The rose is perhaps the quintessential element of any English garden, not least at Montisfont Abbey where our speaker, Thomas Stone, had trained as a horticultural student with the National Trust and had worked there for 38 years. So he was well qualified to describe both the history of the gardens and some of the 800 roses that grow there. The rose collection was started by Graham Thomas in 1970 and occupies over 2 acres and also includes over 1000 other herbaceous perennials such as Alliums, Campanulas and foxtail lilies. They are under-planted alongside the roses to achieve a rich palette of colours throughout the summer, when the garden can attract up to 25,000 visitors a week at the peak of its season.
The presentation described the history of rose growing and was illustrated with many examples of recommended roses, some with historical connections such as Empress Josephine, that was named by Napoleon who it is claimed negotiated a peace treaty to permit the importation of a China roses to France. The hybrid tea roses took their name from the tea clipper ships on which they were first imported from the Far East in the mid 19th century.
For those aiming to grow roses there was plenty of practical advice including the recommendation that mycorrhizae fungi are used when planting roses. This product had been developed at Montisfont and works by attaching itself to the roots and improving their ability to absorb nutrients from the soil. It is claimed to be particularly beneficial when planting roses in soil said to be ‘rose-sick’.