A look round the Real Flower Company in Hinton Ampner
PUBLISHED: 16:27 13 June 2016 | UPDATED: 16:27 13 June 2016
Rosebie Morton of the Real Flower Company grows glorious scented roses on her farm near Hinton Ampner, Leigh Clapp visited to find out more
“In 1992 having exchanged sheep for children I was looking for a challenge that would accommodate a young family and perhaps take advantage of the infrastructure and resources available on a working farm,” explains Rosebie Morton. It soon became apparent, drawing on her passion since childhood for gardens, that growing, and in particular roses, was the solution. “As a young girl growing up in an army family we moved frequently and wherever we went, however daunting the task, my mother, Elspeth, created a garden. Amongst the piles of packing cases, the roses always came too,” she recalls.
It seems inevitable that being gifted with the name Rosebie and with such a background, roses would become central to her life. “My mother passed the gardening addiction to me and introduced me to Rosa ‘Margaret Merril’ (bred by Harkness), the quintessential English rose with an award-winning scent, that would become my raison d’etre behind my career,” she explains.
Gradually, through much trial and error, Rosebie experimented with various roses in her own garden, succeeding despite the pH 7.8 chalk soil, researching forgotten English varieties and getting advice from luminaries such as the late Robert Harkness. Frustrated by the lack of scent in English floral bouquets she then set up the Real Flower Company, with husband Matthew and colleagues Tim and Maggie Hobbs in 1998.
The business has truly blossomed, now with some 30,000 roses across 17 varieties, around 150 species of English flowers, annuals, wildflowers, aromatic herbs and foliage, grown in polytunnels and in the open across 11 acres. In addition, sweet peas are grown on another site and in winter roses are grown and supplied from their Kenyan farm. “We are not like most modern growers. We don’t have environmentally controlled glasshouses or labs developing contrived versions of your favourite flowers,” comments Rosebie. Provenance, reduced carbon emissions, social and ethical issues are clearly important elements. As well as an online retail operation they sell at Covent Garden as Paddock farm gate, and Rosebie exhibits at both the RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Show. In 2015 The Real Flower Company became the sole distributor of David Austin’s floral bouquets and his bridal collection. She also holds tours and workshops on the farm, inspiring others to grow roses under the vagaries of the English weather.
“Roses should be celebrated for their natural charm and for their scent and individuality, every rose is different, each small blemish being part of its beauty. The ethos of the company is real flowers with scent and infinite subtle hues, something worth growing and worth giving. Recall the magic of your grandmother’s garden with its myriad colours and scents and let us restore your faith in how flowers should be.”
This philosophy is displayed in her home garden, which you get a glimpse of on the whole day workshops that are held up by the house. “My garden is designed around roses and the companion plants around them,” enthuses Rosebie. Jostling, joyous plantings spread out from the house, many in raised beds, with glorious vistas over the rolling fields of this country idyll. Along with the array of roses, there are clumps of irises, clouds of vibrant poppies, spheres of alliums, sun-loving cistus and abundant vegetable beds. As with her own garden, the business continues to evolve as Rosebie devotes much of her time trialling new varieties to add to the collection. How lovely, a life surrounded by roses!
• Know your soil and look locally to see what grows
• Buy locally or if by mail order do careful research for your conditions
• Planting carefully will give roses a better start
• Dig a good sized hole, add manure and all-round fertiliser with the compost
• Buy bare-rooted plants in autumn
• Prune properly, feed and add compost each year
• When cutting roses cut to pencil thin stems, a form of gentle pruning at the same time
• Roses by themselves can be boring for a lot of the year, so add mixed companion planting, which also is beneficial as it attracts natural predators. Don’t smother the roses though
Get in touch
• The Real Flower Company, The Sheep Dip Rose Paddock, Hinton Ampner, SO24 0LF
• The Paddock is open by arrangement for garden visits, tours, courses and workshops, www.realflowers.co.uk
• Enjoying a visit to Terstan garden in Longstock - Enjoy the harmonious planting in the oasis of country charm at Terstan garden in Longstock says Leigh Clapp