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In 2010 the College arranged for a special rose to be bred as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. Named the Churchill Rose, it is now available for purchase from the rose grower, Peter Beales. It is a lovely rose with apricot flowers and a delicate scent.
The rose can be found in the gardens of 10 Downing Street, Chartwell House and Cambridge Botanic Garden but the College wanted to find a place to grow it on site so that its story could be retained. This led to the creation of the Sir Winston Churchill border in the Master’s and Fellows’ garden, which provided an opportunity to research and grow all of the plants named after Sir Winston Churchill. Varieties within the border currently include the following:
It was during this period of research that it was discovered that there was another rose, Rosa Sir Winston Churchill (which is distinct from the new rose, Rosa Churchill Rose). This latter rose was originally bred in 1955 but is no longer grown commercially.
The College’s Head of Grounds & Gardens, John Moore, discovered that the 'Sir Winston Churchill' rose was bred by Alexander Dickson III in 1955 at Dickson Nurseries and that the rose was sold through Harkness Nursery. Records from 'Modern Roses’ indicate that it was a Hybrid Tea rose of salmon pink shaded orange with 48 petals and blooms measuring 5” across. The parents were 'Unnamed seedling x Souv. de Denier van der Gon’. The rose went on to receive a Gold Medal from the then National Rose Society (Dickson. C. 2011. E-mail (Grandson of Alexander Dickson III)).
The challenge was then on to see if the rose could be found growing in a collection. It was not listed as growing in Great Britain so the search went worldwide and three places were identified in Hungary, America and Australia. John Moore was fortunate to be put in contact with Pat Toolan in Australia who had a particular interest in this rose as she received a Churchill Fellowship in 2002 to travel overseas to study the preservation and conservation techniques and strategies of old roses and plants in cemeteries. Pat was exceptionally helpful and sorted everything out from taking the cutting to sending it to the College. The rose came from the David Ruston garden which is in South Australia’s Riverland Region and is also the home of the National Rose Collection of Australia.
The College still needs to find a few more plants to complete the collection but this will take time as the plants are no longer grown commercially.