Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mottisfont Abbey - a Rose Lover's Paradise - I

Christmas is already near and to honor this special time of the year I thought what I could post about, that would be truly outstanding. Then it became clear: A series of posts about the Rose Gardens of Mottisfont Abbey, located in Romsey, Hampshire, United Kingdom. I hope that all of my readers will enjoy this series, but I have to admit that it is particularly catering to the passionate rose lovers as I intend to not only show beautiful photos of roses, other plants, and garden scenes, but also want to present many varieties of the Old Garden Roses that this garden is known for. Mottisfont Abbey is holding the treasured Old Garden Roses collection that the famous rosarian Graham Stuart Thomas put together and tried to preserve for the future in this garden.

My husband and I had the great pleasure to visit this world famous garden for the second time in June this year. Last year we went there as well, but to my great disappointment due to an unusual cold spring most of the roses were not in bloom, yet. This time we got lucky and saw the gardens around the peak of the spring flush of the roses and to say it was breathtaking is an understatement. For me it is an outstanding rose garden of incomparable and indescribable beauty. Please join me for a tour and judge for yourself.

Let's start with the house. Even though we came to Mottisfont Abbey because of its Old Garden Roses collection, there is the historic abbey and an ancient park landscape with many majestic trees to explore as well. We didn't visit the abbey, since I was too eager to get to the roses and just had a brief peak into the park, which I think is very worth seeing, too.

This was a humongous and very ancient platane, which was located close by the house (on the right side of it) and the outside area where tea was served. Even though my photo doesn't show it well, it is so tall you can't miss it.

We visited the garden on our last day before we had to fly home. Therefore we first had to pack everything that morning, store the luggage in the car, and then drive two hours to Mottisfont Abbey. You can imagine we were a little bit exhausted from that when we arrived there, so we thought to have tea and cake first and recuperate before we went to look at the rose gardens. We were lucky to get the best outdoor table (the empty one to the right, that you can see on the photo), which I snatched up immediately after I took the shot. That was a promising start!

We didn't see too much of the park, but besides wonderful specimen trees it contained some very ornate and beautiful statuary that you often find in the UK and that I love so much.

But after looking at the back of the house I was too antsy to do a leisure walk through the park. I wanted to see the roses. By the way, do you recognize the person in front of the house? It was a gardener, who was cutting the grass on the edge of a bed with a scissor that was mounted to a lopper-like tool. I only have seen such attention to detail in England. Just wonderful!

Detail on the lead glass windows of the house.

Going back to the front of the house we still had seen only the rose above, which I couldn't find a name tag off, so we were wondering where are the roses?

You needed to walk up to the rose gardens, which were located in a completely walled garden area a little bit further away from the abbey but then the roses came and didn't stop coming for hours. The photo above shows a well trained 'Kathleen Harrop', a light pink almost thornless Bourbon rose, which was planted close to the restrooms. It amazed and delighted me that they even "dressed up" the restrooms so nicely. 

The photo above shows the very beautiful, generously filled, cupped-shaped, blooms of 'Teasing Georgia', a shrub rose, bred by David Austin (United Kingdom, 1988).

Many of the roses were labeled and I took photos of the roses and the adjacent label whenever possible and for this post I tried my best to name the roses correctly, so that you can identify them and maybe get your favorites for your own garden, but, of course, mistakes are always possible.

Here is the rose in full size. Again, beautifully trained on the old brick wall. The rose garden was divided in three sections and in the very first, which you enter, you still find some modern roses, like this David Austin rose.

As I said already the rose garden is surrounded by brick walls and the three different sections are also divided by them and each wall is used to train climbing roses on it. The effect is just very romantic and charming as you can see in this shot of a section of a large rose bed.

The rose in the middle on the standard is 'Albertine', a Hybrid Wichura rose, which is usually seen as climber. Hard to believe that it is that small when grown as a standard.

And here is a close-up of the delicate shell pink blooms of 'Albertine'.

Another particularly beautiful scene from the long rose border. I believe the white rose in the middle is 'Alberic Barbier', bred by Barbier Feres & Compagnie (France, 1900), another Hybrid Wichura rose.

Same 'Alberic Barbier' rose, but photographed from the other side. I really appreciate that in Mottisfont Abbey the roses were combined with lots of lovely perennials and even annuals and bulbs. Some rose purists insist, that you need to grow roses by themselves, which I admittedly don't like so much, and I feel Mottisfont Abbey Rose Gardens proves them all wrong.

I was quite surprised when I first saw 'Mme. Lombard', a Tea rose bred by Francois Lacharme (France, 1878). I hadn't expect that they could grow Tea roses in the Mottisfont Abbey Rose Gardens, but apparently the walled garden provide quite some protection for the roses that even the very tender ones survive there.

Tea rose flowers always appear to be especially elegant, but I know some people don't appreciate the way the blooms look. The great thing with roses is that there are so many out there, that everyone can find a rose that he/she loves.

Besides the wonderful roses you could admire a seemingly endless array of perennials, annuls, and bulbs that were particularly suited to be rose companions. Here I especially love the white foxglove. I simply can't get enough of looking at the gorgeously planted borders. So much to be inspired by and plenty of ideas to take home for the own garden.

Unfortunately the perennials weren't labeled. That is probably asking for too much and also so many labels would distract from the beauty of the plants. After all this is not a botanical garden. Still I would love to know the name of this one. If any of you dear readers know, could you please leave a comment?

I couldn't figure out what the name is of that very dark red climbing rose, but the color certainly stops you in your tracks.

I also loved this white flowering plant, but don't know what it is. Any knowledgeable readers out there?

Another standard of 'Albertine'. This one seems to do much better than the one that I showed further above in this post.

I don't know that exact name of the variety, but I am pretty sure that it is some type of low growing catmint. I think that catmint is a truly wonderful companion plant to roses and started to grow some in my own garden. It seems to do well in my garden in Southern California, too.

A beautiful soft yellow climber that I don't know the name of. Sorry!

The pink climber with the lavender tint took my breath away. Another one where sadly I couldn't find a label.

Here is a close-up of the blooms of the pink climbing rose from the previous photo. The flower shape of the roses just makes me swoon.

The last picture in this post features 'Moonlight', a cream Hybrid Musk Rose with delightful yellow stamens bred by Pemberton (United Kingdom, 1913). I don't know what the pink one is, though.

As initially said, I will follow-up with more posts about the Rose Gardens of Mottisfont Abbey. Maybe not all in a row, but interspersed with posts about other topics. So if you liked this one, please come back and visit again, soon.

Wishing all of you, who celebrate it, a wonderful third Advent weekend!

See you in the garden!



  1. Thanks for the tour Christina, I am mad about roses and could gladly have had many more if I could just find the space for them! I must admit I love the English walled gardens and it is the best way of showing climbing roses, your photos show them all so beautifully. I’m not sure why some people don’t like tea roses, I really like the shape of them but it’s sad that many of the modern tea roses don’t have any scent. I would have loved to see this garden for myself but your photos certainly does it justice.

  2. Liebe Christina,
    sehr schöne Fotos von einem imposanten Anwesen und einem wunderschönen Garten hast du uns aus Hampshire mitgebracht!
    Einen schönen Adventsonntag wünsche ich dir und liebe Grüsse

  3. What a gorgeous garden you visited Christina. So fantastic you remember the name of the roses. I wish my garden was larger but helas no new roses for me next year. No space helas.
    Have a wonderful sunday.

  4. Thank you for that lovely tour round the gardens. The roses were over when I went this year in August, but it was still wonderful and peaceful. (Did you see my post?) I used to have an Albertine rose covering a fence in my last house. It was gorgeous, but such a short season, all flowering and dropping within a week or two. :(

  5. So glad the gardens were full of roses this trip! Thank you for sharing. There is something very romantic about roses and old brick, just wonderful.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  6. If at first you don't succeed....try again! Glad to read you managed to see the roses on your second visit.
    Walled gardens and roses - perfect! Thank you so much for the tour and I look forward to more.
    I much prefer roses with other plants rather than a bed full of roses on their own.
    I'm going to suggest a Salvia for the first white flowering plant.

  7. Helene, English walled gardens are cult to me :-)! I am so impressed in general how much time and effort the Brits put into training the climbing roses on them and that is not only the case in the public gardens, which have professional gardeners working there. - I think there is a change in modern rose breeding and that now attempts are made to breed the fragrance back into the roses. For me scent is so much of the pleasure that roses give and I try to buy only roses that have it. There are so many varieties out there that I feel have plenty to choose from, even if I exclude the scentless ones.

    Ingrid, I am glad that you liked my photos!

    Marijke, I wouldn't remember the name of the roses without taking photos of the adjacent labels, but that worked actually pretty well. You have managed to grow quite a bunch of lovely roses in your garden, I often wonder how many you actually have. But every garden has a saturation point and once that is reached it I think it is very wise to practice restrain and don't stuff any more roses in there. I don't have that situation yet, but my pot ghetto is still big and I have trouble digging the big rose holes needed in my poor soil, so that I actually get them planted :-(.

    serendipity, thanks, how exciting that you also have been visiting Mottisfont Abbey. I would love to see how the gardens looked in August and I will check out that post on your blog. That is one disadvantage that Old Garden Roses have in my eyes, that many of them just bloom once a year. If you have these large estate gardens it doesn't matter, but in a small garden like mine it really becomes an issue. You think really twice if you have to make the decision to plant a once bloomer or a rose of which you can get up to five flushes out per year in my climate!

    Lorraine, you won't believe how happy we were to find the roses in full swing when we visited this year! Many of them just bloom for a short period of time and it is hard to get the timing of a trip right, since the peak is depending on the weather each year and we have to plan our travel dates way ahead. I agree with you, I also love the roses together with the old mottled brick walls.

    Angie, thanks, here in the US you very often see roses planted just by themselves in private but also in public gardens. I feel people really miss out when they do that and it is particularly disappointing to me that even public gardens don't go ahead and give a better example.
    Yikes, you might be right, when I look at the leaves it certainly could be a salvia. It didn't occur to me maybe because the flowers look somewhat woolly. Well just another prove that I have to learn so much more as a gardener and that is great :-)!


  8. I've loved this look at Mottisfont's roses, Christina. They all look beautiful, especially those gorgeous climbing roses against the old walls. I've wanted to visit here to see the roses for ages, and your lovely post has made me realise I must arrange something soon! It is a shame that some of the roses and the perennials aren't labelled, there must be a way of letting people know what everything is without spoiling the effect.

  9. Such amazing roses. Love the building, wall, everything! Thank you for sharing your visit with us.

  10. The fragrance wafting in that garden must have been amazing!

  11. I've always loved wall gardens and that is a great way to show off all those climbers. Thank you so much for taking us on another garden tour, especially appreciated during these cold winter months!

  12. Wendy, I am happy that you liked my post! Yes, you must arrange if any possible to see the roses next year. This garden is truly unique and for anyone loving roses an absolute joy to see. And believe me the gardens are much more beautiful in reality than my photos can show! I can understand that they didn't label the perennials, but not to be able to find out the name of a rose was kind of frustrating. But I think sometimes the label at the foot of a rose got swallowed by a perennial growing in front of the rose. Although this garden is not so huge in size, it is so densely planted it must be an incredible effort to keep it up and somehow labels have a tendency to disappear even in my small garden :-)!

    Gardener on Sherlock Street, I am glad you enjoyed this post. It is truly a pleasure for me to go through the photos and post about Mottisfont Abbey. I am looking already forward to work on the next installment!

    Mark and Gaz, actually I don't recall fragrance wafting! I remember enjoying the strong scent of a specific rose when I walked up to it and really put my nose into it, but strangely not that the air was filled with rose perfume. You would have expected that, considering the mere numbers of highly fragrant Old Garden Roses that have been planted there and also because the garden is enclosed by walls. Hmm,.... maybe my memory is just letting me down.

    Dorothy, thanks for your nice comment! I agree, the walls are ideal for growing climbing roses. But who wants to do all the tying up? With the amount of climbers in Mottisfont I really don't know how they do it. I really would like to know how many gardeners are working in the Rose Garden at Mottisfont Abbey.


  13. I was blown off my chair with this post friend! The grounds alone we're enough to take my breath away and then the roses! They are layered in such an exquisite manner! And the climbing roses are spectacular! My grandmother was such an amazing rose gardener and some of these varieties remind me of her garden. Thank you so much for sharing this garden friend!!!! A very merry week to you!!!!

  14. Liebe Christina,
    deine Gartenreihe speichere ich mir immer ab, damit ich
    diese wunderbaren Gärten nicht vergessen kann. Wenn die Kinder
    größer sind - werde ich sie alle besuchen :-)))
    Teerosen mag ich auch sehr - sie sind so zart. Leider haben wir hier
    im Winter schon -25 Grad gehabt. Das überleben sie nicht.
    Die weiße Pflanze mit den flauschigen Blättern und den weißen
    Sternchenblüten sieht aus wie weißer Borretsch. Könnte das sein?
    Ich habe im Garten blauen und mag ihn sehr. Er duftet nach Gurke und
    die Blüten kann man im Gurkensalat mitessen :-)
    Ganz viele liebe und gemütliche Adventsgrüße
    sendet dir Urte

  15. Just love it ! So very beautiful ! Thank you, Christina !

  16. Nicole, thanks for your nice comment! I also think that the roses are staggered in a perfect way in this garden. The Mottisfont gardeners seem to perfectly know the height and width of each rose that they planted, so that they build a tapestry but don't encroach into each others space. Since there are mostly Old Garden Roses growing in Mottisfont Abbey, it is actually very possible that some of them are the roses that your grandmother grew in her garden! Isn't that cool?

    Urte, I am really glad that you like Tea roses, because when I post about them on my blog there is almost never a positive resonance by my readers. I feel somehow the ones that I have in my own garden are very hard to photograph and I always seem to fail to capture their real beauty. But that can't be it alone. My guess is that most people expect a rose to look like a modern Hybrid Tea rose. Thanks for your guess about my wooly white flowering plant. I will look up your link. Even if it is not borretsch I am already very thankful that you made me aware that there is a white variety out there. I would love to have a white borretsch in my garden!

    Dani, thanks for you comment!


  17. Always lovely to see lots of roses! Lucky you to see Mottisfont Abbey at just the right time. And thanks for sharing it with us.
    I agree that the first perennial is white borage (Borago officinalis var. Alba). The second one is white valerian (Centranthus ruber 'Albus').

  18. Danke, für diesen schönen Beitrag. Ich war schon mal dort, in 2003. Eine so schöne Anlage, leider hatten wir mit der Busgruppe nicht viel Zeit, das ärgert mich heute noch. Da zahlt man viel Geld und die Zeit ist knapp.

    Falls wir uns nicht mehr lesen, wünsche ich dir ein wunderbares Weihnachtsfest!


  19. These are beautiful photographs. Albertine is a lovely rose but gets out of control in a small garden. I do like Kathleen Harrop.

  20. Lyn, I feel the same you never can see (or even better have) enough roses ;-)! We were indeed very lucky to visit Mottisfont Abbey at the peak time of the roses. Thank you so much for identifying the two white flowering mystery plants. I would love to try to grow both in my own garden!

    Sigrun, thank you! How interesting that you also have been there, you are the second one of my readers! It is an incredible garden, isn't it? Too bad you were rushed, because you were there with a travel group. That is one reason why I can't do organized traveling. I just need to be on my own time schedule :-)!

    Kirk, thanks, unfortunately I have never seen a "real" 'Albertine' in person. Many of the Old Garden Roses become quite big and I guess, that is one reason why people don't plant them so often anymore, because many gardens nowadays are rather small. In addition to her beauty 'Kathleen Harrop' has a strong fragrance, which is a nice plus!


  21. Liebe Christina,
    danke, für deine lieben Worte auf Urtes Post!!!
    Die Rose auf meinem letzten Bild ist eine sehr, sehr robuste ADR-Rose und heißt
    "Aspirin" ..... wirklich!!! Lustiger Name. Sie blüht fast das ganze Jahr bis zu Frost.
    Sie beginnt mit einer rein-weißen Blüte, die, je weiter sie sich öffnet, zart rosa wird.
    Im Spätherbst ist sie dann ganz zart rosa.
    Zu deinen Fragen, auf dem ersten Bild, das müsste ein Borretsch sein, den gibt es auch in
    einem zarten blau, beim zweiten Bild bin ich mir nicht sicher ;-(
    Ganz, ganz liebe Grüße

  22. Karin, many thanks for the detailed info about the rose I in question in your blog post. I will try to figure out if it is available in the US. When it comes to the name though, I think it is a punishment for this extra beautiful rose to be called like that. What were they thinking? Probably the pharmaceutical company just paid a lot of money to have it named after one of the their products. Another vote for borretsch, yay! I was aware of the light blue variety, but I didn't recognize that this could be a white flowering one.


  23. Feliz Natal!!! Que a manjedoura do seu coração esteja pronta para receber o Menino Jesus que irá nascer!!!
    Um ano novo repleto das bençãos de Deus!!!
    Doce abraço, Marie!

  24. Oh that house! And what a beautiful rose garden...such lovely varieties. I'll get back to you re. the white flowers...I think I've seen them before.

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas x

  25. Trishie, they truly are growing wonderful and rare varieties of roses at Mottisfont! Glad you liked them!


  26. Thanks Christina, for that wonderful Christmas gift! This garden is on the top of my list "rose-gardens to visit". I have seen several gardens in the UK 20 years ago, at that time I had not heard of Mottisfont Abbey.

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas, Rudolf

  27. Glad you got to enjoy your visit before flying home.

  28. Rudolf, I am happy that read that you enjoyed this post! My understanding is that you especially love Old Garden Roses and the collection and presentation of them in Mottisfont is quite extraordinary. I am pretty sure that you would have great pleasure seeing this garden with your own eyes. Hope you have a chance to do that, soon!

    Barbara, I still remember to this day how happy my husband and I were that we could arrange to visit Mottisfont Abbey on the last day of our vacation. It was such a highlight at the end of our trip!


  29. Beautiful post. Thank you for the tour. I agree with you about rose gardens being planted with other perennials, annuals, etc. There's something just so one-noted about seeing ONLY roses.

    I just found your blog & am delighted.

    Merry Christmas!

  30. Keri, thanks for your nice comment! I am glad you found me in the big blog land :-)! Even though I love roses lavishly planted together with other plants I realized recently that my own roses definitively are in need of some more companion plants. I will be working to change that in the next year!


  31. Hi Christina: I love Roses and enjoy photographing them. They're so photogenic and bring such joy! Thanks for sharing these scenes. (By the way, I thought I had left a comment earlier, but for some reason it's not showing here. Oh well, I must have clicked on the wrong button. Happy Holidays!

  32. Beth, you are so right about roses being photogenic and bringing so much joy! Sorry that your first comment failed to appear, but thanks for trying, again!


  33. My short vacation is starting; so, I will come back and read everything in details. In the mean-time, I take the opportunity to wish you a Very Happy Holidays. If you celebrate Christmas, then a Merry Christmas, and also a very Happy New Year.

  34. KL, so nice to have you commenting, again! Wishing you and your family Happy Holidays as well!


  35. Liebe ist einfach zauberhaft....bei mir ist es zum Teil für solche Rosenschönheiten im Winter zu kalt...da nützt es auch nicht wenn man sie "warm einpackt"....

    Herzlichen Gruß in die Sonne......Erwin

  36. Erwin, I also felt that Mottisfont is truly magical! I think that the high brick walls give a special protection to the Mottisfont roses, so that they can grow relatively tender ones. On the other hand they also grow varieties that won't bloom in my climate, because they need the winter chill. Mottisfont is certainly holding some garden secrets. It would be so much fun to talk to one of the gardeners there and ask how they do it all. I am sure there is quite a bit to learn from them.


  37. Ciao!
    Eccomi di nuovo ad identificarti una pianta.
    Quella con i piccoli fiori bianchi è un Centranthus alba ^_^

  38. Hello Christina,
    I'm probably years too late to write this, but incase you're still reading this now and you still want to know..i think the dark red rose is a Etoille de Hollande. Kind regards, Claudia

  39. I am truly pleased to discover this website. Thanks a lot! Oakville Concrete Patios