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Mike Allen

Today.  Saturday 20 May 2017.  Land mail post box, landed an shocked, unwanted letter.  It was from a firm of Administrators.  The communication advised me that the Royal National Rose Society has now become a victim of administration.  In short.  The RNRS is in trouble.  The closing accounts indicate that the society is some £86k in the red.  The RNRS is a charity of wich I have been a member since 1962.  The RNRS formally was known as the National Rose Society.  So much align with the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society)  it has become established as a worldwide authority in it's prime subject of interest.  Sadly now.  The RNRS is facing what some might call, its demise.  Whether or not you love roses.  This is an integral part of our fraternity.  Your comments please.


Maybe spending £500, 000 on a redesigned "Garden of the rose" was a bit too much, when it could only be opened to the public for 28 days a year due to planning restrictions on site access and parking.   It is a shame the Gardens have closed just as they are coming in to the peak time, but thats administrators for you.  Maybe the RHS could take it over and amalgamate it into their  open gardens scheme.

Mike Allen

fidgetbones.  Many thanks for your comment. 

As an RNRS Member I was also shocked but I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. The Society's committee were in a no-win situation following the bad management by others a good few years ago. Looking at the Chelsea Show TV this week, I'm worried that the RHS, of which I'm also a member, is focussed too much on high profile shows, celebs. luvvies etc and not enough on plants & flowers and the producers who are often working on very tight margins to exist. Just a fraction of the Chelsea Show extravagance with the show gardens would help many of these dedicated nurseries and, of course, the RNRS. I hope the RHS can come to the aid of the RNRS?

I, like others, was also very sad to receive the notification from the firm of administrators. I am a member so have been a few times late last summer, over the winter and also more recently when the daffodils made a beautiful display. I do hope that it can be taken over by someone else and the RHS sounds like a very good idea if they were able to. I feel very sad that people (including me!) won't be able to see the gardens at the their best in June.


As the ex Head Gardener of the RNRS , I too am saddened by its closur. We were so close to opening and the garden looked stunning. I'd like to say thank you to all your kind comments . 

The garden itself is owned by The Royal Entomology Society , and hopefully going to be looked after. It won't however be open to the public.

Me and the other staff are finding work elsewhere, which isn't easy. I am however available for any members to get in touch if you need help with roses .

thank you so much 



Thank You, Kerry. You may become our resident Rose Expert.


That's sad but explains why I couldn't get an answer when I rang them several times last autumn to find out how to join and also how to view the gardens! Nobody ever answered the phone so I gave up.

Last edited: 31 May 2017 00:51:47

As a member of the Society for many years, I too, was very sad to hear that the RNRS has gone into liquidation and I wonder if the Chairman or any other senior committee member is helping the administrators to negotiate the best opportunities for the Society's assets and trying to save these lovely gardens? They are a unique attraction for the UK.

Several years ago, I contacted St Albans to let them know that Betty's, the famous, English tea-shop in Harrogate, had expanded into the restaurant at RHS Harlow Carr and might be interested in a more southerly venue nearer to London. The Gardens of the Rose would be an ideal setting for such a famous tea-shop which is extremely popular: such a quality firm could provide the economic focus for the site alongside a new, charitable trust with an arrangement to run and manage the Gardens. A high profile,promotional campaign, pump-prime funded by the Company, could actively involve many volunteers, obtain grants and commercial sponsorship (in return for profile and publicity) and have the benefit of tax relief. Such an arrangement would be mutually beneficial.

The proposed trust could run along the lines of the successfully proved Glamorgan coastline, the first Heritage Coast in the UK, where a Friends' Association set up in 1975 is still active today. Similarly, the Groundwork Environmental Trusts have successfully shown that community involvement, innovation and promotion can enlist full support from all sectors of society (people love to be associated with a success story which is also very newsworthy).

 Since I sent this idea to the administrators, Kerry who worked as the Senior Horticulturalist at the Gardens, has reported that the freehold of of the Gardens is held by the British Mycological Society who now occupy the original Rose Society offfices.

 However, all is not lost, surely the BMS would welcome the chance to defray their own running costs? They might be willing to an arrangement to run the site in three ways; viz:- (1) a commercial, quality cafe, (2) a Gardens charitable trust and (3) their own academic operations?

 If Bettys, or a similar quality firm, were not interested, then perhaps a high profile restaurant such as Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver or James Martin might be interested?

 Let's keep batting!

 Sincerely        Dr J Howden

                       Royal National Rose Society Research Scholar 1966 - 72; Bath University

Mike Allen

Thank you "John"

Over the years I am sure that many suggestions have been put to the Society to little or no avail.  Yes the availability of the garden to hold weddings/receptions obviously raised some income, however not enough to keep the garden afloat.  A loyal group of members devoted much of their time to carrying out numerous chores gratis.

The office staff including of course the CEO.  I always found pleasant and loyal to their status.  I recall making the odd suggestion now an then.  I always felt that the gardens could be open much more, including "out of season" by which I mean.  During the dormant season of the rose.  The peace and tranquility of the garden offered so much.  We so often speak of the therapeutic benefits of gardening.

The garden could have provided a valuable teaching facility.  I'm sure that Kerry will agree.  To be able to pass on ones knowlege etc of gardening, then especially the specialist devotion to Roses.  The Rose must be the world's most loved flower.  IMO couses could have been held in relation to the cultivation of the rose.  Rose breeding.  Exhibitions etc.  I do feel that rose growers, nurseries might have helped more.  Yes, no doubt some nurseries may have donated plants, but I feel that the nurseries could also have cashed in on the chance.  Then as times changed.  OK.  The private cottage garden would be a wonderful mish mash of mixed plants, with the odd rose towering above its companions.

In my early days of gardening.  A rose bed, was just that.  Parks and gardens.  Roses were in a bed of their own.  Then along came a mini revolution.  Under-planting/companion planting.  A wide variety of plants have come to share the rose bed.  Once again a valuable teaching point for gardeners and garden visitors.  For some reason or other.  I am inclined to doubt the validity/ benefits of the committees.

Dear Mike. I do so much share your comments about roses and the Society and as part of my proposal to the administrators I enclosed a full list of what could be done.The Society had existed for over 100 years and was getting a bit tired of ideas. The secret is to reinvent something new, something to look forward to which will maintain members' interest and to promote this nationally and regularly through the media. Like a successful marriage, you always need something new to look forward to!  People, sponsors and grant-aiders all love to be associated with a success which is well publicised. It is hard work though - that's why Max Clifford is on to a winner - and to achieve this you need a project manager approach, a manager who has delegated authority, in fact, an "Arrival Manager". Management by committees stifles initiative and there are too many pecuniary interests and, like most local authorities, "Survival Management" directs what not to do instead of overcoming problems and getting on positively with the job. I can imagine our poor CEO had her hands tied. There's so much more we could do: please could you give me a ring sometime 07950581496. Kind regards John

Like everyone who has written on this before, I too have been very upset at the loss of the RNRS of which I have been a member since the Autumn show in Westminster in September 1961. My father paid my membership as a reward for passing my 11+ exam! When moving to live in Spain in 2000, I decided to maintain my membership, despite the increased cost, so that I could keep in touch with new developments in the world  of roses. This will prove more difficult now without the quarterly "The Rose" magazine. If any one can offer advice on the best source of rose information in the UK I will be grateful.

I was particularly concerned that the Administrators appointment came so soon AFTER the collection of the 2017 Membership Subscriptions, Donations and sale of raffle tickets for this year, the members, therefore, helping to pay debts of the secured and preferential creditors. Surely, as the Society was in an impossible financial situation at the end of 2016, the appointment of an Administrator should have taken place then. Gripe over!

I will sadly miss my trips to the gardens in St Albans, many a happy lunch hour from nearby work spent wandering through the trial grounds until my retirement.

Mike Allen

Ron, many thanks for adding your valid comment.  You pipped me to the post.  I joined what was then,"The National Rose Society" in November 62 having been recommended by S M Gault MBE.  I always wished I had resided closer to the gardens, especially when I was medically retired way before my time.

I have no problems regarding subscriptions etc having just been paid.  Over the years, I found that, YES, our journal dedicated most of it's pages to the Rose, along with accounts of worldwide travel by certain ones.  Each year the accounts were published for all to see.  However.  I feel that for most members lots of figures probably never attracted that much interest.

As so often the case.  We shut the stable doors after the horse has bolted.  This saying in relation to our Rose Gardens I believe is so true.  Sadly on the other hand.  I can't say that over the years, did I ever read anything suggesting the ups and downs of the society.  Usually unless I am much mistaken.  Charities most times tend to make a annoyance of themselves by always holding out the begging boxes.  Sadly the RNRS tended to stay in the shadows.

For instance.  Our cousins across the pond.  The US.  They are great garden lovers and just mention, roses, and they go mad.  Just my thoughts.  Such worldwide organisations like the American Rose Socy.  Then here in the UK.  We have some great rose nurseries and growers, on the continent even more dedicated rose societies and world renoun growers.  Our love for something so spectacular such as the rose.  Let's be honest.  We have become a nation of givers.  Sadly the RNRS lost a great opportunity.  Make yourself known.  Step out of the shadows and into the light.

I have dealt with company law in the distant past.  I tend to remember that some companies/charities have been saved by the membership.  Question is.  Has the RNRS got enough backing and support.

John I will phone you and have a chat.  Many thanks. Mike.

Mike. Thank you for your note. Since we last chatted, the Administrators have replied and although they are unable to secure the opening of the Gardens this year, I understand they are hoping they can be re-opened in the future. They know they are unique and extremely important. Fingers crossed! (toes as well!) John

Mike Allen

Thank you John.  That's excellent news.  I'm sure that our forum members will be delighted.


I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it appears that any reports of;

i) re-opening the RNRS Gardens of the Rose and

ii) saving the RNRS 

are without foundation

The actual garden has been owned by the Royal Entomology Society for some years and was only rented back to the RNRS. From reports it has not been maintained since the closure in May and is now in a poor state

The rest of the property, owned by the former RNRS is to be sold and includes the cafe/office and the small 'bothy' building which housed the equipment. The land that was the rose trials and a field rented out for grazing is also for sale. The administrators have also been disposing of the meagre assetts that were still in the society.

Moving on, I am delighted to say that for all rose enthusiasts, there is still a society for you. The Rose Society UK formed in May 2017 and will hopefully provide a platform for all those who love roses. Its website is;


Dear Ray. Thank you for your update which is very sad to read. I did have a letter from the Administrators to say that the Gardens could not be re-opened this year but they were trying their best for the future. However, as you say, they are deteriorating quickly and they will probably not be in a fit state for the future. Glad to hear about the Rose Society UK; I will be looking into this. With best regards  John

Mike Allen

This is once again sad news.  I seem to recall from documentaion by the Administrators that interested parties eg; members would be kept upto date via a website.  I must make time to check.

Visually the garden s must look sad and neglected.  However this disaster came about in May, here we are in October close to November, a mere five months.  During this time the beautiful roses have given their best and in many cases a second flush of blooms have and probably still are doing quite well.  If I may, being fully experienced in the up keep etc of large gardens without doubt the grass areas are most likely to be the focal point of devastation.  Probably the beds also have a display of weeds.  The beloved roses I suggest haven't suffered too much, so dead heading has gone by the board.  The rose season is now fastly approaching shut down.  If there are any plans, ideas etc to reopen the gardens in the future I am confident that the actual roses won't have suffered to badly.  If as I am sure we all hope, the gardens do reopen then, "Every man to the helm".  May I thank all my Rosarian friends for their support.  Mike.

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