"of all my books that I have dragged down to Devon from London, the grandest is The Genus Rosa."

Ellen Willmott
Public DomainEllen Willmott
The Genus Rosa is the work of Ellen Willmott (1857-1934). Willmott was a fanatical horticulturist and landscape designer. Luckily, she was very wealthy and thus able to pursue her passion for plants. From the age of 17 she resided at Warley Place and dedicated her life to gardening. She was active in the Royal Horticultural Society and awarded their Medal of Honour in 1907. At one point she employed as many as 100 gardeners, who tended her gardens at Warley Place as well as in France and Italy.

In later life she became penniless and increasingly more eccentric. In 1934 her estate was sold to pay her debts and subsequently demolished. The land is leased to the Essex Wildlife Trust, but her gardens no longer exist.

Willmott's The Genus Rosa was published in parts from 1910-14. With beautiful drawings by Alfred Parsons, (1847-1920) an English landscape artist, The Genus Rosa is considered by many to be one of the definitive books on roses. Over 60 varieties of flowers have been names after Willmott or her estate.

Listen to a BBC Radio Four Show about Willmott