As part of the Hidden Huntley Experience, we visit Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, gaze at stately Wilmont House and wander through a fantastic rose garden.

Did you know that the rose garden in Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon park has been there for almost sixty years?

The idea for the rose garden came from Lady Edith Dixon herself. It is packed with award-winning ramblers, climbers, heritage, china roses, miniature roses, so many to see! See for yourself as we wander together.

After Lady Dixon’s husband, Sir Thomas, died she gave the park to the Belfast Corporation “for the greater good of the people of Belfast.” Following his death she continued to live there and created this magnificent rose garden. A wonderful gift that is still giving!

The Rose Gardens

She brought in rose experts for the job. The newly formed Rose Society of Northern Ireland included Sam McGredy IV, a very creative ‘rosarian’ (Rose Breeder). A man who, although his father died when he was just 2 years old and he had had no real training growing up, joined family rose business as an adult.

It must have been in his genes, ready to bloom!

(The previous generations of the McGredy family had had a very successful nursery (S McGredy & Son Nurserymen then, The Royal Roses) in Portadown since 1880.)

Post WWII Sam travelled the world to learn from the greatest rose experts of the time. He was talented and innovative and won his first gold medal for a rose called “Orangeade” in 1959. (Love the name, we do love our ’minerals’ in Belfast. I wonder was it C&C and did it come in a big, big bottle?!). He left Northern Ireland in 1972 and set up from scratch, in New Zealand.

Sam became famous for his wonderful ‘hand-painted’ roses (roses speckled with splashes of colour) He named one after Picasso (Approved by Picasso himself though the document was signed by his manager as the Artist’s signature was worth £10,000 even then!).

Rose Trials

The huge rose garden, laid out circular beds, became world famous for its annual rose trials which started in 1965. Rose Week (a week of community celebrations in the park taking place every year from 1975 to 2020), brought thousands to the park for a full week of rose-scented music and relaxation. Late June, early July is the best time to see the roses. Judging happens on the 14th July.

Join me on the Hidden Huntley Experience and we will escape together and wander a petal-strewn path on our way to our alfresco lunch in a secret garden.

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