Heritage Rose Foundation Conference, Winchester and Mottisfont Abbey – meeting the Great and the Good of the Rose World


In the footsteps of a Master: Graham Stuart Thomas

I’ve had the privilege of attending the Heritage Rose Foundation Conference in Winchester today, mixing with the great and the good of the Rose World, with folk from America, New Zealand, India and closer to home – Trevor White of the eponymous rose nursery for example.

Jon Dodson, from the HRF Conference Committee (and a retired Gardener at Mottisfont Abbey) came across my recent bloggings that followed my visit to the rose gardens earlier this month and invited me along – ” We are keen to have knowledgeable and enthusiastic garden lovers attend!”

The theme of the talks today ‘In the footsteps of a Master: Graham Stuart Thomas’ (GST) were to set the rose collection at nearby Mottisfont Abbey into a wider perspective, explaining a little of GST’s involvement in it’s nascence, establishment and growth and to introduce us to the key person who has continued the work he started – the perennially young Head Gardener, David Stone, who has been in the post for the better part of four decades – and to introduce to us his successor – he retires next week – the actually young Jonny Bass (24). Young he may be, but he has trained under David – and David in turn trained under Graham Stuart Thomas – so the line of history is unbroken at Mottisfont. And Jonny has a young back and is unafraid of hard work!

Stephen Scanniello began the proceedings as President of the HRF, among many other valedictions and introduced David Stone, who took us through his relationship with Mottisfont and Graham Stuart Thomas, and subsequently through a gallery of roses, companion planting and planting styles within the Rose Gardens.

John Wood spoke next, the Head Gardener of Hinton Ampner, giving us a history and guide through the gardens, with some gorgeous photography to boot.

Maurizio Usai then talked us through a lavishly illustrated talk on designing with roses and specifically the garden he has created in Sardinia. Breathtaking.

Jonny Bass, the Head Keeper Elect at Mottisfont, had his moment to introduce himself and discuss ‘The Conservation of a Legacy’ and Peter Boyd gave us the benefit of his affable presentation skills and huge expertise on Scots Roses, Rosa spinosissima, on which he is the world’s leading authority.

Stephen Scanniello finished up with an engaging talk on the activities of the HRF and The Heritage Rose District of New York City. Such energy!!

Tomorrow, the conference delegates have a VIP tour of the gardens at Mottisfont and I am sure they will have the best day there. I’ve already had my taste of the gardens there and am still buzzing from the experience. On Wednesday, there are visits to Hinton Ampner and to Loseley Park – which I would like to visit – but I’ll be in Coventry for the Horticultural Trades Association Show….

The folk at the conference made me very welcome and I’ve met some of the Goliaths of the Rose World – but in their shared love of roses and their desire to share their knowledge – were excellent company. Their next meeting is in November, in New Orleans, but I don’t think I’ll make it!

My enormous thanks for the chance to be there today.



Mottisfont Abbey


Heritage Rose Foundation




Hinton Ampner


Stephen Scanniello –



Maurizio Usai


Peter Boyd


Girija and Viru Viraraghavan


Trevor White Roses


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