Plant Heritage At Risk As Rose Society Enters Administration

Rose with rosebud

The UK’s Royal National Rose Society (RNRS), which was dedicated to preserving a wide variety of roses for future generations, has gone into administration. Its rose garden, home to over 5,000 varieties including hybrid teas, climbers, ramblers and shrub roses, was due to re-open for June-July but will remain closed to visitors for the foreseeable future. The society’s long heritage dates back to 1876, making it the oldest specialist plant society in the world, but in recent years it had struggled to recruit new members.  

Rosa Queen of Sweden

In response to the news, The Daily Telegraph ran an article with the headline: ‘Why British gardens are no longer a bed of roses‘. I imagine my old pals at David Austin Roses might have something to say about that!

Striped roses

On the other side of the Atlantic, my sweetheart and I recently called in to the rose gardens of the American Rose Society in Greenwood, Louisiana. I wish I could say I feel sure the future of that garden is assured. Roses planted amongst pine trees – some under their direct shade – are always likely to be at a disadvantage.


I love to see shrub roses amongst other flowering plants and found myself wishing that some of the most passionate and active plant societies would get together to add a little extra va-va-voom to the garden, while there’s still time. Now let me see – a rose, clematis, camellia, daffodil, hosta and hemerocallis garden, perhaps, with as many other companion plants as their breeders are willing to donate? It may only be a pipe dream, but it’s a pleasant one.

Rosa 'Wollerton Old Hall'

The rose is the national flower of England and America’s floral emblem. I’d say we have a good way to go before these generous plants lose favour with home gardeners, no matter what The Daily Telegraph may try to tell us. Of course I could be wrong – in which case, we should all seize the opportunity this summer to visit a rose garden while we still can.

Shrub rose












42 Replies to “Plant Heritage At Risk As Rose Society Enters Administration”

  1. I so hope this is not a sign of obituaries to come. Your photos are touching, most especially that apricot-tinted bud in the topmost. I like that you are giving the roses a chance to speak for themselves while you speak for them. I also like your phrase “generous plants,” which challenges us to gratitude, and rightly.

    1. I always look to slip in a rose bud or two for you. I quite like the pink and cream streaked ones in the bottom picture.

      1. I figured you were being thoughtful, and I thank you for it! Indeed, the pink and cream buds are inspiring, too. I look at such buds and wonder if they can be real.

    1. I don’t think the news is entirely unexpected to those in the trade. Meanwhile, the Royal Horticultural Society seems to be doing well. I’m sure their efforts to reach out to younger gardeners must help.

  2. Good Morning Susan,
    Yesterday I came to your blog as you liked something on mine, I believe. I am in the US, in the state of Virginia. Once upon a time in my early years starting out I had what I termed a Mixed English Perennial Border, and had older hybrid tea roses, as they had not been bred to death, still had fragrance etc. Then way back when enters DAVID AUSTIN! I was buying his roses when he was new on the rose scene at least in my part of the country! I never looked back as my David Austin Roses in the mixed border came to stand at 40 roses. If I had a yard and garden today his roses would be my number one and only main variety! I LOVE THEM!

    Your post makes me so sad, to see something like this place close its doors to the public after so many years, it is an institution like the Monarchy, Tea, and all the things the UK are known for. 😦

    On a brighter note, within seconds of coming to your blog/website I had to subscribe! As a photographer myself and a fellow gardener, albeit container gardening now. 😦 You website is full of the color I used to have, it is beautiful and uplifting, You do a fantastic job! Just Beautiful!

    1. I’m glad you’re finding something to enjoy here. David Austin roses, grown well, are a delight to me too. I noticed they have been replanted at Greenwood since my last visit, but are still in the same, quite challenging position.

    1. It’s hard to find much detail about the position online. I dare say there will be discussions going on to try to save the garden or to move the most beautiful and unusual roses elsewhere.

  3. Such sad news about the demise of RNRS, what a loss the garden will be apart from anything else. Speaking to a hosta/day lily specialist recently, it seems that lots of these specialist organisations are likely to dwindle.

    1. I’ve been a member of several plant societies in the past, but have gradually lapsed my memberships, so I dare say I’m a part of the problem.

  4. I’m afraid I’ve always taken roses for granted. We have two in our garden, and they are doing well. It isn’t due to my care, so I shall go out and love them tomorrow.

    1. You must either be a natural or have very resilient varieties, but I’m sure they’ll appreciate a little extra tlc!

      1. I’m a reluctant gardener, just trying to keep plants alive that came with the house. I’m going to talk to those rose bushes and tell them how special they are.

  5. J & D > Save indeed! This news does perhaps underscore the risks of narrow specialism. Great when that’s the focus of interest, but when the fashions move on, the specialists must adapt or die. That goes for all of nature, including human societies!

    1. I have been a member of specialist societies in the past (primula and cyclamen, for example) but that was when I had a very much larger garden to fill. Their seed exchange schemes were always a big attraction.

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