Beauty in bloom:

Nor­folk rose nurs­ery Peter Beales is a world leader in its field and is cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of growing beau­ti­ful blooms

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - WORDS: Do­minic Cas­tle Š PHO­TOS: An­gela Sharpe

Fifty years for Peter Beales nurs­ery

It is a cool grey June day when pho­tog­ra­pher Angie and I turn up at Peter Beales rose gar­dens; but even so, the place is alight with colour. At every turn there is some­thing bright and beau­ti­ful to greet the eye.

It has been de­light­ing Nor­folk gar­den­ers for half a cen­tury since the late Peter Beales turned over the first spade­ful of earth to re­alise a dream.

Nurs­ery man­ager Ian Lim­mer has been part of the story for most of that time, since he joined the nurs­ery 42 years ago. “I started just be­fore my 16th birth­day as a Satur­day boy, weed­ing and wa­ter­ing,” he says, “with no real in­ten­tion of com­ing into the in­dus­try.

“But I en­joyed the out­side life and within two months Peter of­fered me a chance to go to the Chelsea Flower Show and I thor­oughly en­joyed that. By the sum­mer sea­son I was learn­ing how to bud and graft roses and so on.”

Peter clearly saw some­thing in the young Ian and of­fered the teenager an ap­pren­tice­ship. “Peter was very fair; when I was 17 he lent me £150 to buy my first lit­tle van – a Re­liant three­wheeler – and helped me learn to drive.” He used it to take the or­ders down to the Post Of­fice – 10 to 15 a day back then.

Now the pack­ing shed puts to­gether around 300 or­ders a day to dis­patch to gar­den­ers from Birm­ing­ham to Budapest. Back then there were four mem­bers of staff; now the site gives em­ploy­ment to 50 peo­ple in the gar­dens, the shop, tea­room, of­fices and dis­tri­bu­tion, many, like Ian and his brother, head gar­dener Vaughn, have decades of loyal ser­vice un­der their belts.

De­spite spending every day of his work­ing life with roses Ian has never grown tired of them and is a pas­sion­ate evan­ge­list for the flower. “It’s such a huge, vast sub­ject. Roses date back to the 12th cen­tury. I’m still learn­ing now. You never know it all.

“I’ve got two or three favourites; Macmil­lan Nurse, Rosa mundi, which dates back to the 12th cen­tury, and Chevy Chase, which is a ram­bler.

“When you see some­thing at its best you think ‘that’s one of my favourites.’ Next week when you walk past it the rain will have come, it’s nearly over and then some­thing else be­comes your favourite”

When­ever you see any of those at their best they are ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic. But when you see some­thing at its best you think ‘that’s one of my favourites.’

“Next week when you walk past it the rain will have come, it’s nearly over and then some­thing else be­comes your favourite.”

Pressed, Ian says that the Macmil­lan Nurse is prob­a­bly his No1 choice; “Be­cause it is one we bred our­selves, it’s got the old-fash­ioned look, the health of the more mod­ern roses, it more or less flow­ers con­tin­u­ously, doesn’t get too big and it was brought out for a good cause.”

Ian takes us on a tour of the gar­den; it is a joy­ful riot of

blooms in im­mac­u­late weed-free beds, roses of every hue and shape burst­ing out wher­ever you turn. The gar­den is care­fully planted so that there are flow­ers out for the whole sea­son and as one va­ri­ety fin­ishes, its neigh­bour picks up the man­tle.

And then there is the scent. Even on a cool day the air is heavy with rose per­fume and as we wan­der around we sniff the flower heads and dis­cover the dif­fer­ent aro­mas, some spicy and strong, some softer and sweeter.

There are struc­tures from past Chelsea Flower Shows to ad­mire – Beales has a proud record of suc­cess at the world’s most pres­ti­gious flower show –

‘Even on a cool day the air is heavy with rose per­fume’

and climb to get a birds-eye view of the gar­den. But it is not all pris­tine beds and im­mac­u­late blooms; the wildlife gar­den is a weedy won­der­land set up to help the flora and fauna and is a huge hit with chil­dren and adults alike.

How does Ian see the next 50 years? “We will be get­ting big­ger, not out of con­trol, but as long as we fo­cus on qual­ity and be­ing a spe­cial­ist with a good team of peo­ple we will con­tinue to grow.”

ABOVE: Head gar­dener Vaughn Lim­mer

ABOVE: Nurs­ery man­age Ian Lim­mer

ABOVE: Vis­i­tors en­joy look­ing around the gar­dens.

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