Painting a rose garden in Bushey

PUBLISHED: 22:05 08 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:42 20 February 2013

Heritage rose at Bushey Rose Garden

Heritage rose at Bushey Rose Garden

In the heart of Bushey, a pretty rose garden with a glowing heritage in art and landscape design has been rescued from decay and neglect and restored as a place for everyone to enjoy its scented riches. Philippa Pearson investigates

BUSHEY Rose Garden was once the site of a thriving art school established in 1883 by Sir Hubert von Herkomer RA, an eminent Victorian artist. In 1905 it became 'The Bushey School of Painting managed by Lucy Kemp-Welsh, a former student of Herkomer's, and hundreds of students studied at both these renowned art schools.

By 1912, Lucy Kemp-Welsh had left the art school and the building was demolished to make room for a new rose garden designed and created by a leading landscape architect at that time, Thomas Mawson. His design included a brick pergola and garden pavilion surrounding a central sunken rose garden with a fountain in the centre; the garden was commissioned in exchange for a portrait by Herkomer as a means of payment.

Bushey Urban District Council bought the garden in 1937 from the Herkomer estate and opened it to the public in the same year but sadly, the garden became neglected during the 1990s. Luckily, in 2008 funding from the Heritage Lottery and Big lottery Fund Parks for People programme together with support from local businesses led to the garden, recognised as a garden of Special Historic Interest and Grade 11 listed, being restored by Hertsmere Borough Council during 2009 and 2010.

The rose garden re-opened in 2010 and many of the original features still remain including the sunken garden, summer house and pergola. No plans or drawings survived of Mawsons design for the garden so other sources including looking at his other gardens and studying achieved photographs of the site were used during the restoration; Bushey Museum and Art Gallery has black and white photographs of the Rose Garden dating from the 1930s which have provided an idea of the layout of the sunken garden and its features.

Thomas Mawson was a popular landscape architect during Edwardian times and he wrote many books including 'The Art and Craft of Garden Making', which was also proved a useful reference source for guidance on planting and seating in the restored garden.

Two years after the re-opening and plants have settled in and matured. Over 4,000 have been used, many from Thomas Mawson's plant list from his book. As well as the roses, planting has been chosen to add interest throughout the year and include evergreen shrubs, plants chosen for fragrance, seasonal foliage colour and interest from shape and texture. Roses were one of Mawsons favourite plants and much discussion took place as to whether the roses should be heritage varieties or modern shrub ones, the latter being agreed on.

Shrub roses fill the five panels in the Sunken Garden around the fountain and climbing roses mixed with clematis scramble up rose pillars and the pergola. Head Gardener Paul Knott is also a big fan of roses and breeds them in his spare time: Roses have long been my favourite flower, he says. They come in so many different types from miniatures, formal hybrid teas and romantic arching shrubs to rampant climbers that can swallow a small house. Theres a rose for every position, and the possibilities for cross-breeding are seemingly endless.

The Friends of Bushey Rose Garden organize several fund raising talks and events, including open air plays by the cloister, throughout the year for the garden: the cloister in the lawn area were remnants of the Art School and found by Three Valley Water at their depot in Clay Lane and re-erected in the garden in the mid-1990s.

This year the Friends are taking part in Bushey Festival for the first time with a tour of the gardens followed by traditional afternoon tea. Hard work from the Friends and volunteers has paid off as the garden was recently awarded a Green Heritage Award, one of only two sites in Hertfordshire to receive one.

Visit Bushey Rose Garden

The Bushey Rose Garden is located in the centre of Bushey just off the High Street (postcode WD23 1TT)
Call 0800 731 1810 (office hours) or 020 8950 2186 (potting shed answer phone)

For further details on Sir Hubert von Herkomer and Bushey , see the Bushey Museum website:

Rose Garden opening hours
1 April to 30 September - 7.30am to 7pm
1 October to 31 March - 7.30am to 4pm

Membership of the Friends of Bushey Rose Garden is 5 per year, 8 for a family. Send cheque together with name and address to Brian Silverman 21 Claybury, Bushey Hertfordshire WD23 1FS

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