New rose dedicated to Chelsea Pensioners debuts at the 2024 Chelsea Flower Show

harkness roses chelsea pensioner rose
New rose dedicated to Chelsea PensionersHarkness Roses

A new rose bred by Harkness Roses was launched at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show and it has a very special meaning.

The new and exclusive ‘Chelsea Pensioner’ variety pays tribute to the nation’s beloved veterans who call the Royal Hospital Chelsea home. And to mark the historic launch, an incredible display of roses was used to physically link the Royal Hospital to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, with the grounds playing host to the world-famous gardening event for over a century now.

On the first day, Chelsea Pensioner singers – kitted out in their traditional scarlet uniforms – were joined by singer Alfie Boe to perform a beautiful rendition of Bette Midler’s 'The Rose'.

The project of creating Rose 'Chelsea Pensioner', which was was shortlisted for the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2024, started back when the Royal Hospital’s quartermaster, Nicky Mott MBE, and Chelsea Pensioner Patrick Cody, bonded over their lifelong love of roses. Nicky then sought advise from specialist rose-growers Harkness Roses to bring the idea to fruition.

harkness roses, chelsea pensioner rose debuts at the rhs chelsea flower show 2024
Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Both Patrick and fellow Chelsea Pensioner rose-lovers, Arthur Currie and John Griffiths, became closely involved with the project, and together with Ric Glenn, the Royal Hospital’s head of grounds and gardens, they got to work testing and choosing the perfect rose for the occasion.

harkness roses chelsea pensioner rose
Harkness Roses

Ric revealed that they had a very specific criteria: 'The rose had to be scarlet, like the Pensioners’ uniforms. It had to be tough and hardy – like a Chelsea Pensioner – and it had to be garden-worthy.’ And that’s what they've achieved.

The ensuing rich red bush rose is ‘bursting with beauty, resilience, and depth of character', according to its grower, Harkness Roses, with each of the hybrid tea flowers able to produce up to 50 red petals. And as it blooms, with flowers that can stretch up to 10cm across, it will emit a delicate fragrance with a hint of spice to it.

These repeat-flowering roses, ideal for mixed borders and containers, can tolerate full and partial sunlight, and they're also resilient in the wet and windy conditions that we’re used to here in the UK. Even though the beautiful roses will naturally start to lose their leaves from around October each year, once spring rolls around again they will flourish once more.

harkness roses chelsea pensioner rose
Harkness Roses

Each potted rose bush is priced at £29.99 and supplied in a three litre pot, ready to be transferred into your garden or a larger container. However, it may be supplied in a larger 4 litre pot depending on the time of year. You can also opt for the bare root, which will be available on Harkness Roses' website from late November this year, and the bush itself should grow to around 90cm tall.

For every purchase of a Chelsea Pensioner rose, £2.50 will be donated directly to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which currently cares for around 300 former servicemen and women.

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