Mottisfont Abbey Roses

 In Gardens Visited

Roses, roses, roses!

I shouldn’t have left it as long but somehow there is never enough time to visit all the gardens that you want to! My excuse is that there are just so many great gardens that you can visit in a day trip from Bristol so that you can’t visit them all!

mottisfont rose arch

mottisfont rose arch

Anyway, I finally got there and was delighted that I had. It is a full 30 years since I last visited the walled rose garden at Mottisfont Abbey . It’s just north of Romsey in Hampshire and is just as I remembered it! This must be the most sublime rose garden in the world!

yellow wagtail and dragonfly

Yellow wagtail with dragonfly

Initiated by the then gardens advisor to the National Trust-Graham Stuart Thomas- this is a garden that has stood the test of time. I was fortunate that, as a senior manager at nearby Hillier Nurseries, I was able to break my journey home here. I would unwind for 30 minutes or so and just drink up the colour and scents. The garden is a walled one which seems to trap in those wonderful old world scents. There are magnificent parkland trees and an interesting house and estate but it is for the roses that thousands flock to Mottisfont at this time of year.

trout in test boiling water

The river Test ‘boils’ with feeding trout

You approach the garden by walking on a footbridge over the river Test. A cluster of visitors are leaning over each side gazing into the crystal clear waters. It soon has me straining to see too! On one side a yellow wagtail is repeatedly catching dragonflies. On the other side at least ten trout lie almost stationary in the shade of the bridge to feed on anything that might be offered. These 2-3 lb trout have clearly learnt that it is far safer to sip a thrown bread crumb from the surface than risk a floating fly that might conceal a hook!


When to visit

I reckon that the last week of June and the first two weeks of July are the perfect weeks to visit. You won’t be alone but those roses seem to make everyone chill out and relax.

old roses foxgloves geranium psilostemon

old roses foxgloves geranium psilostemon

This is the National collection of ancestral roses so don’t expect to see the latest new variety! RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show every July  is a good place to see those!

Expect really old varieties interspersed with the best David Austin New English roses and don’t be surprised that many have German or French names. There are well over 300 varieties to see!

buff beauty wall trained

buff beauty wall trained

What may surprise you is the growth and vigour that the gardeners achieve there. But most of all the immaculate disease free bushes they cultivate! The gardener team are about to lose their leader to retirement. David Stone is about to retire after 40 year at the helm of Mottisfont Gardens.


The best roses

A useful feature is that the garden team’s top ten roses are clearly marked in the garden with bold white posts. Don’t expect to pick these up at your local garden centre and a wider search may be required. Many were for sale by the large car park on the day of my visit.

Appropriately, the rose of the week during my visit was the fabulous English shrub rose ‘Graham Thomas’. If that weren’t enough to recognise this great rose man’s vision, by the entrance to the garden is one of the very best honeysuckles that you can grow! This is Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’!

lonicera graham thomas

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