20th-century redevelopment.
From activity trails in the garden to playing pooh sticks on the bridge, there's something for every young explorer to do at Mottisfont.