This week is National Trust Rose Week and here at Chartwell we like to think that we are one of the best gardens in the country to view such a wide range of roses of all types and colours. As well as Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden and the numerous climbing and rambling roses that adorn our walls and terraces, one of the most historically significant and aesthetically beautiful sights for the rose lover is our Golden Rose Avenue. It can be found running down the centre of our walled garden which also houses the kitchen garden, the cut flower garden, the walls that Churchills built and the childrens’ play house called the Mary Cot.
The story goes that Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston’s son, had the idea of honouring his mother and father’s golden wedding anniversary not with a big party but with the gift of the Golden Rose Avenue. Both Sir Winston and Clementine were known to be huge rose fans and so this plan was set in motion by the Churchill children in the Summer of 1958. The anniversary itself was on September 12th but unfortunately Cants Nursery in Essex, the oldest rose growers in the country, had the bad news that it couldn’t even be begun to be planted until the Autumn.
Randolph came up with another idea to get around this logistical problem by commissioning a book of paintings of some of the roses that would later be used to plant up the avenue as a teaser for the main event itself. Each artist would paint a different rose and then recommend another artist and so on. The resulting book is a remarkable snapshot of 20th century British flower paintings and can be seen upon visiting the house at Chartwell today. The book was also filled with prose and poetry such as this piece by Paul Jennings:
Once golden words transmuted leaden doom
And fired all England to a golden age,
Now golden roses for you two shall bloom
Whose golden peace turns one more private page.
The roses, all of them yellow or golden in colour, were planted on November 10th 1958 and the site is still a living monument to the Churchills and their marriage today. The roses are backed on either side by a beech hedge and underplanted with Nepeta (Cat Mint) and Stachys byzantia (Lamb’s Ears). There are standard roses and shrub roses, some are beautifully scented while others seem to bloom for months on end.
In the centre of the avenue is a circular seating area, in the middle of which sits the Bali Dove Sundial. It is said that beneath the sundial lies the body of a favourite dove that Lady Churchill brought back from a holiday in Bali. Around the bottom of the sundial is a poem by W.P. Kerr, a 19th century scholar, that was suggested to Lady Churchill by travel writer Freya Stark. It reads:
It does not do to wander
Too far from sober men.
But there’s an island yonder.
I think of it again.
Don’t just take my word for how fascinating and attractive the Golden Rose Avenue here at Chartwell is though. Come and have a look for yourself as soon as you can. The roses should be in full bloom for quite a few weeks now but they won’t last forever so catch them while you can! And if you happen to take any particularly good pictures of our roses or anything else in the garden while you’re here, there is still just about time to submit them to the Chartwell Calendar Photography Competition which you can find out more on by clicking here. Incidentally, those of you with a particular interest in roses might like to take a look at some of the other blog posts I’ve done about the roses here at Chartwell. There is one about replacing the soil for new roses here. One about pruning climbing and rambling roses can be viewed here. One about rose hips can be seen here. While one about roses at Chartwell in general can found here.