RHS Rosemoor Garden’s Rose Festival: Heaven on Earth

RHS Rosemoor's shrub rose garden in full bloom
Rosemoor during the Festival of Roses, 2019

I can’t tell you how many years I’ve wanted to visit Rosemoor when the roses are in bloom, but I can show you why. Friends had hinted I’d find a delightful rose garden there, but I’d been withholding judgement on whether it was a truly great one until I could see it for myself.

Pink shrub rose with lychnis coronaria and penstemon
Shrub roses growing with lychnis coronaria and penstemon

I’ve long been aware that not all rose gardens truly delight me. It seems I have a demanding wants list: relatively few rose gardens can tick off everything I look for.

Rosa 'Reve d'Or' and Clematis 'Perle d'Azur'
Rosa ‘Rêve d’Or’ and Clematis ‘Perle d’Azur’

My checklist includes:

1: The roses should look happy to be there.
2: They should be growing with other types of plants that bring the best out of them.
3: It’s good to recognise some of my favourites as I walk around (this is not too difficult as I have lots of favourites).

Rambling rose in Rosemoor's cottage garden
Panicles of rambling roses drip from a wooden arbour

4: There should be a good mix of shrub roses, climbers and ramblers.
5: Rose gardens should have ample resting places.
6: The structures provided for roses to grow on should be decently covered.

Some gardens pull off all these and more, but I can think of few others that do it better than RHS Rosemoor.

Rosa 'Olivia Rose Austin' backlit at Rosemoor Garden
Rosa ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ backlit had ethereal beauty

Old and English shrub roses were growing with perennials that made ideal companions for roses. I’m sure these alter from season to season, but the plants that caught my eye included polemonium (Jacob’s ladder), acanthus mollis, papaver (poppies), penstemon, stachys (lamb’s ear), and alchemilla mollis. Swathes of cerise pink and white lychnis coronaria were particularly effective.

Rosa ‘Morning Mist’ was glowing far more strikingly than I’ve been able to reproduce here: it’s a rose in sunset colours that should be more widely grown, particularly by those who love single roses. Whenever I see it, I remember how lovely it looked grown along a post and rail fence. I’d be tempted to mention that this was one of David C.H. Austin’s personal favourites, were it not for the fact that I so often see different varieties this is claimed for.  It is fair to say he had lots of favourites too!

Molineux roses in a flower border
Rosa ‘Molineux’ with stachys

The soft yellow blooms of Rosa ‘Molineux’, named to honour the football club he followed, already had the hints of orange we can expect to see in the second flush of blooms.

'Veilchenblau' rambling rose with clematis on an obelisk
Rambling Rose ‘Veilchenblau’ growing with clematis up an obelisk and along a rope

Climbing and rambling roses looked fantastic paired with starry and bell-shaped lilac-blue varieties of clematis, including Clematis ‘Perle d’Azur’.

Rosa 'Strawberry Hill' at Rosemoor Garden
Rosa ‘Strawberry Hill’

In the pictures I’ve selected from many taken, I’ve tried to give a feeling of the opulence of the garden and the grace and movement of the roses.

A double pink rose with a neat rosette shape
A perfectly ruffled rosette bloom

I always look out for beautifully formed flowers. I believe the flower above is Rosa ‘Strawberry Hill’, though the flowers are mature and a purer pink than the younger ones that have a warmer glow.

Red 'Darcey Bussell' roses surround a bench at Rosemoor
Rosa ‘Darcey Bussell’, stachys and alchemilla tempt visitors to linger

Had romance been lacking (which it was not), these crimson ‘Darcey Bussell’ shrub roses alone would have saved the day.

Shrub rose with blue polemonium
Shrub rose with polemonium – possibly ‘Ballerina’ or ‘Rosy Cushion’

I believe this splendid shrub rose is Rosa ‘Ballerina’, although I don’t remember its flowers being quite as large as these ones. My sweetheart and I rooted around under the foliage looking for a label without finding one. If you know differently, let me know in the comments! (Update: I later got a message from Andrew Pearson to suggest it might be Rosa ‘Rosy Cushion’)

Rambling roses hang down over a flower border
Shrub roses, rambling roses, clematis and perennials

It’s a great tribute to Rosemoor’s gardeners that this all seems so effortless. If you have tried to grow roses yourself, you’ll understand the care and dedication involved to keep them looking so good, weeks into their blooming season. Merely deadheading this many roses is a big ask.

Peach double rose 'A Shropshire Lad'
Rosa ‘A Shropshire Lad’ looking peachily alluring as ever

Regular readers may remember that ‘A Shropshire Lad’, with its large, fragrant, beautifully coloured blooms, is one that I like to see.

Rosa 'Boscobel' with penstemon
Rosa ‘Boscobel’ with penstemon

Although we all have different tastes, I’d venture to say that many lovers of roses will find their own boxes are ticked here: the main rose gardens at Rosemoor are magnetic; the surrounding areas, especially the long borders and cottage garden, have a good helping of roses too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the new garden the RHS are developing at Bridgewater in Salford will have something along these lines in store for Northerners when it opens in 2020. One can always hope!

Rosa 'Leah Tutu'
Rosa ‘Leah Tutu’

It says a lot that, having spent several hours there in the evening, we still wanted to come back the following morning to explore some of the areas we’d missed. If you’re nearby and love plants of any kind, I highly recommend a visit.

Visiting the garden

RHS Rosemoor Garden
Great Torrington
EX38 8PH

Website: www.rhs.org.uk

Rosemoor’s Rose Festival runs for six weeks during early summer.

Rosemoor is one of the enlightened gardens that occasionally open late. It’s a special feeling to experience a beautiful garden in the peace of a summer evening as the light fades. Dates are advertised online and social media.

Entry is free for members and one guest. If you are not a member of the RHS, the late evenings offer a great way to get a taste of the garden for a reduced fee for non-members after 5pm.

Please check details online before setting out as things can sometimes change.

Roses and perennials frame a bench at RHS Rosemoor Garden

59 Replies to “RHS Rosemoor Garden’s Rose Festival: Heaven on Earth”

  1. Gorgeous rose photos, Susan! Thanks for the virtual visit. I’m encouraged that this RHS garden has so many of the plants I think of as my almost-weedy stalwarts: Lychnis coronaria (I have both the magenta and white types), stachys, and lady’s mantle. My only really impressive rose looks a lot like the one in your final photo. It’s supported by a maple tree and has spread magnificently over the years. Every June, a billion pink buds open into clusters of white, ruffled, fragrant flowers. They’re just finishing up now.

    1. That sounds wonderful!

      I’m not always a fan of alchemilla simply because I had to dig so much of it out, years ago, but it did look wonderful here. I liked the way the perennials were balanced with the roses, filling up any bareness towards the bottom, but letting the roses be the stars of the show.

      1. Purist rose gardens are often like cocktail parties where a lot of skinny-legged people stand around looking awkward. It’s the filler plants that make them mingle and look lush and luxuriant.

          1. Yes, she loved her garden ehich was always a riot of colour, she was an RHS member and visited loads of gardens.

    1. That’s an interesting point. A rose garden often seems interactive when you see visitors smiling, smelling the roses and oohing and aahing.

    1. It’s amazing, isn’t it? I had to be quite strict with myself not to make this post too long – it was very tempting to just add in a few more.

  2. Oh my goodness. This is wonderful. Some of these roses are so big, full and beautiful that they kind of look like peonies with the number of petals!!! Absolutely stunning.

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