Rosebie Morton knows her Roses17th July 2015 • Stephanie's Blog • Stephanie Donaldson
I recently had a wonderful day at one of Rosebie Morton’s Rose Days at her farm in a deeply rural part of Hampshire. She is best known as the founder of The Real Flower Company – the company that sends out the loveliest and most indulgent of handmade bouquets of fragrant roses and flowers – all grown on their own farms. Behind that public face is the wholesale business she has evolved to supply the roses, other flowers and foliage for her own company and the wholesale floristry market. The courses are run from her own house and garden next door to the flower farm.
Her story is very inspiring. As a young married woman she looked after the sheep on her husband Matthew’s farm – but small three children made this impractical so she decided to ask for a corner of one of the fields and initially planted 60 well-scented roses that in four years expanded to 300, then 1000 and then field scale – when she took over Matthew’s best wheatfield. It wasn’t entirely plain sailing – the soil is dreadful (she says if she can grow roses anyone can), established growers thought she was mad and her early attempts to deal with the Covent Garden Flower Market were very dispiriting because they cheated her unmercifully. Gradually as her knowledge grew she went directly to florists including Wild at Heart, Jane Packer and Paula Pryke who loved the natural appearance and rich scent of her roses. But she began to realize that the more delicate the rose, the more vulnerable it is to the weather and after a particularly traumatic event when a wedding order for 3000 roses was ruined by rain, the roses went undercover – these days there are 30,000 roses growing in polytunnels (the covers are removed in winter). These polytunnels are surrounded by row upon row perennials, shrubs, herbs and annuals that are used in the bouquets and sold to wholesalers, including one supplier at Covent Garden who had the wisdom to recognize a good rose when he saw one.
Our day started with coffee in Rosebie’s garden, sitting round a table decorated with jugs full of beautiful, very fragrant roses which Rosebie used as an introduction to our day. She has a lovely easy manner when sharing her knowledge and by the time we were walking through the paddocks of flowers we were firing questions at her and keenly listening to her answers. I liked her anecdote about Chandos Beauty – the rose she describes as her perfect child because it has all the virtues of fragrance, form, colour and upright habit that are needed for a cut rose – her description has resulted in her frequently being asked for rose Perfect Child. I came away with Margaret Merrill as my personal favourite – I can’t imagine why I haven’t grown it before. I love its soft champagne colouring and the way it opens from a perfect rosebud into a gently double flower that reveals its prominent stamens – and a delicious tea rose fragrance.
As well as enchanting us with numerous wonderful roses, Rosebie dealt with the practicalities of planting, feeding, growing and pruning – describing in detail, or demonstrating, so that we all left wiser by far – and with a wonderful bunch of roses to remind us of a very special day.
Oh, and there was a delicious lunch too.
Courses cost £145 and can be booked at www.rosebiemorton.com