Peter Beales Roses at 50 – the centre that kept on growing

Joanna Lumley with Ian Limmer at the award winning Peter Beales Roses stand at Chelsea Flower Show.

Joanna Lumley with Ian Limmer at the award winning Peter Beales Roses stand at Chelsea Flower Show. PHOTO: Keith Mindham. - Credit: Photo: © Keith Mindham Photogra

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet… but perhaps not as sweet as a Peter Beales rose from the internationally acclaimed centre in Attleborough.

Gardens at Peter Beales Roses in June. PHOTO: Peter Beales Roses.

Gardens at Peter Beales Roses in June. PHOTO: Peter Beales Roses. - Credit: Archant

Despite celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Peter Beales Roses shows no signs of slowing up in its old age, having just won its 25th gold medal at Chelsea Flower Show.

Peter Beales MBE opened his first nursery in Swardeston in 1968, and within three years won a silver medal at the Royal National Rose Society's show at Westminster.

Many rose breeds were saved from extinction by Mr Beales and he was recognised by the Royal Horticultural Society as owning the most comprehensive collection of wild species roses in Britain.

The centre has launched more than 70 varieties of rose, currently at the rate of around two per year.

This year's offerings are Fragrant Celebration and Ely Cathedral.

Described as 'robust and rudely healthy', Ely Cathedral is a deep pink/red flower. Fragrant Celebration, a climbing rose, is a light shade of pink.

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They were both showcased at the centre's award winning stall at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show, which was visited by the Queen, as well as less official royalty Joanna Lumley.

During its time Peter Beales Roses has won more than 100 gold medals at various flower shows and in previous years have been awarded The Lawrence Medal for the best exhibit at any RHS show, and the RHS President's Award for his chosen best exhibit.

The company moved to the now famous 11-acre site on the outskirts of Attleborough in 1980. It is the site of the National Collection of Rosa Species, which Mr Beales was named holder of in the early 1990s.

The author of several books, Mr Beales travelled around the world giving lectures to other rose lovers and enthusiasts.

Serving as president of the Royal National Rose Society, Mr Beales was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Garden Media Guild for his writing on and devotion to the world of roses and was made an MBE in 2005.

In 1976, Ian Limmer, now nursery manager at Peter Beales, joined the company as a Saturday boy. Mr Limmer, 57, of Wymondham, said: 'Peter was a very kind, generous, family man and was very good to me.

'When I was 17 he gave me an hour off work for my driving lessons and paid half the costs. That sort of thing goes a long way – luckily I passed first time.

'I used to babysit his children. He was a very good teacher and he was always looking to add to his collection. I do that sort of thing these days.'

While many Peter Beales roses are named after members of the aristocracy, they also name their plants after charities or children who have passed away.

Mr Limmer said: 'I think my favourite variety is Macmillan Nurse, a beautiful rose we launched about six years ago, named after the Macmillan cancer support nurses.'

Similar roses include Nelson's Journey, named after the Norfolk based children's charity in 2012, and Indianna Mae, named after a five-year-old girl who died of a brain tumour.

When Mr Beales died in 2013, Mr Limmer took over the role of ambassador for the company, which now grows and sells more than 1,100 varieties and holds the largest collection of commercially available roses in the UK.

Mr Limmer said: 'We are looking to exciting times now. What has been changing over the past five or six years is the younger generation are wanting plants in pots, not bare root, so we're moving more to seeing them in flower and customers just taking them away.

'We used to sell most of our roses in the winter and a few in the summer, so this makes everything a lot easier for us to sell out of season.'

The breeding process at Peter Beales involves the planting of around 40,000 seeds, out of which five or six varieties will be chosen and then trialled for several years in different weather conditions to test their durability.

Mr Limmer said: 'It takes eight to 10 years to get to the launch at Chelsea. It's a long slow process.'

Current visitors to Peter Beales Roses can enjoy a tour of the gardens, the specialist rose and plant centre, and a tea room and restaurant.

For more information, visit

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