Located in one
of Belfast's
Premier Parks
a few miles
south of the
City Centre,
the display of
more than
30000 rose
bushes can be
seen in bloom
the summer.

Now acclaimed as the most spectacular Rose Garden in the World!

An overview:


The first trial roses were planted in 1964 and the Garden soon received accolades for its spectacular display in the undulating parkland setting.    The best of the trial varieties are allowed to remain for several years and along with other plantings, give a display of roses, which has achieved international acclaim.    The Garden was further landscaped in advance of the International Rose Convention held in Belfast in 1991, when Historical and Heritage sections were added accompanied by changes in the layout of the trial areas.     More recently trials of shrub roses, in which no spray programmes were used, have been conducted over extended periods.


It was a great honour for Belfast City Council and The Rose Society of Northern Ireland when, during the World Federation of Rose Societies' Convention in Houston,Texas in April 2000, The City of Belfast International Rose Garden received the prestigious Award of Merit for excellence, given only to outstanding rose gardens of the world.    Marking the award a commemorative plaque (right) was presented to the Lord Mayor of Belfast by the President of the World Federation.

There are four main feature areas in the Garden:


The Historical Garden
Roses in this garden are set out along a spiral path.  Progressing towards the centre the visitor moves forward in time from the early shrub roses right up to modern introductions.  The spiral starts with Gallicas, grown for their colour and fragrance around 1200 B.C.   These are followed by Damasks, Albas and Cabbage Roses.   The latter were so called because the half open flower resembles a cabbage.   The path continues through Austrian Briars, Hybrid Musks and Stud China Roses, given this name following introduction in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and being responsible for adding repeat flowering and a wider range of colour to the breeding of garden roses.  Also represented are Bourbon Roses, Tea Roses, Hybrid Perpetuals and modern Large Flowered, Cluster Flowered and Miniatures.

The Heritage Garden

This area highlights roses bred in Northern Ireland by the McGredy and Dickson families, two of the Province's top breeders.    Both families have been producing new roses for many generations and have won the highest awards all over the world.   The Dickson family continues to produce outstanding roses at Newtownards while Sam McGredy has been doing likewise, but in New Zealand, since the early 1970s.

International Rose Trials
The Trials are for roses offered for sale to the public for the first time in the year immediately prior to the trial.   Cluster flowered and large flowered varieties are observed over a full flowering season and the early part of the following season.   The trial of shrub and climbing roses extends over a further year.   Some 40 to 50 new varieties have been submitted consistently each year since the first trials in 1965/1966.   Judging takes place five times over each trial period.    A local panel of judges, representing The Rose Society of Northern Ireland, considers attributes such as habit and growth, fragrance, resistance to disease and flower quality while an international panel carries out the final judging in July each year based on novelty and general effect.  In the picture, visiting judges are seen in deep concentration as they make their final assessment.

Display Areas

These consist mainly of the best of previously tried roses.    Trial beds are frequently left in situ for a number of years though outstanding varieties are often planted in larger numbers.   Local nurseries sponsor plantings of roses well suited to the Irish climate   On a hillside a 'sunburst' effect has been created by carefully graduating the colours of flame, orange and yellow rose varieties.


Belfast Rose Week

Inaugurated in 1975 to involve the public to a greater extent in the Rose Garden, Rose Week in late July also encompasses the final judging of the trial roses.   The programme has grown from year to year, incorporating a wide range of events.  Competitions, treasure hunts, demonstrations and talks are open to everyone - rose fanatics and non gardeners alike.