Introducing the Chelsea Pensioner Rose - 'every garden should have one'

20th May 2024

A radiant new Chelsea Pensioner rose is launched at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Chelsea pensioner singing group in scarlet coat and tricorne hat singing with Alfie Boe surrounded by red roses
A stunning new rose celebrating the Chelsea Pensioners was launched at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024. Exclusively grown by Harkness Roses for the Royal Hospital, the radiant, resilient Chelsea Pensioner Rose is an asset to any garden. And every rose sold helps support the iconic Army veterans it’s named for.  

To mark the launch, a magnificent display of roses linked the site of the Flower Show to the Royal Hospital. The Chelsea Pensioner singers in their Scarlet uniforms were joined by Alfie Boe for a rousing rendition of Bette Midler’s The Rose at the Harkness stand.

An idea blossoms

The project began when the Royal Hospital’s Quartermaster, Nicky Mott MBE and Chelsea Pensioner Patrick Cody bonded over their lifelong love of roses as they tended adjacent plots in the Royal Hospital’s allotments. At that year’s flower show, Nicky sought the advice of specialist rose-growers Harkness Roses. And, as he talked with expert David, the two came up with the idea of a Chelsea Pensioner rose. 

Patrick soon became closely involved with the project and together with Ric Glenn, the Royal Hospital’s Head of Grounds and Gardens and Chelsea Pensioner rose-lovers Arthur Currie and John Griffiths formed a panel with Harkness. A rigorous process of testing andconsultation followed. 

The rose selection panel: Pensioners John, Patrick and Arthur (from left to right) with Quartermaster Nicky and Head of Grounds Ric

Ric says the criteria were clear:

“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.” 

Finally, the plant that Harkness says still makes “our hearts flutter in excitement and joy” was chosen.

A perfect red rose 

The Chelsea Pensioner rose is a bushy plant that grows to about 90cm tall. The beautifully shaped vivid scarlet blooms can reach a diameter of 10cm and are complemented by large, glossy green leaves. With its lingering scent of spice and plentiful petals it’s an ideal cut flower and – as Ric says – “every garden should have one”.

Patrick says he likes the rose not only for its beauty, but for the good it will do for the Royal Hospital. And the red blooms remind him of the day he first fell in love with roses as a seven-year-old boy:

“During the war, I was in a children's home. And we had a gardener called Mr Seymour. He used to hold my hand and take me around all the roses. He said, ‘When you grow up son, you’ll be able to grow roses like this. And I love growing them now. Red roses take me right back to when I met Mr Seymour.  I’ve liked roses ever since that day. When you see a rose fully out, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”

Be one of the first to own a Chelsea Pensioner rose 

The roses are now on sale and £2.50 from every one sold goes towards the care of the Chelsea Pensioners and their heritage home. 

An ornament to any garden and a glorious gift, make sure you’re one of the first to have this iconic rose. Find out more about the rose and how to care for it and buy yours here.

Red rose bush with sign in the middle that reads Chelsea Pensioner rose

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