Mottisfont Abbey – a look back at the rose gardens in June 2014 (It’s raining again in 2016)

Set by the banks of the crystal River Test, cutting through the chalk downland, sits Mottisfont Priory, dating to the 13th Century and with a colourful history right up to the 20th Century with Maud and Gilbert Russell bringing life again to the old house and the National Trust subsequently taking the House and Gardens into its care –  and particularly honouring its rose heritage

The towering figure of Graham Stuart Thomas favoured the walled garden as a repository for his amassed collection of Old Roses and appointed David Stone as Head Gardener (under the auspices of the National Trust). David retired quite recently, after 40 years service, with the baton passing to the youngest Head Gardener in the NT, Jonny Bass. Having met him several times, I can say that I’ve shaken the hand of the man who shook the hand of the man who shook the hand of Graham Stuart Thomas. Fame at last!

The collection of roses is quite breathtaking and my visit a couple of years ago, on a warm bright day the second week of June was just about perfectly timed. The first (and often only) flush of flower – young, perfect – unblemished by age or poor weather – was in great abundance. With no opportunity to visit this season and the rain it raineth still, I thought I’d revisit this particular Rose Spectacular, and revel in the charm, grace and beauty of these grand old darlings.

The gardens are within a walled enclosure, divided into three spaces though at the moment, two are only fully formed gardens – where you enter, the space is a launch pad for visitors though there are plans for this to be transformed into another garden with its own identity. There is a new visitors centre out by the car park – I’ve yet to see this – and it is one part of a strategy to build on the rose collection and create and design a third garden of the collection of beds, posts and outbuildings that have for a long time greeted the visitor before total rose immersion!

Through the garden gate, there are a series of four symmetrical and expansive lawns with broad rose beds between and long straight paths edged by box with trees (the remnants of fruit trees from the original orchard kept in the walled vegetable gardens), pergolas, benches and a central pond to navigate by. Through the next gate, a smaller, almost triangular, less formal garden, with paths edged with rakish lavender, and a tumble of plants within these more relaxed spaces.

The roses pictured represent some of the collection and a much of the companion planting and design features – I must hunt out the Full Rose List – and urge you to make a diary note to visit there in rose season. Or indeed at other times – there’s a burgeoning Winter Garden for example and the river walk too. The House itself is open to walk around and regularly has interesting art exhibitions. A good cafe too – by the towering Plane trees which feature at the end of the gallery. The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens are about half an hour away by car, so a good opportunity to double up on your day trip!


David Stone – a rose man through and through

An event I gratefully attended –!june-2014-conference/c1rp

NT opens welcome centre at Mottisfont Abbey

The Great Plane Tree of Mottisfont

My back catalogue on Mottisfont –

and finally a video – start at 24 minutes for Mottisfont

One thought on “Mottisfont Abbey – a look back at the rose gardens in June 2014 (It’s raining again in 2016)

  1. Dear Teddington Gardener,
    thank you so much for sharing such beautiful pictures on your blog! I love your posts on Mottisfont Abbey, the roses are amazing!
    Best wishes,

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