Roses took centre stage at Hampton Court Palace

Rediscover the roses that stole the show at this year's RHS Hampton Court Palace

This summer has been a bumper season for roses, with the Rose of the Year and two new types being unveiled at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Visitors to the show were treated to an exclusive viewing of this year’s Rose of the Year, with a small number of plants being available at the show. Guests also saw two new plants – Rosa ‘Sarah Elizabeth’ and ‘Eirene’ Memorial Rose – in full bloom before anyone else.

The Festival of Roses provided the stage for all the action. Here, go behind the curtain of the marquee to relive the magic of this year's show...

Rose of the Year

Rosa 'Starlight Symphony'The highly sought-after crown for the Rose of the Year Award was taken by Rosa ‘Starlight Symphony’ this year, with the plant coming out on top after two gruelling years of assessment.

“Roses are assessed for flower and form, colour and novelty, fragrance, plant health and easy maintenance,” says Ian Kennedy, General Manager of Roses UK, the organisation that manages the trials. “In addition, judges look to see if a plant is commercially viable as a new introduction to the horticultural market.”  

It was the repeat prolific flowering, large clusters of attractive and pollinator-friendly blooms and outstanding disease-resistance that gave Rosa ‘Starlight Symphony’ the edge in this year’s competition.

The pure-white climbing rose, which can be trained on a wall, pergola, trellis or obelisk, is also relatively compact, reaching just 1.8-3m (6-10ft), making it ideal for gardeners who have been put off by other climbing roses that have never-ending growth.

The plant, which is being introduced by Harkness Roses of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, was first pollinated in 2007 and was put through vigorous tests at Harkness’ own trials before being put forward for Rose of the Year assessment.

Two new roses

Rosa 'Sarah Elizabeth' in bloomRosa ‘Sarah Elizabeth’, bred by Mike Athy of New Zealand, was the first of the two new roses unveiled at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

The floribunda produces soft-pink blooms on healthy, vigorous plants that grow to around 1m (3.3ft) in height. Its foliage is dark green, dense and bushy and gardeners can expect a good crop of hips in autumn if spent blooms aren’t removed.

The rose was named in memory of Sarah Groves, who tragically died at the age of 24 on a houseboat in India in 2013. Sarah was passionate about fundraising and raised money for various charities including Childreach International and Cancer Research UK. Sarah’s family were dedicated to continuing her legacy after her death and set up the Sarah Groves Foundation in her memory.

The foundation raises money for underpriviledged children, with one pound from the sale of each rose being donated to the charity.

'Eirene' Memorial Rose
The ‘Eirene’ Memorial Rose also made its debut at the show and has been bred by Rosen Tantau in Germany. It commemorates 100 years since the end of the First World War.

The floribunda shrub reaches 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) and bears creamy apricot buds that open to full, lightly-scented white flowers. A key feature of this plant is that it’s been shown to display high levels of disease-resistance in trials, with it being described as a low-maintenance plant for beds and borders.

Both new roses were introduced by Fryer’s Roses, based in Cheshire.

Festival of Roses at Hampton Court Palace
The Festival of Roses was the place to be for those looking for inspiration and advice for their blooms,with exhibitors featuring in the marquee, including Eastcroft Roses, Seale Nurseries, David Austin Roses, Peter Beales Roses, Harkness Roses, Fryer’s Roses, The Real Flower Company and UK Roses.

See who else exhibited at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. 


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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.