A founding director of the Norfolk firm of classic rose specialists, Joan Beales has died after a long illness aged 71.

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She started the company, which now exports around the world with her husband, Peter, after moving to Norfolk in 1968.

In the past five decades, Peter Beales Roses has won countless awards at the biggest events around the world including most recent triumphs at the Chelsea Flower Show.

And to mark her contribution to the family business, which is based at Attleborough, a special fragrant rose with deep velvet red semi-double blooms was named after her.

Born in Pembrokeshire, she met her future husband, who was doing his two years’ National Service with the Army. She trained initially as a nurse in Mid-Wales but later worked at the Middlesex Hospital.

After a courtship of some six years, they were married. Peter, who had trained at LeGrice Nurseries at North Walsham, obtained a post as nursery manager in Surrey, where they eventually bought a plot of land and built their first home.

When house prices in the south-east soared, the young couple moved to Norfolk and started a nursery at Swardeston in 1968. Initially raising bedding plants, the rose breeding programme was started. With finances tight, she often worked into the early hours pricking out plants for sale while also looking after a young family.

Within three years, they had won the first of many medals including success at the Royal Norfolk Show. In September 1971, they were awarded a silver medal at the Royal National Rose Society’s autumn show at Westminster. A gold medal followed two years later.

While her husband was the public face, as a director she played a full part in the business. In the late 1980s, as the business outgrew the Intwood Nursery, it moved to Attleborough.

In later years, she typed the manuscripts, sometimes twice, of his authoritative books including the entire text of Classic Roses. She especially enjoyed attending the Sandringham Flower Show, where the Prince of Wales always made a point of talking to her about the firm’s displays of roses.

She was also a good actress playing many roles with the Old Buckenham Players and also wrote a number of plays, which were performed by the company.

Married for 51 years, they celebrated with a family golden wedding last year. She is survived by her husband Peter, son Richard and daughter Amanda, and four grandchildren.

A funeral will take place at St Mary’s Church, Attleborough, on Friday, September 21 at 11.30am and afterwards in the rose garden.

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