Rhagor - Opening our national collections

A Rose Garden Restoration

St. Fagan's Castle is a late 16th century manor house on the outskirts of Cardiff. It was given to the people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth. In 1947 St. Fagan's became part of Amgueddfa Cymru and since then has gone on to become one of the most popular heritage attractions in Wales.

[image: The original canal layout discovered]

The original canal layout discovered

[image: The Museum's 1951 design with the statue of 'Joyance']

The Museum's 1951 design with the statue of 'Joyance'

[image: The Rosary in 1902]

The Rosary in 1902

Part of its attraction lies in the beautiful grounds surrounding the castle, including a spectacular rose garden, the Rosary. After years of neglect, a major redesign and restoration programme was undertaken to return the Rosary to its former glory.

The Design of 1899

Old photographs showed a triangular, walled garden. This had been started in 1899 to a plan drawn up by the new head gardener, Hugh Pettigrew (1871—1947), who had trained at Kew.

A Handlist of Roses from 1904

The Rosary's design was based around a series of circles and featured a moat, pergolas, trellises and interconnecting pathways. 19 flower beds were planted with 124 different varieties of rose. It was possible to recreate the original layout from a handlist of roses drawn up by Pettigrew in 1904.

Garden Archaeology

The restoration gave the opportunity for some experimental archaeology — where the moat had once been, tile work was discovered about 18" (45cm) below the soil, showing what would have been the original bed of the canal.

It became apparent that four small areas of the original canal had not been destroyed, as they lay beneath the new 1950 turf pathways. Enough of the foundations of the moat walls also remained to confirm that they too had been tiled, in red.

Replanting the Rose Beds

Rose suppliers had to be found and tracking down some varieties proved difficult. Some of the successful finds were to prove susceptible to mildew and rust. However, this showed the sort of difficulties that must have been around at the turn of the century too.

The perfume of many of the old varieties made it worthwhile however. With the first phase complete, Pettigrew's 1899 design lives on and the work continues — the search goes on for a white tea-rose named 'Mrs Stephen Treseder', an old variety of rose believed to have been developed in Cardiff at Treseder's Nurseries.

Article Date: 6 July 2007

4 comments

gareth sloggett on 28 March 2011, 09:52

visited st fagans with gt aunt in 1951 i hope you do not commercialize it and spoil the peace of this place where are the cockle small fishing boats are they still on show and the cariages at the entrance of the house are they still on show many thanks

Joan Haskell on 3 November 2008, 12:14

I am trying to restore an old rose garden that dates from the 1960's. This is nothing compared to your project but, since I am just beginning, I wonder if there is any advice you can give me?
Many of the roses seem to have canes that are dead and yet other parts of the roses are still are flowering. Thank you for referring me to a source that can help. [e-mail removed]

Amgueddfa Cymru on 3 November 2008, 12:14

Many thanks for your comment Joan, your enquiry has been passed onto the Senior Garden Conservator at the Museum. Thank you for your interest in Amgueddfa Cymru.

Senior Garden Conservator on 3 November 2008, 12:14

During the summer months, decide if you like the roses enough to want to keep them. Give them a feed of rose fertiliser, and a few foliar feeds of seaweed solution plus iron throughout the growing season to help them to grow stronger. Apart from cutting out any obviously dead and damaged wood, leave any pruning until early spring.

Most bush roses, such as hybrid teas, will respond well to fairly hard pruning. In spring, first cut out any dead, diseased or damaged wood. Then cut the rest of the plant back to a third of its height.

Old climbers tend to flower high up, with little flowering lower down. If there is no new wood coming from the base, the plant can be cut back hard and hopefully new shoots will form low down, although there are no guarantees!

Old ramblers tend to form new growth close to the base. In this case, cut back the old branches close to the base, and train in the newer growth.

After all pruning, feed with rose fertiliser and mulch.

If you decide to plant new roses in an area where roses have been grown previously, the soil will have to be changed to prevent rose sickness. Dig out the soil to a depth and diameter of 18" / 45cm where you intended to plant, and replace with soil from another part of the garden which has not grown roses.

Hope this helps,

Juliet

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