Ribchesters beautiful garden in red rose Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 21:53 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:08 20 February 2013
Lancashire is home to one of Britain's top rose growers. Linda Viney went to visit her in the garden of her historic house
Situated in the picturesque rolling hills of the Ribble Valley lies Dutton Hall, Ribchester, home to Catherine and Andrew Penny. This significant 17th Century house was built by a member of the Towneley family and there were only four other owners until 1987 when the Pennys bought the property.
At the time it was a dairy farm with no garden to speak of and the haven has been lovingly created with an emphasis on the array of old fashioned roses for which Catherine is renowned.
She had always lived in the area and although she studied engineering at University horticulture had been close to her heart. She went on to work at an experimental horticultural station then studied the subject at Pershore in the Cotswolds.
This was at the time when garden centres were springing up and she saw a gap in the market which led her to starting her own nursery. It wasn't long before she became famous for the vast collection of special old fashioned roses she built up at Stydd Nursery at Ribchester. Space was running out and when Dutton Hall came up for sale they had no hesitation in buying it giving her more growing space.
'When I sold the nursery about eight years ago it gave me the opportunity to have roses as my hobby rather than a business,' Catherine told me. 'With over 200 varieties it is probably the largest collection of old fashioned roses in a garden in the North of England. I love them for their individual character...they will be part of my life forever.'
Imposing steps and gate lead through the entrance to the front of the house where the garden is contained within stone walls, an ideal backdrop to the roses which are trained upward and dominated by the rambling rose Paul's Himalayan musk.
The long border mixes herbaceous perennials with the delicate old fashioned shrub roses. Formality comes from the well-kept lawns and a distinct clipped box knot garden mimics the leaded windows of the house. As you stand looking back the stunning views of the Ribble Valley quite take your breath away.
On the eastern wall of the house a vigorous tea rose, Souvenir de Mme Leonnie Viennot, adds tremendous beauty with the blooms drooping down changing colour as they mature.
This area is planted in a cottage garden style with shrubs, evergreen and mixed herbaceous. One of Catherine's favourite places is The Orangery where throughout the year you can find lemons which are more successful in bearing fruit than the grapefruit. Tropical style plants and scented geraniums add to the ambience here taking you into another world.
The Rose garden is, of course, one of the main features and as would be expected is stunning with a colourful collection of these special traditional roses. The earth which had been moved to create a wild flower meadow was used to create a 'snail' mound allowing you to have a raised view of this area.
The mown pathway leading up mimics the curve of a snail's shell hence the name. Ground cover roses have recently been planted on the raised area to tumble down adding another dimension. Great care has been taken to ensure the design here blends in with the rural landscape.
Catherine pointed out Rosa Chianti as one of her favourites though she hastily said the single cupped simple rose is just as beautiful in its own way. When she came up with the idea of a seated area in the centre her son, Francis was called in to design and construct it. A brick wall to level the sloping ground was built and a design in gravel of a lady completed the project. 'He says it is his mother having her eureka moment!,' she laughs.
The rear driveway entices you to the wonders you will get to see. A fairly wild area where Catherine's root stock was (and is still) is full of Rosa Multiflora and bees rise out of the delicate blooms as they search for nectar. In contrast, a collection of conifers is being built up and where the grass is allowed to naturalise the Pennys have been delighted to discover wild orchids appearing.
Catherine still gives talks - preferably - at her place where a large room in the barn has been opened up for this purpose and she also has a plant stand at a few specialist plant fairs. She can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org