Mottisfont Abbey is the home to the British National Collection of ancestral species and 19th century rose cultivars. Situated in Hampshire England, the manor was built on the remains of a 12th century Augustinian priory which stands next to the River Test, the river fished by F.M. Halford, the father of modern fly fishing. The priory was founded in 1201 by William Briwere, an advisor to King Richard the Lionhearted, and over the years it passed through a series of hands until in 1957 it was given to the National Trust (NT) by Mr Gilbert Russell who was a direct descendant of William Briwere.
In 1972 the Trust created what was to become the home to the famous collection of historic shrub roses created by Graham Stewart Thomas. In 1934 Gilbert Russell planted a knot garden parterre, an octagon of yews and an avenue of pleached limes. Pleaching is the art of training trees into a raised hedge. The Lime trees are planted at regular intervals and close enough together so that where the branches touch they’re wounded, and then in effect, grafted to the branches of their neighbours, to form a hedge. The trunks of the trees are then kept clear to a height of six feet or more. Eventually the effect is that of a dense, closely cropped hedge, sitting atop the visible trunks of the trees.
Graham Stewart Thomas redesigned the 18th century walled garden and replanted it in the style of an English Cottage Garden. Some of the 300 plus roses preserved are varieties of pre 1900 shrub and climbing roses, some of which are very rare. Rose varieties such as Indigo, Single Pink China and Gloire d’un Enfant d’Hiram, are some of the rarer. The roses were amassed after some 30 years of collecting them from France, Germany, USA and numerous gardens and nurseries throughout the British Isles.
The best time to visit these gardens to see the roses at their best is between June 5 and June 20. This flowering period of a little over two weeks, demonstrates one of the shortcomings of these older types of roses, their very short blooming period.
Walking around the walled gardens of Mottisfont Abbey your senses are assailed by the fabulous aromas from the old fashioned roses trailing along walls, arches and pergolas. In places other plants intermingle with the roses giving a fantastic picture of intense color.
Mottisfont Abbey is a property owned and run by the UK National Trust, and is open between February 1 to December 20 11.00 – 17.00 Email: [email protected]